Overwrought reactions to Wikileaks


Publication of classified material is not automatically a crime--at least, not in the United States. With that in mind, let's turn to some of the reactions to Wikileak's decision to distribute 251,287 leaked State Department cables.

First, Amazon Web Services demonstrated a disappointing lack of gumption by severing ties with Wikileaks after only apparently the mildest of political pressure. Even then, Amazon may not have freed itself from the spotlight cast by Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), who vows he will question Amazon about "what it and other web service providers will do in the future to ensure that their services are not used to distribute stolen, classified information."

Amazon is a private business at liberty to choose with whom it does business--but those decisions are now made by politicians? Will Amazon pull the plug on any website that posts classified material, or something controversial, or something that Joe Lieberman objects to?

Again, the publication of classified material is not a crime. It might be different had Wikileaks, in this particular case, published material (as it has wrongly done in the past) that endangers human life. There's a moral law that applies there. But in the case of the State Department cables, the information so far seems mostly embarrassing to U.S. diplomacy but not much else.

That assessment isn't mine--it comes from Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who said this during a Nov. 30 press conference:  

"Is this embarrassing? Yes. Is it awkward? Yes. Consequences for U.S. foreign policy? I think fairly modest." 

 Many of the reactions to the leaks have been "significantly overwrought," Gates also said. Indeed.

So Amazon Web Service's decision to back away at full-speed from Wikileaks isn't laudable; rather, it's cowardly. The slippery slope argument applies--if today Wikileaks is too hot for Amazon, what's too hot for it tomorrow?

Wikileaks and its head, Julian Assange, are tough subjects to defend due to their past mistakes, dislike of the United States and Bond villain mannerisms. But one thing Wikileaks is not are terrorists--and so here we come to Rep. Peter King's (R-N.Y.) call for Wikileak's designation as a foreign terrorist organization. A quick look at the organizations on the State Department's list should satisfy anyone that Wikileaks so far falls far below the threshold of inclusion. Wikileaks has demonstrated sensitivity to accusations that some information is too sensitive for public consumption--and, of course, has yet to stage an actual act of terrorism.

Finally, there's the calls for Assange's death or sudden imprisonment without due process coming from erstwhile defenders of American freedom. They should know that should our government engage in political assassination or unconstitutional injustice, then it loses the moral right to be upset at something like Wikileaks in the first place. It's no defense of freedom to destroy those freedoms. - Dave