LONDON: Britain’s freedom of information watchdog warned ministers Friday that the WikiLeaks revelations meant they can no longer assume they are operating in private.
Information Commissioner Christopher Graham said that rather than “clamming up”, ministers needed to “wise up” to the fact that almost any official communication could potentially be made public.
“We are strongly of the view that things should be published,” he said, according to The Guardian newspaper.
“Where you’re open things will not be WikiLeaked. Whatever view you take about WikiLeaks — right or wrong — it means that things will now get out. It has changed things. I’m saying government and authorities need to factor it in.
“Be more proactive, publishing more stuff, because quite a lot of this is only exciting because we didn’t know it.
“You can’t un-invent WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks is part of the phenomenon of the online, empowered citizen. These are facts that aren’t going to go away. Government and authorities need to wise up to that.”
The whistle-blowing website has released hundreds of thousands of secret US documents about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq plus a slew of secret diplomatic cables, sparking an angry response in Washington.
Graham said he was against the indiscriminate leaking of information.
“Freedom of information accepts that there are some things where you need to strike a balance. The free for all says isn’t this exciting, we didn’t know it — never mind the casualties,” he said.
The information commissioner said too many officials were still operating as if they were governing “in private”, and ought to be more transparent.
“If we were much better about being open and upfront; if all of us just accept that this is the people’s information and 99.9 per cent of it should be out there in all its tedium, you wouldn’t have WikiLeaks.”