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Why WikiLeaks Is Unlike the Pentagon Papers 696

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the not-like-the-other dept.
daveschroeder writes "The recent release of classified State Department cables has often been compared to the Pentagon Papers. Daniel Ellsberg, the US military analyst who leaked the Pentagon Papers, has said he supports WikiLeaks, and sees the issues as similar. Floyd Abrams is the prominent First Amendment attorney and Constitutional law expert who represented the New York Times in the landmark New York Times Co. v. United States (403 U.S. 713 (1971)) Supreme Court case, which allowed the media to publish the Pentagon Papers without fear of government censure. Today, Abrams explains why WikiLeaks is unlike the Pentagon Papers, and how WikiLeaks is negatively impacting journalism protections: 'Mr. Ellsberg himself has recently denounced the "myth" of the "good" Pentagon Papers as opposed to the "bad" WikiLeaks. But the real myth is that the two disclosures are the same.'"
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Why WikiLeaks Is Unlike the Pentagon Papers

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  • Hypocrites (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 29, 2010 @10:52AM (#34698252)

    They keep telling us that if we don't like them knowing what we are doing then maybe we shouldn't be doing it. How come we can't say the same in return? It seems even more difficult to swallow, considering they work for us via the hard earned money ripped from our hands to pay them to do these things.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Entrope (68843)

      There is a big difference between whistle-blowing and leaking someone's bank account details (or cloying emails to a sweetheart). So far, Wikileaks has published approximately nothing that is shocking or surprising or that reveals unlawful activity -- and I include the misleadingly edited "Collateral Murder" video in my consideration -- but it has published a lot of frank discussion and analysis that is similar to your private emails.

      Would you mind uploading your email archive to a web server for the rest

      • Re:Hypocrites (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 29, 2010 @11:14AM (#34698512)
        If you wouldn't do that, why would you want the US government to do the same thing?

        Because private citizens have a reasonable expectation of privacy, and the US Government and all citizens working in an official capacity for said gov't don't? C'mon man, it's not rocket science.
        • Re:Hypocrites (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Antisyzygy (1495469) on Wednesday December 29, 2010 @11:20AM (#34698590)

          US Government and all citizens working in an official capacity for said gov't don't?

          To be fair, government officials do have a right to privacy as far as their life off the clock. While they work, their efforts and deeds must be recorded.

        • Re:Hypocrites (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Entrope (68843) on Wednesday December 29, 2010 @11:28AM (#34698704) Homepage

          You apparently don't know what "reasonable expectation of privacy" means as a legal term of art. For one thing, it triggers Fourth Amendment protection against government search -- but just because the government could search and seize your personal effects does not mean the government could publish them. For another, even the EFF's (quite good) page on "reasonable expectation of privacy" says you don't have a reasonable expectation of privacy in your bank records. For a third, you don't have a reasonable expectation of privacy in what you do at work. For a fourth, the concept doesn't apply to the US government as a whole.

          It may not be rocket science, but it is legal art, and you apparently fail hard at it.

          • by mikelieman (35628)

            "For a third, you don't have a reasonable expectation of privacy in what you do at work. For a fourth, the concept doesn't apply to the US government as a whole."

            I'd say that your 4th point is in direct contradiction to your 3rd point, given the government ( Of The People, By The People, and For The People ) is made up of employees, and employees don't have a reasonable expectation of privacy.

            • by Entrope (68843)

              The government is only *mostly* made up of employees. The employees are ultimately accountable to elected leaders, who are accountable to the voters. Any more direct path of accountability is by grace of the government (and is often a good thing to have -- but that cannot be forced through methods like Wikileaks).

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by dgatwood (11270)

        Would you mind uploading your email archive to a web server for the rest of us to look over? If you wouldn't do that, why would you want the US government to do the same thing?

        Because we live in a democracy, and the public cannot make an informed decision about their elected leaders unless they know what those leaders are really doing. The government and government officials acting in their official capacity (and even in their private lives, where conflicts of interest are concerned) should have essentiall

        • Re:Hypocrites (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Entrope (68843) on Wednesday December 29, 2010 @11:48AM (#34699030) Homepage

          Because we live in a democracy, and the public cannot make an informed decision about their elected leaders unless they know what those leaders are really doing.

          The leaks are primarily -- and perhaps exclusively -- from the writings of career civil servants, not elected officials. Your high-sounding, but ridiculously naive, rhetoric about how elected officials should reveal the details of their political negotiations and meeting schedules (so that voters can make informed decisions) is not relevant to those people.

          Your next argument is probably going to be that civil servants still draw a public paycheck and should be answerable for that reason -- but unless you receive no rebates, incentives or other money from the government, that is a slippery slope to start on. Just about everyone who has thought it through has understood that the right way to make civil servants answerable is through a chain of command and responsibility to an elected leader.

