01.16.11

About Wikileaks

Posted in Political Opinion at 7:16 pm by Administrator

by Frederick Gault
© 2011

There are three issues:
1.The memos being removed from US Govt. Custody.
2.The publishing of memos US Govt. people expected to be confidential
3.The criminal complaint against the director of Wikileaks

I’ll take these issues one at a time:

The US Government’s loss of information

The US Government had laughable security in allowing an individual to walk off with a thumb drive full of information that has been characterized as “putting lives in danger”. In this case, it is incumbent upon the government to adequately safeguard such information.

A friend of mine in the military, a man I know and trust, wrote to me to say that the soldier who provided the material to Wikileaks violated orders, and his oath. This is a grey area. Orders are to be followed in the military and it is a crime to disobey an order, EXCEPT, if the order is unlawful. It would be, for example, illegal to follow a direct order to murder a non-combatant. It is equivocal that a legal order was disobeyed. However, this is an old debate, not unique to Wikileaks. One need only to look at The Pentagon Papers to see similarities. I believe that the soldier in question should be tried according the code of military conduct. It seems pointlessly vindictive that he has been held in solitary confinement.

In fact, much of the information in question is declassified, simply confidential and of the items that are marked Secret, many of them seem hardly worth the classification. However, even if one Secret memo was released that resulted in the death of an individual this would be enough to support the position that a crime was committed.

The reality is that much of this information was simply marked Confidential without much thought and some of the information is embarrassing to America, or it allies.

The Publishing of Memos US government people expected to be Secret or Confidential

Again, this is an area with precedent. The Pentagon Papers, once released, were published by The New York Times. In other words, the process of Journalism is divorced from the “theft” of the information. Once it was clear that the information was valid, newsworthy and not a threat to the United States of America or any of its actors, then it was fair game for being published.

In fact, Wikileaks has released the memos slowly so that news sources have a chance to redact (i.e. remove) anything that may prove a threat to national security or human life. There have been some redactions in the material Wikileaks released.

In addition, Wikileaks should be held to exactly the same standards as The New York Times or any other publication that publishes any of these memos. If Wikileaks is guilty of treason, then so is every other publication who mentions anything from the memos! In other words, what would have happened to the New York Times had it been presented with the memos – instead of Wikileaks – and published them?

The criminal complaint against Julian Assange

Last we must address the fact that the director of Wikileaks is accused of a crime unrelated to the leaked memos. This is a separate matter that needs to be handled exactly as it would be if any other individual was accused of this crime. I have no personal information that Julian Assange is being framed of a crime because of the release of the memos. However, it seems unusual that an individual accused of “sex by surprise” in Sweden would be placed in solitary confinement in the UK while awaiting judgement on an extradition request. I have my suspicions that the crime accusation is being used as a tool to try and harass or even gain custody of Julian Assange to punish him.

In any event, the alleged crime has nothing to do with the publishing of leaked information. Julian Assange should have his day in court, face his accusers, mount a defense and do what any of us is allowed to do when accused.

What we can learn

When anyone in the US Government professes that there should be openness, we should be suspicious. As soon as Wikileaks began to publish information that provided just such openness (much of it tedious, mundane or of doubtful interest) it resulted in cries of treason. In addition there were calls for the director of Wikileaks to be executed in an extra-judicial action! Despite the fact that the information is reviewed and redacted to prevent threats to National Security or human life – as journalists have done throughout the history of the United States of America – there are still unsubstantiated accounts that lives are in danger and that diplomacy itself is emperiled.

We also learn that much of what the US Government thinks is Confidential and Secret are in fact not always worthy of the label. Embarrassing maybe, Secret, not necessarily. We see the US Government using the old saw of “National Security” to simply hide blunders and misdeeds from view.

We learn also that openness is good for Democracy! The recent uprising in Tunisia was in part fueled by the Wikileaks publication that showed that even the US Government, despite being an ally, thought the leader of their nation was corrupt and tyrannical.

Summary

Who do we want in charge of information we consume? The government or the press?