‘A threat to Western security’?

Hannah ThompsonYouGovLabs and UK Public Opinion Website Editor
December 14, 2010, 9:12 PM GMT+0

A significant proportion of the British public believes that Swedish-based whistle-blower website WikiLeaks was wrong to publish a collection of confidential US cables, and feel that their release represents ‘a threat to Western security’, recent research for the Sunday Times has found.

  • 46% felt that the WikiLeaks site was wrong to release the information
  • 42% think that the release is a threat to Western security
  • 36%, however, think that the site was justified in releasing the cables
  • And a third (33%) does not see the site’s actions as a threat to security.

Internet scandal and security

WikiLeaks, a whistle-blowing website which claims to have access to thousands of leaked ‘cables’ detailing communication between American officials regarding sensitive issues relating to the war in Afghanistan in particular, has been the centre of Internet scandal and security after the release of its most recent crop of leaked documents, and has been forced to move servers several times as providers threaten to take it offline. It has also sparked a ‘hacktivist’ campaign, involving a widespread Internet drive to attack servers (and their famous websites, such as Amazon) who have hosted the site in the past.

The Assange case

Julian Assange, the Australian founder and public face of the WikiLeaks site, has himself been at the centre of controversy, going into hiding immediately after the cables were released among threats from US politicians and allegations of assault, but it seems the British public is divided over his culpability.

  • 26% feel that Assange is ‘a traitor to the West’
  • 28% think that he is a ‘champion of freedom of information’
  • 31% think neither, while 15% don’t know
  • And while 32% feel that the US should extradite and prosecute Assange over the leaks, 40% disagree that the US should act.

Furthermore, since the leaks controversy, Assange has been arrested on a Swedish warrant in connection with alleged sexual assaults on two female activists, and again Brits are divided.

  • Only 18% feel the allegations are ‘probably genuine’, while 43% feel they have probably ‘been trumped up to silence WikiLeaks’.
  • However, 52% feel that Assange should be extradited to Sweden to face the allegations
  • Just 19% believe that he should not

All in all, this data suggests that while Brits are critical of WikiLeaks’ actions and their possible consequences, they are as yet hesitant to wholly condemn or condone Assange himself.

See the survey details and full results