The USG [Government of the USA] is currently engaged in an attempt to lock down the access of it’s own citizens to the information current being published by WikiLeaks
This information is over 250,000 diplomatic cables from over a 10 year period.
The arguments that the USG are using are;
- The cables are top-secret and have been obtained illegally by WikiLeaks
- WikiLeaks is not a newspaper and so cannot be protected by the first amendment rules protecting a free press
- The cables do not reveal anything new and are thus not in the public interest
- The cables expose people working with the US intelligence service to retributions
However, these arguments are somewhat flawed. And are even contradictory.
The exposure of top-secret information already has legal precedence with the Pentagon Papers in 1971.
Although not as decisive a decision as some are claiming today, it did set legal precedent for some protections for the press publishing carefully redacted top-secret information if it was deemed in the public interest.
And this is what WikiLeaks is doing. It is redacting information, such as names and addresses, of informants and others who work closely with USG intelligence services whose safety might be jeopardized by their exposure.
This is the main reason only 600 or so of the cache of 250,000 cables for #cablegate have currently been released.
It is taking the secretive and anonymous editors who work for WikiLeaks a awful lot of time and effort to identify and redact such information.
The next question is whether or not it is in the public interest for WikiLeaks to release these diplomatic cables.
The claim by the USG that it is otherwise is pima facie attempt to nullify the first amendment rights that they claim WikiLeaks does not even have. [Which begs the question why they would do such a thing]
The question is answered with a strong yes and a quote about the aforementioned Pentagon Papers;
“demonstrated, among other things, that the Johnson Administration had systematically lied, not only to the public but also to Congress, about a subject of transcendent national interest and significance”.
This is the basis of public interest.
In a democracy it is utmost public interest if public officials, elected or administrative, are purposely deceiving the public and Congress.
The extensive revelations so far confirm that public officials are systematically lying to the public and congress.
And the final argument against a constitutional protection is that WikiLeaks is not a newspaper and their editors are not journalists working for a newspaper.
Of course this is true.
WikiLeaks is not a newspaper and their editing staff are not journalists working for a newspaper.
But you can consider WikiLeaks a news agency with a focus on leaked information.
Similar in nature to Associated Press and Reuters, WikiLeaks has publication partnerships with mainstream newspapers that publish it’s edited journalistic content.
If WikiLeaks is categorically not protected by the first amendments provisions for a free press, then by extension you could easily argue that neither are the large News Agencies and wire services.
Which would essentially repudiate the constitutional protection of a free press.
I was firmly on the fence with regards the cablegate disclosures.
But the disproportionate and draconian overreaction of the USG, more akin to the actions of China or North Korea against political dissidents, knocked me off the fence and onto WikiLeaks side of the argument. The USG is losing hearts-and-minds on this by their very actions.
If government officials are systematically lying to the populace, and these leaks prove it, then it fundamentally undermines the very machinery of democracy that the secrecy is alleging to protect.
The quote in the image above could easily have come from Assange, but it didn’t;
“Truth will ultimately prevail where there is pains taken to bring it to light”
– George Washington