          • That's right. The People have no business knowing what the unelected civil servants are doing in conquered Poland, or why there are trains of mental patients & criminals being taken there for "resettlement".

            Heil!

          • Re:Hypocrites (Score:5, Insightful)

            by afidel (530433) on Wednesday December 29, 2010 @12:31PM (#34699584)
            Bullshit. Civil Servants are as much if not more important to keep an eye on *because* they aren't directly responsible to the citizenry! In fact on of the biggest problem with the military industrial complex is that the companies and career staff don't feel like they are beholden to the chain of command because if they can just wait them out they will go away. This is why even when you have a strong leader like Gates who wants to reform things they are extremely slow to respond. One of the worst offenders against the liberties that Americans should hold dear was J. Edgar Hoover who was a civil servant.
            • Re:Hypocrites (Score:5, Insightful)

              by Entrope (68843) on Wednesday December 29, 2010 @12:46PM (#34699772) Homepage

              Yeah, so elect some people who care about improved accountability. Accountability for civil servants runs up through their branch to elected officials. You cannot really improve their behavior by leaking such a large mix of mostly unsurprising information with a few nuggets of useful data; it hurts too many people who were doing an acceptable job, and triggers "us versus them" reactions where -- as happened here -- the heat is about the leak rather than what was leaked. As a result, the government has been working to mitigate this leak and make future leaks more difficult, rather than to straighten out the things that most of us would rather care about.

          • Re:Hypocrites (Score:5, Insightful)

            by locallyunscene (1000523) on Wednesday December 29, 2010 @01:29PM (#34700430)
            I'm impressed with how ably you've managed to steer the conversation. You're original post referenced many things:
            The usefulness of the released cables
            The usefulness of "Collateral Murder"
            The usefulness of everything WikiLeaks has released
            The general idea that The People need to know what The Gov't is doing
            And you've used conflation of these ideas as a rhetoric attack and defense. If someone's not paying you for this they should be.

            Personally, I'm not happy about how the cables have been released. A lot of the cables don't show corruption and are indeed things that should have been left private to diplomats. However there is important evidence of corruption in there. Some examples: the Afghani president's missing 52 million dollars(which is someone's tax payer money), tax subsidised DynCorps providing children to lavish parties, Hillary Clinton's and Condoleezza Rice's UN spying orders.
            There's a reasonable debate whether the need of exposing corruption such as this is worth the harm to diplomatic relations it causes, but that's not the point you're making. You're saying because dgatwood won't expose his private email server, there is no argument for WikiLeaks exposing any state secrets. You side-step his point about The People in a democracy needing to be informed about their Gov't. by invoking a slippery slope argument.
            The point that dgatwood was trying to make was not that diplomatic cables should be viewed by all, but that transparency is key in a functioning democracy that has any goal of being moral. There is a line where safety trumps transparency, but that line has been over extended where everything is a secret. A lot of the Afghan War documents were not that shocking to anyone who understands we're in a war, but this administration and the past one have been doing their darndest to make the American public forget we are in a war. Almost all of the stuff in the released documents were things that would have been reported in newspapers 50 years ago. But in this age of embedded journalism, military officers working as media pundits The People is missing the key ingredient to preventing war, understanding how terrible it is.
      • Re:Hypocrites (Score:5, Informative)

        by vadim_t (324782) on Wednesday December 29, 2010 @11:39AM (#34698874) Homepage

        What do you mean "nothing"?

        How about spying on the UN? The US pressuring Sweden to prosecute the Pirate Bay? The US warning Germany to keep quiet about Khalid El-Masri? The US pressuring Spain "into dropping court investigations into the CIA's extraordinary rendition, torture at Guantanamo Bay, and the 2003 killing of José Couso, a Spanish journalist, in Iraq by American troops"? The US supporting Monsanto in Europe?

        Heck, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Contents_of_the_United_States_diplomatic_cables_leak [slashdot.org] is long enough that I don't even know what to pick from it. Go take a look, you'll probably find something.

        And, if after you look at that list (which is about 1% of the full archive) you don't find anything "shocking or surprising or that reveals unlawful activity", then something is very wrong with you.

        Would you mind uploading your email archive to a web server for the rest of us to look over? If you wouldn't do that, why would you want the US government to do the same thing?

        Because a government is supposed to serve "the people". That's why. The government is not a person and not a corporation, it has no right of privacy, and in fact should be at all times closely watched to make sure it's doing what it's supposed to. When it starts being too secretive, that's a sure sign that something fishy is going on.

      • by xonar (1069832)
        "Would you mind uploading your email archive to a web server for the rest of us to look over?"

        At my place of work every email can be subject to review, also every single packet of information that leaves my computer. I would even daresay they have the right to monitor my computer screen remotely.

