Sunday, December 05, 2010

Perilous Leaks?

Daniel Ellsburg, the whistleblower behind the Pentagon Papers, recently remarked:
I'm sure there are many people in the Pentagon and CIA and the White House who are in my shoes right now. My advice to them is, don't do what I did. Don't reveal it six years from now. Don't wait ‘til the escalation has occurred.
Instead, they should do what I wish I had done in 1965, and that is tell the public what I believed right then, that my president was making a terrible mistake and that Congress should hold hearings, Congress should demand the truth and Congress should set him straight — WNYC's On the Media interview, 9/18/2009

This past week, after watching some exceptional presentations on the history of civil liberties during wartime, I listened to KCRW's political talk show, "Left, Right and Center", and the connections to our coursework were stunning, including the assassination of Diem, the Pentagon Papers, the Espionage Act of 1917, and more. Please listen to this short excerpt as you respond to the question below:

DEBATE: Robert Scheer, Tony Blankley, Matt Miller, Arianna Huffington


During these perilous times, when Washington Times writer Jeffrey Kuhner recently argued that Wikileaks founder "poses a clear and present danger to American national security", what, if anything, should be done about Julian Assange, and/or his powerful, yet constantly moving website?

Kuhner's answer, quite simply, is, "Kill him". Your own answer might help you frame your Perilous Times essay, as you decide on the extent of our rights during wartime.

The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. — Thomas Jefferson to Edward Carrington, 1787.

14 comments:

Chlo Scho said...

Personally, I think the public has the right to know about almost everything going on in the government except for the next military attack plans and how to make an atom bomb etc. Wikileaks is helping to do what government officials won't, and thats inform the public. The American people have the right to know whats going on in the government and if this guy is helping then he should be rewarded not killed or silenced.

Kristen O. said...

I completely agree with Chloe. In perilous times, the public shouldn't be left in the dark. They should know exactly what is going on in their government. I think a good example of this failing to happen was what we learned about during the Vietnam War presentation. We learned that the American government instilled confidence in the American people that the Vietnam war was going exactly as planned and wouldn't take long. However, this was not the case, and as we see in the Pentagon Papers, the government was hiding much more from the U.S. citizens. Clearly, citizens of America have the right to know what is going on in their country, which is why I believe that Julian Assange should no be silenced.

Miles said...

Perhaps I don't know enough about the issue despite listening to the weekly podcast of OTM and this left right & center piece, but, at first this seemed dangerous to me. The fact that state secrets, despite their severity if released, is fundamentally wrong to me- especially when it comes from an anarchist. I don't believe it helps Assange's message-that this information shouldn't be withheld from citizens of the world- that he is an anarchist. He has released sensitive diplomatic information to our enemies and allies alike. To me this is a punishable act, he has deliberately- as an anarchist- jeopardized the United State's diplomatic relations during perilous times! We're lucky he hasn't released any military papers yet, however I think he's smarter than that.
We've come to a point in America where our power is being challenged by the likes of China, Iran, North Korea and other countries and for this to happen when it has could in the future be considered a damaging blow to the history of our great nation.
Now, I do not condone some of the actions taken by our government that have been leaked in these papers, but I still believe in our country. It's people like Assange that wish to break our nation that pose the biggest threat, and this is why I think he should be tried of conspiracy. I'm not usually this one sided, but in the case of national security and keeping our country's interest in hand, his actions are unacceptable and deplorable in my mind.

Emma said...

I think the word that Miles brought up, "anarchist", is really important when talking about this issue. I am completely for freedom of speech when trying to make a change on government issue, but if you hate government all together, as the word "anarchist" implies, the purpose of these releases may not be so much for the purpose of informing the public as they are to injure the government. I have to say I agree with Miles on this issue, just because it wouldn't be possible for a government to keep us safe and give us every piece of confidential information simultaneously.

Valerie Ceaser said...

While I tend to agree with Chlo Sco and Kristen, I can't help to make an exception for this case. We should not be left in the dark during perilous times, but some things we are not told for the safety of the country. I do not believe the government was deceiving us by withholding this information, but rather protecting us from the poor international relations that would come as a result of releasing this information.

Again, Emma brings up a good point. Assange is not doing this to help the American people and reveal "the truth." He is doing this to stir up trouble. I think intention is very important while looking at these civil liberties issues. I think the government should do its best to try and repair what Assange messed up and clear up some issues with other countries. And as to Assange, he should not be allowed back in the United States and should be indited in Sweden(for other issues...) He is, in my opinion, a threat to the national security of the nation.

max rice said...

