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WikiLeaks and the Sacrality of American National Security

December 9, 2010

by Michael J. Altman from State of Formation It seems like everyday a new story emerges from the hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables recently released by WikiLeaks. In the wake of Cablegate, WikiLeaks has found its site shutdown, its services from Amazon and Paypal refused, and its founder arrested. On one level this is to be expected. If you go around poking governmental bee hives you will get stung by very large angry governmental bees. But there seems to be something more going on here, at least to me. Every criticism and act of suppression against WikiLeaks always contains the same phrase: national security. The leaks are a threat to national security. But what do we talk about when we talk about National Security? National Security is a religious cult in the United States. It’s a cult in the anthropological sense—a combination of rituals and beliefs that a society holds sacred. It encompasses everything from war to legislation to surveillance to rhetoric. It relates to matters of life and death. It is sacred because it is a cult shared across our society and a cult that reflects America back to Americans. It is a force that binds American society together. We maintain National Security because we are American and we are American because we maintain National Security. It is woven into our national and social identity. Like religious cults from other cultures, National Security relies on secrecy, violence, mythology and morality for its sacred power. Through its online revelations, WikiLeaks poses a risk to all four of these sacred characteristics. Secrecy has been a property of the sacred across times and cultures. Whether it is aboriginal rites of passage, Mormon endowment ceremonies, the rituals of the Freemasons, or the knowledge of esoteric communities, sacred things are often secret things. The same holds true for the modern nation state. The cult of National Security is founded upon secret gnosis. We must keep our secrets and find out everyone else’s. In comes WikiLeaks and its rampant profanation of National Security through the revelation of secrets. Carrying the banner of “transparency,” WikiLeaks has begun to pull back the curtain and reveal the priest craft and the rituals of National Security. In its latest release, Cablegate, WikiLeaks released 250,000 diplomatic cables–a trove of National Security secrets pushed into the profane public sphere. But secrecy goes both ways. WikiLeaks itself is clothed by shadows. Its founder, Jullian Assange, moves about in secrecy and no one really knows who works for WikiLeaks and what it is they do. In unveiling the cult of National Security, WikiLeaks has had to maintain itself as a secret society. Click here to read the entire article