        My employer has the right to this information, and since the Government is our employee, we do too.
      • Re:Hypocrites (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Opportunist (166417) on Wednesday December 29, 2010 @11:57AM (#34699152)

        Do you know what's in your CEO's mailbox? Assuming you're not the sysadmin and snooping, most likely no. Does he know what's in yours? Legally, there's no problem that he does.

        Then why the fuck should it be different here? In case anyone forgot, these people are our employees. We pay their salary and supposedly they are working for us. So I damn well deserve to know what they're doing, so I know which slacker to fire when he does nothing but goof off on the job!

        • Ummm..are you sure that's the analogy you want to go with? I'm pretty sure the Chief Executive Officer of a company would correspond to...you know....the Chief Executive Officer of America (hint: it's the one in charge of the Executive Branch). The citizens and employees would all be shareholders with one share each. Non-employee shareholders would expect the CEO and elected board members to keep the employees in line and would vote them out in favor of someone who will if they fail to do so, but wouldn'
      • The unlawful activity was that these documents were classified in the first place. It is very specifically unlawful for many of those documents that were classified to be classified.

        The second unlawful activity is treating unclassified documents as classified. The vast majority of the documnets "leaked" were technically public domain.
      • by PopeRatzo (965947) *

        So far, Wikileaks has published approximately nothing that is shocking or surprising or that reveals unlawful activity -- and I include the misleadingly edited "Collateral Murder" video in my consideration

        I guess it takes a lot to shock and surprise you.

        I don't recall Wikileaks' mission statement being "only publish documents that shock, surprise or reveal unlawful activity". I think it's enough to inform, don't you?

        Does every story in the newspaper have to "shock, surprise or reveal unlawful activity"? S

    • Re:Hypocrites (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Motard (1553251) on Wednesday December 29, 2010 @11:10AM (#34698474)

      They keep telling us that if we don't like them knowing what we are doing then maybe we shouldn't be doing it. How come we can't say the same in return?

      Because we elected them to do this work for us. The US is a republic. We vote for representatives to run our government. These representatives, and their hired staffers, are the ones that need access. Not us.

      We only need to know when when there is malfeasance that is being kept secret. But that does mean we need the ability to rummage through every cabinet looking for it. That's called a fishing expedition.

      • by Aceticon (140883)

        Because we elected them to do this work for us. The US is a republic. We vote for representatives to run our government. These representatives, and their hired staffers, are the ones that need access. Not us.

        So how do you know that your representatives are in fact doing what you elected them for?

        Do you just trust their word for it, leave them to it and come relection time you just vote them back in based on their statements about their own honesty?

        I bet that when you go to a fish-monger you don't just take

  • Anybody else (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 29, 2010 @10:53AM (#34698262)
    Anybody else think the whole "oh noes, Wikileaks might tell the truth about something, those bastards!" and the whole "they're traitors! (by being open and honest when gov't doesn't want to be, what treachery)" is completely overinflated and overblown?

    Only the very powerful very entrenched type of interests have anything to fear from anything Assange is going to do. Am I the only one who would love to see them squirm for once? They kill thousands and harm the quality of life of millions. It's quite amusing to see them suffer. I am not going to take any action myself, but it sure is nice to see them taken down a peg or two. They need it. We need it. What's the problem here?

    The "damages" caused by Wikileaks seem to use RIAA-style math, where every copy is automatically a lost sale with no burden of proof attached to that claim. In other words, it's bullshit. Name the first name, last name, and location of a single individual person who has been physically injured by anything Wikileaks has published and explain how he/she would not have been physically injured if Wikileaks didn't exist. Nobody in media wants to do that. They want to go for the emotions instead of the evidence. They are part of the problem, and if they don't like Wikileaks that's basically a damned seal of approval to me.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by causality (777677)
        I read that article. This paragraph from it will be useful for making my point:

        The topic of the meeting was the sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe by a collection of western countries, including the U.S. and E.U. Tsvangirai told the western officials that, while there had been some progress in the last year, Mugabe and his supporters were dragging their feet on delivering political reforms. To overcome this, he said that the sanctions on Zimbabwe "must be kept in place" to induce Mugabe into giving up some p
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Jiro (131519)

          He didn't have the courage to be honest and publically say, "this is terrible right now but I sincerely believe it is a necessary step towards a brighter future and therefore worth enduring, however unfortunate that will be". Instead of doing that, openly and honestly, he said what he thought people wanted to hear in public while saying what he really believes they should do in private. There's a word for that: hypocrisy.

          No, there's another word for that: diplomacy. That's how diplomacy works.

          • by rbrander (73222) on Wednesday December 29, 2010 @12:02PM (#34699218) Homepage

            >>There's a word for that: hypocisy.
            >No, there's another word for that: diplomacy

            Tom-ay-to, to-mah-to.

            "Phrasing something diplomatically" in ordinary speech means telling the same truth but using the softest wording. You may be told "we just can't afford an engineer of your caliber in these tough times" rather than "you're fired", but you still leave the meeting understanding you don't show up tomorrow.