HOWDY YALL its your former AS studies allstar here max rice and im here deep in the heart Texas (5th floor of the library "studying"). Now firstoff I would like to say THANK YOU to mr. Bolos, this wikileaks thing has been ticking me off for the last 2 weeks and I just knew that you or Doc Oc would comment on it on anamericanstudies.com.

Well the reason I am ticked off (besides UT's football team) is because Julian Assange is a HERO and most certainly the greatest thing to come out of sweden since dolph Lundgren. I mean it just seems so obvious, that the people that he exposed as idiots and traiters are the same people attacking him for being an idiot and a traitor.

And now the "old" media once again is attacking a man that is doing the job they should do (im refercing there treatment of stephen colberts white house correspondents dinner heres the wikipedia link for more on that http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephen_Colbert_at_the_2006_White_House_Correspondents%27_Association_Dinner)

They have
completely spun this issue to be a national security issue and not a freedom of speech issue (notice the language in the headlines about the wiki leaks case) and made out Assange to be a villain on par with bin laden. Now my question to these out of touch, horrendous journalists is what specifically in the wiki leaks drop has caused the deaths of any human lives? And even if it did (the only ones I can think of are a few politicians careers)how much more lives (and not to mention money) would it have saved if these leaks were released earlier?

I also cant stand how the "old" media is trying to say that Assange is not a journalist. I mean besides his credentials (he was awarded the amnesty international media award just last year) he is researching the ever important topics that you FAIL or under report in your news papers. The newspapers that they work for reach millions every day, and instead of using that resource to educate our country, you use it to talk about "the ugly kardashian sister" and "tiger woods sex life". If Assange is not a journalist than any one who writes a piece on miley cyrus drinking a beer can not be called one too. In fact "the answer is quite simple kill them".
Wow that felt good. Enjoy Highschool!!

Remy said...

Wow! Deep in the heart of Texas....Max thanks for flipping the table around. So far the leaks I have heard have mostly been caddy personal comments about foreign diplomats by our State Department. Embarrassing, yes. Unprofessional, I guess. Life threatening, I haven't heard that. But, I kind of like this new angle Max has brought up....while our print media goes down in flames we may have a new breed of cyber "Deep throats" --Watergate, y'all. While that might seem scary for some because it is unpredictable and a little disorderly (anarchy) it will certainly keep those that direct power in corporations and governments aware that the"world is watching".

I just hope the guy is not a rapist. Then again most people think that is a publicity plot too. This has got Hollywood Blockbuster all over it!(Kiefer Sutherland or Jude Law as Assange)

Sarah said...

In response to Valerie's comment, I particularly agree. How she said the government was not deceiving us, rather it was "protecting us" really stands true to me. Think about it, what if we knew all this stuff before wiki leaks? What positive outcome could it have had in our nation?

I believe there is a distinct difference between lying and leaving out information (whether on accident or on purpose). I am not defending politicians, but it is a known fact that secrecy and politics go hand in hand. Assange, in this case, clearly crossed the line. These diplomatic affairs between the embassy's should have remained a secret. It was not his place to access or share that information. Yet, I do not know if he did anything "illegal." Keep in mind, he is not an American. Different laws and punishments will be applied to him. What should be done with him? Most definitely not kill him. Creating this powerful website - especially during PERILOUS TIMES - has become a huge threat to our nation. If he did nothing illegal, what can we do? How do we stop this? Should we violate his civil liberties in order to protect our nation?

Matt H said...

Hi Guys,
Now I know I was pretty consistent at bashing Bush and his policies (don't get me restarted about water boarding again), but he did a terrible job about keeping the public informed about what is happening in the world. I'm not saying let's make government papers public, but what I am trying to say is that during FDR, he went on the radio every week of his presidency and addressed the nation about what was happening across the country and what was happening around the world that effected us. What did Bush give us the entire time? We need to be in Iraq for a new reason each week. What has Obama given us? Nothing. He's been quiet.
I am a huge supporter of getting the heck out of Iraq and I do believe that these Iraq War documents will help the citizens of the United States to realize that this is an area that we need to be out of. So far, these documents have been helpful on showing the brutality of whatever we're fighting for. Despite the fact that Wikileaks has the ability to see all classified documents, I do believe that Julian Assange has been correct (if there's ever a way to be correct when exposing people and missions) with what he exposes because what this is is truth. Yes the truth may hurt the U.S. government's public image, but he is not giving the combination to the Fort Knox vault or new military plans.
I disagree with Miles that Assange wishes to 'break' our nation as he did not 'break' the other nations that he exposed. I believe that America is America's own worst enemy right now. According to Newsweek, 50% of Americans believe that Saddam had an involvement with 9/11 even though Bush said he didn't. These people are extraordinarily dangerous to our country and should be dealt with first by the president getting on T.V. each week and informing us of what is happening in the world in the first place so these leaks could have been avoided.

