Wikileaks was wrongfully accused

Kevin Murphy and Kevin Murphy

Lately, there have been a lot of people criticizing the leak site Wikileaks. Actually, criticizing might be putting it a bit mildly.

Over the past few weeks, there have been various people on cable news who have advocated some extreme things, such as listing Wikileaks as a terrorist organization, assassinating founder Julian Assange, and targeting him for a drone strike and other similar “solutions.”

People have also called Assange and Wikileaks “traitors.” This is just factually incorrect, because Assange is an Australian nationalist who lives in Sweden, where Wikileaks was founded. Even if the Wikileaks leak of State Department cables were a terrible thing for this country, it would be a bit like calling Osama Bin Laden a traitor.

I have found the whole situation ridiculous and full of completely unwarranted vitriol.

Either the standards for terrorism have been drastically lowered, or there was a serious national security concern that meant no one could know that we thought Muammar Gaddafi was a creepy old man who traveled everywhere with his voluptuous Ukrainian “nurse.” With very few exceptions, the secretive cables that were leaked were somewhat random pieces of trivia, such as Myanmar starting a new national soccer league.

The things that were somewhat important were pretty much things that we already knew or at least heavily suspected, such as NATO being prepared to defend its member states if they are attacked by Russia. In other words, there was no serious damage done to world diplomacy.

However, this is still a very serious issue about constitutional issues and freedom of the press. Wikileaks, despite what members of Congress and inexplicably, the media will say, collected these documents in a responsible way and released them as such. They acquired the documents legally, whether Bradley Manning, the man who allegedly sent them to WIkileaks, did is irrelevant.

Furthermore, they offered to send copies of the documents to the State Department for review to make sure that no foreign assets would be compromised by the release of said documents. The State Department bizarrely declined this offer. There hasn’t been any word on whether or not this has jeopardized the assets that the State Department claimed it would.

While the U.S. is certainly well within its rights to prosecute Manning, the actual person who breached security to steal these cables, the precedent set with the Pentagon Papers case during the Vietnam War, means that Wikileaks has the right to publish that information as a journalistic organization.

Some would argue that Wikileaks is not a journalistic organization, but with that logic, who gets to determine who is a journalist and who isn’t?

Having the government decide who is considered a journalistic organization is an incredibly dangerous precedent to set for freedom of the press in this country, as they could decide that a journalist who publishes unflattering stories about them suddenly no longer is a journalist.

Having some kind of centralized non-government organization decide could be just as damaging, because it could eliminate small blogs and local news organizations to benefit larger organizations such as the New York Times and Washington Post.

Just to quickly recap the situation we find ourselves in now:

We have a website who legally acquired documents, none of which were classified as “top secret,” published them in a responsible manner and sought out guidance from the State Department to ensure that no lives were put at risk. If this were a prestigious newspaper such as The New York Times or the Washington Post, do you think that people would be calling for their editors-in-chief to be assassinated, or for their newspapers to be classified as terrorist groups?

I suspect that the reason for this unwarranted anger is that Wikileaks is not prestigious, is “new media,” and is run by a foreigner.

But their reactions are completely disconnected from the reality of the situation, and everyone who directs their anger at Wikileaks would do well to get some perspective.

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