            Hypocrisy, on the other hand, generally involves lying.

            When "lying" is mixed up with "diplomacy", the diplomacy suffers in the long run because people won't trust what you say.

            And, by the way, as much as I admire the courage of Morgan Tsvangiri, and concede he's way, way, WAY better than Mugabe, I'm not sure that Zimbabwe will ultimately be served best if he makes it into office on top of a pile of lies. They have a way of coming back to bite.

          • There's a word for that: hypocrisy.

            No, there's another word for that: diplomacy.

            Tomaytoe-tomahtoe.

    • by TheCarp (96830)

      This reminds me of a discussion that came out of a rant of mine the other say over the word "we".

      I think this is a case where you have to be very careful about that word, because "we" can mean everything from "me and my group of friends" to "the people of the country" or any number of entities within.

      "Good" or "Bad" is often a matter of context. Yes, these leaks are "bad" for some groups of people... they are also "good" for other groups... and we should be honest about who those groups are, and who they re

  • by Sonny Yatsen (603655) * on Wednesday December 29, 2010 @10:54AM (#34698268) Journal

    I think Floyd Abrams hit it right on the head. The idea of any secrecy being somehow intolerable in diplomacy is a daft idea. For example, there were many diplomats working in German occupied territories in WWII who were issuing visas to Jewish refugees despite the fact that their governments instructed them not to. (For example, Ho Feng Shan, Raoul Wallenberg, etc). Would it be a good thing for these cables to be released to the public? What about secret negotiations with a government who doesn't want to publicly take actions to pressure a rogue state (say, China and North Korea?). There's a lot of discreteness that is needed in diplomacy that must be done in secret. The mentality that any secrecy is inherently wrong is counterproductive, to say the least.

    • by santax (1541065)
      What you call a rogue state is for the better part of the human population their homeland. Guess who is being rogue from their side of the story....
    • If you cherry-pick examples, you can snow the ignorant either way; however, as a principle - the world would be better off with near-full disclosure both of what the Nazi were doing, and what the Catholics were doing to help them, and if the price of governmental disclosure were the transparency of small group doing good work - then on balance the scale would tilt in favor of exposure. Put another way, if you balance all the good done in secret against the bad also done in secret, the bad will outweigh the

  • by santax (1541065) on Wednesday December 29, 2010 @10:56AM (#34698292)
    No it's not Wikileaks that is negative impacting journalism protection... That is like saying, it where the jews that negatively impacted Nazi-German war-crimes. It really are the bastards trying to prosecute Wikileaks and Assange that are negatively impacting free speech and journalism. Make no mistake about that part.
    • I read it in the voice of someone with a bloody knife saying "now look what you made me do"

      or possibly in the voice of someone saying "stop hitting yourself, stop hitting yourself, stop hitting yourself"

    • by thunrida (950858) on Wednesday December 29, 2010 @11:27AM (#34698696)
      Exactly. Last sentence in WSJ article says: If he is not charged or is acquitted of whatever charges may be made, that may well lead to the adoption of new and dangerously restrictive legislation. The way I understand ths: You live in a free speech state, but if you actually practice free speech, we will hit you with restrictive legislation. Therefor,e with practicing free speech, you are being responsible for it's destruction. So in god's name, don't do it if you want to live in free speech society.
      • by lexidation (1825996) on Wednesday December 29, 2010 @01:45PM (#34700690)

        Chomsky noted twenty years ago that discussion of the alleged dangers of unrestricted free speech was already occurring openly back in the mid-1970s:

        "...the issue debated is whether the media have not exceeded proper bounds... even threatening the existence of democratic institutions in their contentious and irresponsible defiance of authority. A 1975 study on "governability of democracies" by the Trilateral Commission concluded that the media have become a "notable new source of national power," one aspect of an "excess of democracy" that contributes to "the reduction of governmental authority" at home and a consequent "decline in the influence of democracy abroad." This general "crisis of democracy," the commission held, resulted from the efforts of previously marginalized sectors of the population to organize and press their demands, thereby creating an overload that prevents the democratic process from functioning properly." [Noam Chomsky, Necessary Illusions, South End Press, 1989, available online at chomsky.info]

  • The Gist (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Enderandrew (866215) <enderandrew AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday December 29, 2010 @10:57AM (#34698304) Homepage Journal

    Since no one ever RTFA, the gist is that Wikileaks sees things in a very simple, black and white universe. Everything must be open at all times. With the leak of the Pentagon Papers, not all of it was leaked initially. In fact, portions of it were held back for years because the leak would only cause harm to diplomatic relations and it had no bearing on the purpose of the leak (to expose the fact that the US government lied to its people about Vietnam).

    The latter part of the article is the important part. It suggests that Wikileaks may force the government to come down hard in its enforcement of laws, and hurt journalism in the long run.

