The whole point of free speech is not to make ideas exempt from criticism but to expose them to it.

Monday, December 13, 2010


You're a news agency. Maybe a blog. Do you have a right to take sensitive state secret information you know was stolen and put it out there for the world, perhaps endangering intelligence agents doing the State Departments' work?

Julian Assange's decision to make public to the world information he knew would undermine our country's intelligence gathering infrastructure, does not seem on it's surface to be malicious. Would we have been as upset had he released similar Chinese, Iranian or North Korean information?

I understand that some of our efforts are made secretly. And, I am a firm believer in the First Amendment. So it's a dilemma. If a news organization comes into possession of sensitive material in a murder investigation, should they publish it, knowing that doing so will tip off the murderer?

What say you Forumpians? Is there a solution?


Bill Fleming said...

It is a conundrum alright. I'm leaning toward the side of free flow of information. Deep Throat was "illegal" too. And so were "The Pentagon Papers." Would we arrest and or vilify Bob Woodward and Daniel Ellsberg?

For a good humorous take on things like this, read Tom Robbins' first novel, "Another Roadside Attraction."

On the off chance some of you might read it someday, I won't reveal the plot (unless somebody absolutely insists).

repete said...

I think it's kind of nice to know once in awhile what goes on in the secret world we entrust to a few, mostly unknowing votes.

taco said...

wikileaks wouldn't be a big deal if the US wasn't constantly meddling in the business of other countries.

DDC said...

As to whether or not the news agency/person that published the leaked information should be prosecuted, absolutely not. It would be nice if they show some restraint in certain cases, but they should not be prosecuted if they do not.

There's a reason that they included freedom of the press in the First Amendment. No one should be fearful of prosecution for publishing the truth.

If people are afraid to publish information that puts the government in an uncomfortable position, there will be no check on government power. We need a government that knows that anything they do could become public at any time. That's the only way that they'll behave.

The vast majority of it seems to be petty gossip and no real substance. It mostly just shows that our State Department is a joke and wastes resources left and right (which everyone knows anyways). The only real substantive thing in the papers seems to be that Hillary Clinton might have put in orders to violate UN rules by spying on members (which I'm sure everyone does anyways and shouldn't be a surprise). I personally don't give a crap about UN rules anyways.

My only problem is what was leaked. Like I said, it doesn't seem to be very important. Now the government is going to batten down the hatches even tighter and when something big happens that the public should know about, the information might not get out. I think they should have left this stuff alone and waited for a bigger fish to fry.

Wayne Gilbert said...

I agree with DDC with one exception-some of the stuff leaked may have been important. It appears that we are/were in the process of opening dialogue about the oppressive regime in Burma. I hope that the leaks don't affect whatever inclination China may have to pursue those talks. Should Assange be charged with a crime (except rape in Sweden)? No. But let's face it--the exercise offreedom of speech and release of classified information may have serious consequences.

Les said...

Our escapade in Vietnam ended shortly after Ellsbergs harrowing persecution by our government for exposing Nam for what it was.

I'm sure copying the Pentagon papers was illegal, but possibly this was a case of two wrongs making a right.

DDC said...


That's kind of what I meant. I think some of what is in the cables is ultimately important, but I don't know that most of it needed to be released to expose government misbehavior.

I think the content of the material (scandal-wise) was so minimal that the release of it won't be a net gain in the grand scheme of things. In other words, the collateral damage may cost more than was gained by exposing any misdeeds.

I'm not sure if that will make sense to anyone other than me.

BMW said...

I find a certain sweet irony in the fact that Assange laments the leak of information by The Guardian on the sex charges, yet he had no problem with posting "dirty laundry" of others.

The NY Times has been quite inconsistent in what it publishes. A year ago when "Climategate broke, the Times would not publish the e-mails as they were " private and illegally procured".

The diplomatic cables and previous war docs must then have been legally obtained and since they are only classified, it's OK.