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Dec 5: WikiLeaks, Utah's economic future

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In this Sunday Edition, KSL's Richard Piatt discusses the release of hundreds of thousands of classified government documents released by WikiLeaks. Also, Utah economists share insight on the future financial picture.

Segment 1: WikiLeaks

The White House has been doing damage control all week after thousands of secret diplomatic documents were leaked online by WikiLeaks. The leaked cables show the push and pull of diplomacy and it is not always pretty.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the leaks erode trust between nations.

The documents contain unflattering descriptions of foreign heads of state: Italy's leader called "vain," France's "thin skinned," and North Korea's dictator "a flabby old chap." But the more damaging information comes from secret meetings and details about plans in the most critical hotspots around the world. The documents reveal China might accept a unified Korea controlled by the South and the Chinese were as surprised as the U.S. by North Korea's recent nuclear advances and military steps.

The documents were allegedly given to WikiLeaks by Pfc. Bradley Manning. Many questions remain about how he could get unrestricted access to so much highly-sensitive information.

Julian Assange, the editor in chief of WikiLeaks, has been added to Interpol's most-wanted list. The computer hacker was born in Australia but is constantly on the move.

Espionage laws have never been used to prosecute anyone for publishing classified documents that were improperly obtained. The closest the U.S. Supreme Court ever came to the issue was in 1971, when it struck down an order intended to block publication in advance of Vietnam War documents called the Pentagon Papers.

When I think of the three dumps, the Afghan archives, the Iraqi archives and the diplomatic archives from the state department, to me it seems there's more damage in the diplomatic archives, more potential damage than the military documents.

–Dodge Billingsley

Dodge Billingsley shares his insight on WikiLeaks. Billingsley is the director of combat films and research and has traveled extensively to many global hotspots including Chechnya, Iraq, Afghanistan and Korea on various research projects. He also is a consultant for the Army and Pentagon on topics of counterinsurgency and information operations.

The leaks by WikiLeaks are not simply all good or all bad for the United States. Billingsley says it is not that simple.

"When I think of the three dumps, the Afghan archives, the Iraqi archives and the diplomatic archives from the state department, to me it seems there's more damage in the diplomatic archives, more potential damage than the military documents," Billingsley says. "It has implications because anyone who wanted to know about how we operate in the military or wanted to know about the state department, they downloaded those things immediately, other governments, think tanks, institutions around the world. It's out there and I think we are going to have to sort through those issues."

Billingsley believes we need context added to the released documents to understand the information.

There's a standard saying in all government circles, just simply don't say anything that you don't want to see in the Washington Post tomorrow.

–Wayne McCormack

"I think it's a good thing that a lot of the media sources in this country are actually going after and putting stories in the paper and helping digest that material, because I think those that want that information are going to have it now, because once it's out on the web, it's out there forever and you can down load that stuff and then re-release it anytime," explains Billingsley.

He says it is done, the document are out there. There is no going back.

"It's a treasure trove of information for historians, analysts and in a way it will maybe help bring to light some things, some information on issues that probably need some verification and some clarification."

Segment 2: WikiLeaks and Ethics

The ethical issues of the release of 250,000 classified documents are discussed with Elaine Englehardt, a professor of ethics at Utah Valley University, University of Utah law professor Wayne McCormack, and Michael Pritchard, professor of philosophy and ethics at Western Michigan University.

Pritchard believes we should be concerned about the document release and says we do not know what kind of serious problems could result from the cables.

"The general concern is that the conversations that are available to us now were not intended to be made available in this way," explains Pritchard. "It doesn't mean that there is anything bad in them but if you and I are having a private conversation and we suddenly see that it's put out in the public I think we have a right to be concerned."

Englehardt doesn't believe WikiLeaks is involved in cyber terrorism, but she has ethical concerns.

"I feel like we have responsible journalists who are able to take information and a lot of very sensitive information and put it in the right context for people," Englehardt says. "And when very sensitive information like this is released, kind of like brightly colored pieces of confetti into the air and just let it fall where it may, it can do some damage, damage to relationships, damage to countries where they've worked hard to establish relationships."

She thinks the information could lead to some deaths.

According to McCormack, this is not terrorism.

"I have seen nothing in the documents thus far that threatens the safety or security of any person. There are no names of sources that have been released as far as I can see. No military secrets. There are embarrassing elements certainly, there are some disclosures of confidential communications," McCormack explains. "But you know there's a standard saying in all government circles, just simply don't say anything that you don't want to see in the Washington Post tomorrow."

Segment 3: Utah's Economic Future

The numbers indicate the economy is improving and Utah is fairing the recession well, but are things really getting better for Utahns. Juliette Tennert, chief economic advisor and director of Demographic and Economic Analysis, and Jim Wood from the University of Utah's school of business discuss Utah's economic future.

The data on the economic future is mixed right now.

"We are seeing data coming out that give us reason for caution and then we are seeing other data coming out that certainly point to optimism," explains Tennert. "So I've been saying that we are cautiously optimistic about where we are. We are seeing job growth. We're seeing growth in personal income. So it seems as though we are on that road to recovery. Now it is maybe not as fast as we would like it to be. But I think we have definitely hit the bottom and we are moving in the right direction."

The housing market is struggling.

"Housing, what we have seen this year really is almost a double dip," Wood describes. "We had the summer of 2009, we started with some positive numbers, that is we were growing over 2008, we are now below where we were a year ago in housing. If you look at real estate sales, for example along the Wasatch Front... the last quarter down 25 percent and housing prices have drifted down a little bit more. And new construction, residential construction is also down about 10 percent."

Utah is experiencing job growth, but there are still many people out of work.

"The most recent job report that came out for Utah showed that we gained maybe in the range of 15,000 jobs over the last year. That's sluggish in compare to the rapid growth we were experiencing during the expansion but you back to this time last year when we were reporting that we lost 70,000 jobs," Tennert says. "So we know that there are still a number of people out of work, but things are improving and we are headed in the right direction."

Americans are going to have to face the facts that at some point taxes are going to have to be raised and the economy will not return to where it was a few years ago

"They won't be the same," Wood says. "We are going to have to make some really tough decisions and the deficit reduction committee couldn't quite make that decision. They couldn't adopt a resolution on tax increases and spending cuts. And what we are going to see in the future at some point, is we are going to see some significant spending cuts, some increases in taxes, and we are probably going to have slower growth rates and we might have higher inflation rates."

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