    To the former, I personally have no respect for Wikileaks simplistic view of total transparency when they are shrouded in secrecy themselves. As for the latter, I really hope that isn't the case.

    • Re:The Gist (Score:5, Insightful)

      by dkleinsc (563838) on Wednesday December 29, 2010 @11:18AM (#34698558) Homepage

      Wikileaks has not released 97% of the diplomatic cables they currently have access to, and have redacted a great deal to prevent exposure of legitimate secrets like troop movements and identities of spies. That means that (a) not all of it was leaked initially, (b) portions of it may be held back for years because they would harm legitimate US national security interests, and (c) that the purposes of the leaks were to show exactly what lies the US and other governments have been telling the public, particularly in relation to the "war on terror". I don't blame you for getting that fact wrong though: Many US officials from both major parties have repeatedly stated that Wikileaks dumped all the information all at once, when in fact nothing of that sort has happened.

    • Not picking on you personally but where did you get the idea that WL is aiming for "total transparency", is it from the same people who are always ranting about the government taking away your freedom? I've heard it repeated many times and AFAIK it's "total bullshit". WL spent a month working with 3 major newspapers deciding what to publish and what not to publish. Therefore if WL has a "simplistic view of total transparency" then so do their mainstream partners, The Gaurdian, The NYT, and Der Spiegel.

      "T
  • Perspective (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Felix Da Rat (93827) on Wednesday December 29, 2010 @11:05AM (#34698398)

    WikiLeaks is different. It revels in the revelation of "secrets" simply because they are secret.

    The article misses one huge fact - Mr. Ellsberg is an American, Mr. Assange is not. While Ellsberg leaked information people needed to know, he was doing so to show how his country was lying to the population. Assange shows other countries places where their governments have lied to their people due to US pressure.

    Who is served by the release of these cables is a huge difference between the two situations.

  • by mdarksbane (587589) on Wednesday December 29, 2010 @11:10AM (#34698478)

    What he is saying is that the job of a journalist is to decide what the public needs to know. They know better than the government, or they would have kept all of the files secret. But they also know better than you the public, because they should hold back some papers at their discretion. Very noble of them to take on this weighty responsibility.

  • What a load of crap (Score:5, Informative)

    by TubeSteak (669689) on Wednesday December 29, 2010 @11:12AM (#34698492) Journal

    Taken as a whole, however, a leak of this elephantine magnitude, which appears to demonstrate no misconduct by the U.S., is difficult to defend on any basis other than WikiLeaks' general disdain for any secrecy at all.

    Just off the top of my head
    Wikileaks has revealed that:

    • Ahmed Wali Karzai, brother of President Hamid Karzai, is on the CIA payroll and a major drug dealer.
    • The US Government lied to the American people about its activities in Yemen.
    • Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ordered American diplomats to collect information on foreign officials and diplomats
    • At the urging of the Afghan Government, the US State Dept pressured The Washington Post into watering down a story about
      security contractor DynCorp (who were commissioned to train the Afghan police forces) paying for drugs and (pre)teen party boys

    "appears to demonstrate no misconduct by the U.S." ?

    • by Duradin (1261418)

      "Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ordered American diplomats to collect information on foreign officials and diplomats"

      People who view this as a revelation must have a very naive view of the world. Diplomats are just spies working in the open to both gather information and to spread misinformation (with the weight of a government official).

      If they told the truth all the time they wouldn't be very diplomatic.

      • by nomadic (141991) <(nomadicworld) (at) (gmail.com)> on Wednesday December 29, 2010 @11:35AM (#34698802) Homepage
        "People who view this as a revelation must have a very naive view of the world. "

        "What? The woman who runs the CIA engaged in spying? The horror!"
    • by royallthefourth (1564389) <royallthefourth@gmail.com> on Wednesday December 29, 2010 @11:38AM (#34698862)

      Perhaps it should be rephrased as "no misconduct that surprises anyone who's been paying attention for the last century or two"

      • by twoallbeefpatties (615632) on Wednesday December 29, 2010 @12:20PM (#34699446)
        Perhaps it should be rephrased as "no misconduct that surprises anyone who's been paying attention for the last century or two"

        And that's the part that really worries me - the people running the country can be engaged in criminal acts, and we don't care anymore. Either it's because we don't feel like we have the power to stop it from happening, or because we've decided it's all right for the people in charge to break the law. Either way, we're fucked.
      • by shma (863063)
        "I just witnessed a murder!"

        "Who cares? Murders happen every day. It shouldn't surprise anyone that there are murders in this country."

        "But isn't it your obligation to take down in the evidence I have in order to help catch the criminal?"

