When the news broke Sunday that WikiLeaks published more classified government information, I was instantly against the effort. I was anti-WikiLeaks. However, after a conversation with a colleague, I now find myself on the fence with the issue.
The realist in me knows that publicly releasing more than a quarter-million State Department documents online is an obvious threat to national security. But the journalist and citizen in me, both of whom are quite inquisitive, want to know what government officials are really saying and doing sans cameras and prepared statements.
It’s a bit of a catch 22. Not only relative to my own indecision, but also because of what WikiLeaks represents.
Supporters say the site protects whistle-blowers, journalists and activists who are committed to righting wrongs and exposing corruption, but critics of WikiLeaks have an entirely different opinion. Naysayers believe that the site not only jeopardizes national security, but it also endangers the lives of informants and other government agents whose identities must be kept secret.
Now do you understand why I’m sitting on the fence?
Depending on how you evaluate things determines the perspective you have on any particular situation. Open-minded people (of which I include myself) tend to be able to look at things from all perspectives and find some sort of understanding or relationship … a link that connects a person to their actions.
Here’s an example. I don’t agree with stealing and I recognize that it’s wrong, but I also understand what leads some people to steal. It could be a variety of mitigating factors such as someone needing to feed their children or provide medicine for their elderly parent; or it could be a result of something as simple as the rush a person gets when he steals. The point is if we’re open-minded enough we can always provide a point of reference as to why people, companies or organizations do certain things.
But even as I type these words and my indecision regarding WikiLeaks remains, I can’t help but ask myself a couple of questions:
Should the dissemination of information have precedence over national security?
Is it fair to jeopardize the lives of people (informants, secret agents, etc) in our attempt to be well informed?
If I dig deep within my core and be honest (and open-minded), I think I know the answer that will force me to move from the seat of indecisiveness to the seat of certainty.
With certainty, I can say that the answer to those two questions is a resounding “no.”
I’m back on the anti-WikiLeaks bandwagon.
Anything that compromises this nation’s security is bad. And while the information that WikiLeaks leaked is interesting and a bit gratifying (like knowing that despite their overt claim of solidarity, leaders in Saudi Arabia are actually worried about Iran); the dissemination of information isn’t worth putting the United States in danger.
In an attempt to dismiss WikiLeaks’ effectiveness in causing danger to American soil, one CNN columnist wrote that he has “yet to find a person who actually read more than a tiny sampling of the actual leaked documents.”
The only thing that means is that the columnist doesn’t know anyone who views the U.S. as a threat or competition.
I bet there are plenty of terrorists – both aboard and homegrown – who are reading the leaked documents word-by-word. And let’s not forget about other countries that have issues with the U.S.; we know they’re reading all the leaked documents verbatim.
Our nation’s security should be of the utmost concern. WikiLeaks needs to stop its destructive actions.
While as a journalist I understand the importance of informing the public on pertinent issues, there also is a bit of responsibility that media outlets have. Kudos to the outlets that provide fair and balanced coverage of WikiLeaks’ latest release without endangering the individual lives of informants. Vetting information about people who are helping the U.S. is essential.
You can e-mail comments to Shannon Williams at Shannonw@indyrecorder.com.