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Wikileaks: the "Yes But" Story

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Do we live in a time of unprecedented secrecy? One in which the government is no longer accountable for it's actions? One in which the average citizen is not informed enough to make a wise decision about his or her vote? One in which we need to take action?

Yes, but a blanket release of diplomatic cables is not an appropriate response to that. Finding and telling specific stories? Yes. But I can't find any time in our nation's history where releasing diplomatic cables in this fashion would be appropriate, so I am either left to conclude that our nation has always been overly secretive -- or this is just a trojan horse, an attack on my government coming under guise of something I support.

So it's an attack, right? Shouldn't you personally lobby the government to see that the attackers are brought to justice, so that this does not happen again?

Yes, but I agree with the goal of more openness. This puts me in the odd position of feeling like the Wikileaks guys might be heroes, but heroes that are doing the wrong thing. Because of this conflation, I don't think it's possible to take an easy and clear side on this as far as pushing a new law or policy. Yes, they are law-breakers, but I am not sure what kinds of laws we need in place to assure us this does not happen again.

So they should be left alone? Treated as any other publisher would?

Yes, but they are not publishers, at least in the sense that the constitution protects publishers. A publisher publishes, that is, they seek to bring to light facts in some sort of narrative fashion the educates the voters. Printing up a list of all the unlisted telephone numbers in the nation and leaving them on everybody's doorstep is not publishing. At least not how I understand it. So as far as I can tell, they are well-meaning (perhaps a bit lightweight on political theory and history) folks who are attacking my government because of a legitimate gripe. Some sort of action must be taken. Yes, they distribute things, but no, they are not publishers. No more than a guy who finds the combinations to all the safes in town is a publisher who mails them all out to everybody.

So they should be charged as criminals?

Yes, but only if charging them makes sense in the current environment. People have a natural understanding of what they can and cannot do, if some 1915 law is dug up and applied to Wikileaks -- while not being applied to a hundred other cases -- it sets an extremely bad precedent. We could conceivably all be charged the same way. Yes, charge them. But don't be stretching laws or making up new ways to apply old laws simply to settle the score. That scenario is not acceptable.

So perhaps we should skip the legal route and just punish them? Destroy their integrity and reputation, tarnish their image, harrass those who give to them? Perhaps even use some amount of force?

Yes we should do something, but I don't think purposely harming well-intentioned (but perhaps fuzzy-headed) people is a good strategic idea. I also do not feel leaving them alone is a good strategic idea either.


EDIT: After writing out my thoughts on this, it occurs to me that the best course of action is to do nothing. After all, the United States lives in an ecosystem of dozens if not hundreds of other nations. Each of those needs to use our diplomats in confidence and each of those needs something of our system of secrecy to work. In the end, it hurts all of them more than it hurts us. So do nothing -- somebody else is sure to take care of it. And then the problem is solved.

The problem will solve itself. If you wanted to be especially malicious, you'd find a boatload of secrets the U.S. has about a foreign government -- one which does not play nice with others -- and make sure Wikileaks gets them. Then, if they don't publish, they're selling out. If they do publish, they're punching themselves in the head.

No need to be so overly dramatic, though. It will play out this way anyway. I think the only open question is how long it will take. In a very Orwellian way, putting them in jail might be the best thing you can do for them.

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This page contains a single entry by DanielBMarkham published on January 8, 2011 11:37 AM.

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