        "Not my problem. Come back when you have a juicy crime to report. Something exciting, and maybe titillating, like a rape charge or a kidnapped showgirl. Then we might do something about it."
  • by rickb928 (945187) on Wednesday December 29, 2010 @11:24AM (#34698642) Homepage Journal

    I still don't see the real difference between an 'accepted' journalist like Mr. Ellsberg leaking papers and Mr. Assange, a foreign national, leaking papers. Oh, wait, Mr. Ellsberg wasn't a journalist. And so far, Julian hasn't released all the papers he has...

    I'm more convinced than ever that these two cases have more in common than not, and are different in two very distinct areas only: First, that the diplomatic papers are unique and especially damaging, and second that Julian Assange has no specific patriotic national interest. If the second test is the lesser one, inagine how we might apply the standard of "he has no real patriotic interest, and is not justified in his actions" to foreign journalists all over the world. But the first is most important, as in 'too important to disclose'.

    Disclosing the methods and particulars of American nuclear arsenal security would be very, very damaging, and probably clearly actionable as an espionage and national security threat. Disclosing the secret but frank assessments of foreign leaders by U.S. diplomats is damaging, but in such a different way. First, some of the cables leaked point out facts that are inconvenient for those foreign leaders, but indisputable. If you don't want the world to know you're a Muslim leader who keeps a Ukrainian nurse with him, perhaps he should consider changing his behavior. Such a thing is an open secret in Middle Eastern diplomatic circles, it's just the worldwide exposure that will cause the angst. As well it should.

    I just don't see the difference at all. Too big to fail. Too important to disclose. Right.

  • by threaded (89367) on Wednesday December 29, 2010 @11:26AM (#34698676) Homepage

    Of course they are the same, even to the extent that apparently deep throat was involved in both the Pentagon Papers and some incident in Sweden.

  • by BobMcD (601576) on Wednesday December 29, 2010 @11:26AM (#34698686)

    From TFA

    The Pentagon Papers...revealed official wrongdoing or, at the least, a pervasive lack of candor by the government to its people.

    WikiLeaks is different. It revels in the revelation of "secrets" simply because they are secret.

    and

    Taken as a whole, however, a leak of this elephantine magnitude, which appears to demonstrate no misconduct by the U.S., is difficult to defend on any basis other than WikiLeaks' general disdain for any secrecy at all.

    This premise is flawed. The government's misconduct is clear - they have systematically lied to the people. We're supposed to be a democracy, and that quite simply IS NOT POSSIBLE without the truth. The quicker we all come to grips with this fact the better.

  • by The Raven (30575) on Wednesday December 29, 2010 @11:30AM (#34698754) Homepage

    I'm confused, because TFA states "Taken as a whole, however, a leak of this elephantine magnitude, which appears to demonstrate no misconduct by the U.S., is difficult to defend on any basis other than WikiLeaks' general disdain for any secrecy at all." Did the author even look at them, or just accept this fact from others, because I've heard of several examples of misconduct. I've also heard of a ton of stuff that's innocuous or laudable, and I personally am uncertain this leak was overall a good idea, but to say that the release brought no evils to light is disengenuous at best.

    The most notable that I recall is funding of companies that support child sex slavery [change.org]. That's a pretty serious charge that was suppressed for political reasons. I don't really follow all the furor over the leaks, but I know there were other similarly damaging issues brought to light, and you cannot truthfully state that there was 'no misconduct' found.

  • by erroneus (253617) on Wednesday December 29, 2010 @11:35AM (#34698806) Homepage

    What some people call diplomacy, others call dirty back room deals.

    I can't call it diplomacy when the diplomats are called upon to act as a spy. I can't call it diplomacy when it is shown that the government is not acting in the interests of its people but are, instead, acting in the interests of businesses bother foreign and domestic.

    Surely, there are grey areas, but I will agree that holding back diplomatic dealings having to do with ending the Vietnam war are different from the materials Wikileaks released. The types of dealings the government is engaged in now is very different from the dealings it was involved in in the past. The motivations and interests are quite different as far as I can see. (I welcome new and factual information if anyone has any... was the Vietnam war motivated by greed and business or was it simply fear of communism?)

  • by b4upoo (166390) on Wednesday December 29, 2010 @11:39AM (#34698880)

    Although we elect people and they in turn appoint people we are the ones who pay. Therefore we must be able to see the work being done. I also do not want liars representing me or my country.
                Suppose for example that a conservative, hawk type of candidate runs for president and he barks endlessly about beefing up the military at great expense. Without knowing the actual abilities of our military how do I decide if he represents my interests. It makes a vote a joke. It also creates a condition where the state becomes the master having privileges that a person does not. For example they can study me endlessly and in great depth but I am not allowed to study them in any meaningful way. That really sets up a master and slave relationship between the citizen and the government. What kind of military do I want. I want one strong enough to have no secrets and able to slap the snot out of any combination of nations such that they can do nothing about it even knowing when and where we will strike.

