WikiLeaks document dump: Where's the line between freedom of the press and an act of war?

WikiLeaks, the site run by accused rapist Julian Assange, has, depsite a massive Denial of Service attack on its main site, posted tens of thousands of US State Department cables on a sub-site at http://cablegate.wikileaks.org/.

These cables appear to include criticisms and insults of friends and enemies alike and there is in my view little good that can come from them and little justification for their having been made public.

A 22-year old military intelligence analyst faces court martial for turning the documents over to WikiLeaks.

I can't help but wonder whether the penalty for a military man handing classified documents over for publication should be extremely severe.  If it can be shown that anybody (who is not an enemy of the US) loses his life because of these documents, I think the leaker and Assange should be charged with manslaughter.

The UK Telegraph's headline from the leaks: "WikiLeaks sparks worldwide diplomatic crisis." And the article includes this news, which is not necessarily surprising but incredibly dangerous to have been made public: "(The) King of Saudi Arabia urged the USA to attack Iran, destroy its nuclear programme and “cut off the head of the snake", according to diplomatic cables leaked by the whistle-blowing site."

 

As John Hayward notes at Human Events:

The effect of the WikiLeaks vandalism is to destabilize the governments on the other end of these diplomatic cables.  The American government may suffer a degree of embarrassment, and a pinch of spice may be added to domestic political debates... but in some of these foreign nations, the information published by WikiLeaks could cause serious, even violent, unrest.  This works to the advantage of al-Qaeda and the Taliban, who gain their strength by radicalizing uneasy populations.

Apparently, Hillary Clinton has been on a huge damage-control mission over the last several days, soothing bruised egos and inflamed tempers in advance.  And who can blame her?  But how much can she really do among the leaders of Pakistan or Afghanistan who are in tenuous positions to begin with, are skeptical about the US to begin with, and whose domestic enemies have now been handed powerful ammunition with which to attack those regimes?

I'm a First Amendment absolutist, but my view is that the actions of Wikileaks and the leaker are not journalism, the leaks serve no public purpose, and government does have the right to keep some secrets if the release of those secrets risks American lives.  As Justice Jackson noted, the Constitution is not a suicide pact.  To the extent that a premature death might occur, I can't help but hope that it's Assange's.

 

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