When Edward Snowden broke the news about the National Security Agency and wiretapping, the U.S. government accused him of betraying secrets. Snowden had to flee to Russia. When Bradley Birkenfeld told the U.S. Government how Swiss banks were enabling tax evasion, he was imprisoned for two years.
Now, “John Doe” has somehow managed to leak secrets that are literally thousands of gigabytes larger than those leaks, and some UCF students don’t seem to care. Ask the average UCF student about the Panama Papers and you’ll be lucky to get a response that asks which newspaper in Panama you’re talking about.
When German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung received a vague email from John Doe that promised data, the paper couldn’t say yes fast enough.
The year-long investigative effort by more than 400 journalists uncovered an industry whose worst offense was assumed to be tax evasion. Instead, SZ found that offshore accounts are more than a way to avoid contributing to the national budget. They’re used by terrorist groups, drug cartels, dictators, the mafia, weapon dealers and even world leaders to store, raise and transfer money.
After poring through more than 11.5 million confidential documents, news organizations across the world coordinated a release of the Panama Paper findings on April 3. How many of you looked at them? Do you know why it’s being called the “Panama Papers?” If you were wondering, it’s because all of the documents allegedly connect to Mossack Fonseca, a law firm in Panama founded by German lawyer Jürgen Mossack — thus, the Panama Papers.
This deserves to be recognized. The work of these journalists deserves to be recognized. John Doe has been quoted as saying his life was endangered by sharing this information. John Doe put his neck on the line to make sure the world knew about these crimes.
SZ states that 150 politicians from more than 50 countries are named in the documents. If you think that sounds boring, let me list some for you: the former prime minister of Iceland who stepped down because of the Panama Papers, childhood friends of Vladimir Putin who have become millionaires during Putin’s rule and the president of the United Arab Emirates.
Maybe you think that you don’t know what’s going on in the world and that it’ll be too difficult to catch up, maybe you just can’t stand to read articles you think are boring, maybe the names are too difficult to remember — but none of that matters. You need to stop thinking this doesn’t affect you.
This is only a small fraction of the crimes being committed in the world that we’re stepping into, that we will one day lead. If you ever want to be someone or do something, you need to make the world a better place. The first step to doing that is to know what’s going on.
All of the information about what’s going on is at your fingertips. If you can’t bother to click a link, watch the news or even read a summary, I can’t help you.
You’re surrounded by information — some would even say bombarded. If you don’t know what’s going on in the world, it isn’t because you don’t have endless opportunities to learn about it; it’s because you’re choosing to be ignorant. You’re choosing to enable these people who need to be held accountable.
Alissa Smith is the News Editor for the Central Florida Future. Follow her on Twitter at @thealissasmith or email her at AlissaS@centralfloridafuture.com.