  • Translation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Opportunist (166417) on Wednesday December 29, 2010 @11:43AM (#34698954)

    Some asshat brought those damn Pentagon Paper shit on the table and we can't really say that it was wrong to disclose them, because in hindsight it was a good thing. Can't argue about that. And that Wikileaks problem looks stunningly the same. Dammit!

    We need some spin that disconnects them, the last thing we need is that it becomes public opinion that they are the same and someone makes the connection "If A is good and A is B then B is good".

  • by lazn (202878) on Wednesday December 29, 2010 @11:50AM (#34699056)

    The whole WikiLeaks thing has shown that the secret papers of the US government were not properly secured. And had this information gone to someone other than WikiLeaks (like the Taliban or some foreign government that views us as the enemy) instead of a publicity scandal we would just have people dieing without knowing why.. In fact with how porous the setup was I am sure this WAS happening. But now the Govt is forced to fix that issue (without forcing them they would not have changed, just try to change any government's mind about anything) and we the people are learning some uncomfortable truths that we do need to know.

  • by theghost (156240) on Wednesday December 29, 2010 @11:51AM (#34699072)

    The fail in the article is the part where he tries to hold Assange personally responsible for a reactionary backlash against the press that may or may not happen. Wikileaks is responsible for the direct damage their revelations bring about, which, so far, is not much. They cannot be held responsible for the damage our nation does to itself in response to Wikileaks. If our leaders decreases the freedom of the press and we let them do it that cannot be laid at the feet of Wikileaks in general nor Julian Assange in particular.

  • by jenningsthecat (1525947) on Wednesday December 29, 2010 @11:58AM (#34699172)

    From TFA: "Mr. Assange views the very notion of government secrecy as totalitarian in nature".

    Well, I tend to agree with Assange here. SOME secrets are necessary, but governments have gone way, way, way too far in this area. The whole world needs to get past the notion of secrecy being the primary currency of national and international affairs. So a country's people and/or leaders are offended/embarrassed/hurt/angered over some revelation? Get over it! For the most part, institutionalized secrecy is a vile addiction, not a necessary element of either government or diplomacy.

    Again, from TFA: "An indictment of (Assange) could be followed by the judicial articulation of far more speech-limiting legal principles than currently exist with respect to even the most responsible reporting about both diplomacy and defense".

    Wait a minute here. So Assange should keep his mouth shut just so the U.S. and other countries don't clamp down on 'journalistic freedoms'? Here's the real upshot of that argument: don't push us or we may become MORE totalitarian. To that I say, Bullshit!

    The Internet is doing to politics and diplomacy what it did to recording industry extortionists and Hollywood rip-off artists. The genie can't be stuffed back into the bottle, and the sooner governments realize that there is no more 'business as usual', the better off we'll all be.

  • by darien.train (1752510) on Wednesday December 29, 2010 @12:06PM (#34699272) Journal

    From TFA: "Mr. Assange is no boon to American journalists. His activities have already doomed proposed federal shield-law legislation protecting journalists' use of confidential sources in the just-adjourned Congress. An indictment of him could be followed by the judicial articulation of far more speech-limiting legal principles than currently exist with respect to even the most responsible reporting about both diplomacy and defense. If he is not charged or is acquitted of whatever charges may be made, that may well lead to the adoption of new and dangerously restrictive legislation. In more than one way, Mr. Assange may yet have much to answer for."

    I can understand that Abrams is disappointed that the shield law is being shelved but how is that Assange's fault? Why should Assange be held responsible for legislation that the US congress chooses to vote on or not? Once again a Wikileaks detractor shows that they have an axe to grind unrelated to Wikileaks or Assange. He's old and mad that he's not getting what he wants i.e. Stay off my lawn Julian!

    Also...Ellsberg himself says that The Pentagon Papers and Wikileaks are two sides of the same coin. That sounds like a bit more of a credible source for comparisons of mission statement and motives. You know...the guy who actually had the motive.

  • by HeckRuler (1369601) on Wednesday December 29, 2010 @12:20PM (#34699444)
    TFA:

    [Ellsberg didn't release four volumes on the] diplomatic efforts of the United States to resolve the war.

    Yeah, because undermining an effort to stop a war is a bad thing. That's a diplomatic action that's, you know, doing good in the world. These recent cables on the other hand, reveal the shady underhanded diplomacy of the USA.
    -Shoving USA-style IP laws onto Spain
    -Bribing, threatening, and then withholding millions in aid to Ecuador and Bolivia so they'd agree to the Copenhagen Accord. But Saudi Arabia gets a free pass, because we need their oil.
    These cables were not about stopping a war. Getting out of Iraq and Afghanistan doesn't hinge on Russia or China. It's mostly just saving face for politicians in the USA.
    I like America. It's a nice place. But we're supposed to be the good guys. That's WHY I like America. If the USA is being shady, then we need to fix that. And the first step is to know that it's being shady. So simply because these cables are "diplomatic", doesn't mean that they get a free pass.
    TFA:

