The media portrayal of Julian Assange and his organization, WikiLeaks, has been less than flattering.
Senators have called him a terrorist. Others have said he was guilty of treason. Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich stated, “he should be treated as an enemy combatant.”
There are questions about his patriotism, his “ulterior motives” and his tactics. But those who have written about him have a tendency to ignore our freedom of speech.
WikiLeaks offers a forum to communicate facts and deeds that government, business and private interests have made a career out of hiding.
There is legitimate concern about how the information was gathered. But any citizen who submits information labeled “secret” does so knowing they are in violation of the law. There are no “whistle-blowing” laws that protect stealing secret documents from the federal government.
There is also a concern that these leaks would compromise national security and put soldiers in more risk. No one wants that result, but the majority of the documents released on the Iraq War pertain to past mistakes, not future strategy.
The response by the federal government has been less than encouraging.
“This disclosure is not just an attack on America’s foreign policy interests. It is an attack on the international community.” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a press conference on Nov. 29.
Clinton may have responded this way because the documents incriminate her for ordering American diplomats to act as spies against other diplomats and the President of the U.N., and members of the media have largely ignored this. Instead they have demonized Assange.
Spying by the order of the secretary of state will move diplomatic dialogue back to Cold War era-paranoia.
This is an apolitical problem.
The fact that these documents can be so easily obtained and distributed is a matter of national security. If WikiLeaks can do it, who says a complex central intelligence network like those of Russia or China have not already done this? We condemn the group that made us aware of the leak and say nothing of how stupid government officials were for saying incriminating things in a venue so easily breached.
There is no such thing as limited freedom of speech. We either have it or we do not.
By silencing one dissenter you forfeit your right to speak out when you feel there is a real problem.
If you think the government can be trusted to tell the truth in every situation, and only hide what is of “national importance,” you are demonstrating that you neither want to face the truth that America is fallible nor that you have any interest in helping return our government to a virtuous state.
The American government needs to either act more virtuously or hide their abuses better, but leaving themselves vulnerable in this digital age is no one’s fault but their own.
Until we stop being afraid of knowing what our government does and stop demonizing bastions of free speech, we can expect more of the same reckless hypocrisy from our elected officials.
The government must act with a fear that what they do could be exposed at any time.
When the people fear the government, there is tyranny. When the government fears the people, there is democracy.
Watching Assange flee his inevitable arrest, reminded me of something Voltaire said, “It is dangerous to be right when established men are wrong.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is part of a pro/con series on WikiLeaks. Click here to read the other article, called WikiLeaks threatens safety, reputation.