As I mentioned in the comments on another post, Wikileaks is not Julian Assange. He's just the frontman for an idea. They can kill, disappear, litigate, gag, gaol, or otherwise neuter the man, but ultimately that matters not a whit (sorry manly Tom). The concept of a universal whistle blower site is something that can be easily mimicked by any budding disruptor agent. Any focus on Assange is a distraction.
Wikileaks is a ambiguous phenomenon. It is both good and bad depending on your perspective and the substance of the information being released. It reveals truths, and truths are powerful things. If North Korea shells another town and kills people and cites something aired through Wikileaks, then that isn't a particularly good outcome. The service it provides makes it a security problem for those in power, regardless of what country they inhabit. We all like to poke a finger in their eye, but at the same time, public distribution of state secrets can have very serious consequences. The hawks do have a point here.
That said, there's a radical democratisation element. The diplomatic cables reveal a lot about the nature of how governments think and behave outside of the filters of news media reports, speeches, and press scrum soundbites. This is raw data and a gold mine of content and discourse. It exposes politicians, spies, and diplomats for utter wankers as they claim to in the interests of their publics. We learn how people like Jim Judd see the institutions of democracy as problematic obstacles to the for the serious
What Wikileaks is, in my view, is remarkable thing. We've never had someting like this. It's a product of a interneted and globalised world, a time without great power struggles, and when states themselves are increasingly caught up in issues they've never had to face and which are quite beyond their control. It exists as a new actor, a releaser of black swans, an agent of no party. In the past, state governments feared the mole, the spy who would burrow deep and give vital secrets to other governments. Everything still stayed secret and state publics wouldn't know what the spies had pilfered and traded. Now, no state is safe and the powerful, everywhere risk having their dirty laundry aired to the entire world. The shift is from government versus government to the state and economic elite versus a global public. Photos of what the clergy have been up to are being passed around the pews in all the world's temples and both good and ill will come of it.
Wikileaks is, fundamentally, what radical democratic change looks like in this day.
Whatever the implications of the document releases, the powerful worldwide now have to contend with the possibility of instant espionage by class and mouse click, not heavy iron curtains and hidden microphones.
Wikileaks is an insurgent in a Cold Class War.