Posts Tagged “freedom”

I will keep Wikileaks separate from Julian Assange, since I’m more  interested in the concept of Wikileaks than the person representing it.  I will also keep the specific content of the cables largely out of the discussion, since that is not central to my question either (btw, I didn’t find anything that damaging in what was released.  Secretary of Defense Robert Gates mirrors my sentiments).

Is it OK to publish secret/private information, even if it is potentially damaging?

Yes.  In fact, isn’t that what freedom of the press is all about?  I know that is what the founding fathers had in mind when they drafted the 1st amendment (not the 2nd or 3rd, the 1st): To allow We the People to hold those in power accountable for their actions.

I understand that leaking the information may have been criminal (Bradley Manning is being indicted), but obviously publishing previously leaked information is not.  In fact, Joe Lieberman is trying to make up a law to make it illegal.

I suppose politicians want freedom, openness, and transparency….as long as they themselves don’t have to abide by the same principles.

Since 9/11 and the PATRIOT act, the ability for the government to eavesdrop on our comings and goings has been greatly broadened (not that it wasn’t sufficient before I am sure).  I hear the argument all the time from politicians that if you have done nothing wrong you have nothing to worry about.

Touché Wikileaks

If the government has done nothing wrong, then why are they worried about leaking their internal memos?

The government argues that a) “diplomacy” is messy and requires secrecy, and b) that leaks of this kind may cause harm to those named in the documents.

A) Ok.  Diplomacy is messy.  I agree.  I also agree that parties may desire secrecy.  But in a country with free press that does not mean that they will GET secrecy; it just means they want it.  I see it as an operational failure….you couldn’t keep your information secret. Don’t shoot the messenger who has not broken any laws.

B) Leaks of this kind may cause harm to those named in the documents.  Hmm….they might.  However, there is not one documented case of this ever happening due to a Wikileak.  Not one.  To shut something down and put people in jail because it MIGHT cause harm…that is as bull headed as the idea of pre-emptive war (another puzzling policy).  You can’t attack someone because they might one day have the capability to attack you….that is a recipe for eternal war. To censor information that might be harmful is a recipe for blanket censorship.

Additionally, suppose there were some unfortunate harm caused by the publication of the cables? That is a thorny issue; however, not one that, in a blanket, fashion says publishing the material was bad.  If we’d had a Wikileak that proved the intelligence used to justify the invasion of Iraq was faulty, then that would’ve caused harm to those concocting the scheme, but it would have saved harm to many others.  Remember, no one has accused Wikileaks of publishing FALSE information, just inconvenient information.  The truth may occasionally cause harm; however, history teaches us that the truth serves the average person far better than government power and secrecy. It is hard to argue with that.

Finally, except in scale, how is this much different than other instances of investigative journalism with potentially harmful impact….like say Watergate?

Didn’t the Washington Post publish harmful information about the politics of our nation?  A president got impeached and Bob Woodward got a Pulitzer Prize.  Fast forward 27 years: no one is impeached or harmed and they want to shut down Wikileaks and put Julian Assange in jail (can you get a Pulitzer Prize from jail?).  My how times have changed.

I think the media is at least a little bit mad that they aren’t doing journalism anymore and some no name computer hacker from Australia is doing it for them.

—- Again, if the government is not doing anything wrong, then why do they care if their internal correspondence is made public?  It would simply be boring drivel (which it largely is this time, though that might not always be the case).

—- If they are doing something wrong, then Wikileaks is performing a journalistic service.


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