By now you’ve read the news about the 91,000 leaked confidential documents pertaining to our war efforts in Afghanistan by an organization called Wikileaks. For some, this news will seem unimportant and indistinguishable apart from the normal din of the 24 hour news cycle. In other words, it will be forgotten in about a week.
What has happened is a travesty of colossal proportion and no matter how the Obama administration tries to dismiss it as ‘old news’ and Letterman uses it for his ‘Top 10’ fodder, the root issue will not go away.
WikiLeaks is a project run by a group called The Sunshine Press. Their tenets are of secondary importance to the harm they have the ability to wreak while averring smugly that they are simply providing transparency; a public service of the highest magnitude. In many cases their work does usher in a level of transparency and accountability. However, WikiLeaks treads a very thin line between acting as a white knight when exposing corporate and governmental malfeasance, and engaging in treasonous activity when publishing confidential documents that bring potential harm to our troops on the battlefield. Sometimes the actual information presented isn’t as important as the process and methodology of thought that went into such documents. They expose a lot about how such military minds think and what can or should be expected in the future.
In the case of this latest escapade, Julian Assange, WikiLeaks chief operating executive should be held accountable for his role in the difficult struggle our armed forces face in Afghanistan. Sadly, Mr. Assange won’t because he will hide behind the protections guaranteed to him under our free speech clause.
The folks that engage in this activity are not brave patriots. They are cowards of the highest order. They ask for your donations so that they can continue to produce a freedom of information product even to the detriment of those that are at the forefront fighting for those same freedoms. Julian Assange has never seen the battlefield where actual blood is shed fighting for all the freedoms he enjoys. He simply uses them. His staff sits behind computer screens and waits for anyone that will leak documents from whatever source to them through encryption software that guarantees the leaker’s anonymity. One could even postulate that WikiLeak aids and abets the criminal activity that stole and transmitted confidential Pentagon documents last week.
It is somewhat disturbing to note the bi-line of the WikiLeaks homepage is a quote from Time Magazine;
“ … could become as important a journalistic tool
as the Freedom of Information Act…” — Time Magazine
What Time Magazine has forgotten is that one of the explicit distinctions of the 1966 Freedom of Information Act is that it does not include information …“specifically authorized under criteria established by an Executive order to be kept secret in the interest of national defense or foreign policy” .
This piece is not to argue the merits of WikiLeak’s legitimate work to expose corporate evil doers, some totalitarian regime’s reckless activities, and human rights abuses around the world. As stated on their website; WikiLeaks is a multi-jurisdictional public service designed to protect whistleblowers, journalists and activists who have sensitive materials to communicate to the public.
Most Americans have at least a cursory understanding about exactly what is meant by “free speech”. Most people understand the complexities of divulging truthful and damaging information secretively. Our culture needs whistleblowers and activists. Anonymity is always a concern in these issues. However, in the eyes of everyone but lawyers and journalists, sensitive information and confidential military documents has historically been given different meanings and consideration, especially when it involves a question of security and safety for our troops . There will always be sensitive things in terms of military affairs that the general public does not have a ‘need to know’; not even WikiLeak.
A cursory scan of the WikiLeak index shows that confidential checklists and flight envelope parameters for the F-15 Eagle and F/A-18 Hornet weapons systems have been published. Or how about Guantanamo Interrogation Techniques? What sounds like drivel to Joe 6 Pack is pure gold to some analyst planning evil from a bunker somewhere in ‘bad guy country’.
President Obama stated publicly that the compromised info was no big deal and there was nothing new in the leaked confidential documents. I think our men and women fighting in Afghanistan, along with their families here at home, would much rather have heard their president say that this was a crime perpetrated with malicious intent against the work our troops are doing around the world and no effort would be spared to find and indict the person that obtained and leaked the 91,000 confidential documents. That message was never communicated.
We live in a different world. Not only in terms of geo-political issues but a culture that seems less concerned with protecting our national interests than some distorted idea of personal rights and responsibilities. This is a good time for Americans to figure out what our real collective priorities are and stand up for them. If it means standing up to WikiCowards, so be it.