    [the leaks] which appears to demonstrate no misconduct by the U.S

    Floyd apparently hasn't read much of the actual leaks. In addition to the above, there's also:
    -DynCorp, funded by USA taxpayers, bought young male sex slaves for Afghan cops in a "batca bazzi" party. It's a tradition over there apparently.
    -They're moving prisoners out of Guantanamo to foreign prisons.
    -Under reporting deaths in Afghanistan. It's not going nearly as well as they've said it has. That's lying to the American people.
    -Diplomats know that the Saudi Arabians are the primary donors to Al-Queada. Aren't they an ally? Isn't our "strong military presence" in the area supposed to stop that sort of thing?
    -The CIA pressured Spain into dropping investigations into the killing of José Couso, a Spanish journalist, in Iraq by American troops.
    Plus there's plenty of examples of the USA knowing that others are doing blatantly illegal things, like

    The Shell Oil Company claimed it had inserted staff into all the main ministries of the Nigerian government, giving it access to every movement of politicians. Ann Pickard, then Shell's vice-president for sub-Saharan Africa boasted that the Nigerian government had "forgotten" about the extent of Shell's infiltration and was unaware of how much the company knew about its deliberations.

    Or that China was indeed behind the attacks on Google. Which, of course, most of slashdot was aware of. And here's the thing. Even though we-in-the-know would bet good money that it was China, the ignorant masses would tell us to prove it, and say our claims were unsupported gossip. Which it was. But now we have evidence.

    Please, Mr. Abrams, go read the wiki page on the actual content of the cable leak [wikipedia.org]. (and all the fractured sub-sites that hopefully isn't some ruse to hide away the information)

  • by VincenzoRomano (881055) on Wednesday December 29, 2010 @12:41PM (#34699702) Homepage Journal
    Those cablegrams got their way out of the Governmental offices. This is a fact not involving Wikileaks at all.
    The content of those cablegrams was produced by a number of persons we think wrote the truth down.
    Also this fact doesn't involve Wikileaks at all.
    Then you have basically two options:
    red pill: those files get sold (possibly more than once) to some bad guys that will use them the way they want (more money or more power or both)
    blue pill: those files get published to everyone FOR FREE, so none can make nasty things with them any more.
    Then if the content is embarrassing, you can blame the authors/actors, not the publisher.
  • by gurps_npc (621217) on Wednesday December 29, 2010 @12:50PM (#34699852) Homepage
    His basic explanation is that the pentagon guy waited sufficient time. Bullcrap.

    Also his "legal reasoning" relied on a case that involved american journalists on american soil. Any lawyer that thinks that american laws that affect americans on american soil also apply to non-americans who are in another country, without even discussing that issue, should be called up by the Bar association and have his priveldges revoked. It's kind of like arresting a Spanish bar tender for serving alcohol to a teenager in Spain because New York State said it is illegal to serve minors.

    Look, I am an American citizen. The wikileak thing was a douchey act. But it is NOT illegal for a publisher (and if the crime you are accused of consists of publishing, that MAKES you a publisher) to publish secrets. It is illegal to illegaly obtain those secrets, but accepting them as a gift from a criminal is not illegal and never has been.

  • by JoelKatz (46478) on Wednesday December 29, 2010 @01:13PM (#34700222)

    Sorry, the article is fundamentally wrong. It is only this kind of indiscriminate leaking that makes it possible for people to get a holistic understanding of what our diplomats are actually doing in our name. For example, the lack of any discussion about pushing Arab countries on human rights issues cannot be brought to the public's attention any other way that I know of.

  • by ZDRuX (1010435) on Wednesday December 29, 2010 @01:40PM (#34700618)
    Below text is not mine, just quoting

    Number 1: Do the American People deserve to know the truth regarding the ongoing wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen?

    Number 2: Could a larger question be how can an army private access so much secret information?

    Number 3: Why is the hostility mostly directed at Assange, the publisher, and not at our governments failure to protect classified information?

    Number 4: Are we getting our moneys worth of the $80 Billion dollars per year spent on intelligence gathering?

    Number 5: Which has resulted in the greatest number of deaths: lying us into war or Wikileaks revelations or the release of the Pentagon Papers?

    Number 6: If Assange can be convicted of a crime for publishing information that he did not steal, what does this say about the future of the first amendment and the independence of the internet?

    Number 7: Could it be that the real reason for the near universal attacks on Wikileaks is more about secretly maintaining a seriously flawed foreign policy of empire than it is about national security?

    Number 8: Is there not a huge difference between releasing secret information to help the enemy in a time of declared war, which is treason, and the releasing of information to expose our government lies that promote secret wars, death and corruption?

    Number 9: Was it not once considered patriotic to stand up to our government when it is wrong?

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