Matt H said...

Hi Guys,
Now I know I was pretty consistent at bashing Bush and his policies (don't get me restarted about water boarding again), but he did a terrible job about keeping the public informed about what is happening in the world. I'm not saying let's make government papers public, but what I am trying to say is that during FDR, he went on the radio every week of his presidency and addressed the nation about what was happening across the country and what was happening around the world that effected us. What did Bush give us the entire time? We need to be in Iraq for a new reason each week. What has Obama given us? Nothing. He's been quiet.
I am a huge supporter of getting the heck out of Iraq and I do believe that these Iraq War documents will help the citizens of the United States to realize that this is an area that we need to be out of. So far, these documents have been helpful on showing the brutality of whatever we're fighting for. Despite the fact that Wikileaks has the ability to see all classified documents, I do believe that Julian Assange has been correct (if there's ever a way to be correct when exposing people and missions) with what he exposes because what this is is truth. Yes the truth may hurt the U.S. government's public image, but he is not giving the combination to the Fort Knox vault or new military plans.
I disagree with Miles that Assange wishes to 'break' our nation as he did not 'break' the other nations that he exposed. I believe that America is America's own worst enemy right now. According to Newsweek, 50% of Americans believe that Saddam had an involvement with 9/11 even though Bush said he didn't. These people are extraordinarily dangerous to our country and should be dealt with first by the president getting on T.V. each week and informing us of what is happening in the world in the first place so these leaks could have been avoided.

Jackie said...

I think everybody has made good points for both sides. Many of the times the government chooses to withhold information from the people is in the case of national security, but then again when things like the Pentagon Papers and these recent leaked documents are released, it begins to make the people question the government's credibility. I do agree with the argument that some of the information released could really help aid the enemy and that perhaps Assange's intention for the release isn't as noble as we hope. However, I feel that with the growing amount of uncertainty in our nation, our government should be at least supplying us with more information than we have been given. Also, as the voters who put these people in office, we should be informed of the mistakes they have made. This isn't just about diplomacy, it's about the people too. We are the ones who pay for this war. I think the government owes us a little more.

Anna M. said...

I strongly disagree with the comments made by Valerie and Miles. In these comments words like "anarchist" and "intent" stuck out to me. I don't believe that Assange's intent or purpose has any weight regarding the wikileaks. I think the main issue is the American people not being informed. While I understand that we as a people do not need to know immediate military tactics for our solders' safety, being hidden information that would allow us to make an informed vote on the issues is undermining a government by and for the people. It would be a different case altogether if it was a small amount of documents being released. But the most recent 'dump' contained over 250,000 documents- that is not just some insignificant secrets the government is keeping, that is a hoard of information that we are left out of. Whether or not Julian Assange posted these comments as an anarchist or a friend, the real issue here is our need, as a people, to be kept informed.

Carolyn A. said...

I completely agree with much of what has been said before me but I'd just like to focus on the point of Ellsburg's original statement. He regrets not having "leaked" the Pentagon Papers sooner. If the government was honest with the public and we were truly given the right to information many problems being hidden by the government (such as Northern Vietnams strength in the war) from growing into increasingly more pressing and difficult matters. Wikileaks is the start of revealing information before it's too late. I think Assange is following Ellsberg's advice. They both are practicing their freedoms of speech, press, and petition. The only reason Assange should be stopped would be if he actually poses a real threat to national security or is posting untrue information.

HenryD said...

I think what it boils down to is the success of the United States military. While many people may not agree with the war, there should always be full support of our troops. Where am I going with this?: Let's say Assange released the names of our allies in Afghanistan. Since our enemies have access to these names, they can find those people and kill them and detriment the United States war effort. Therefore, there IS a danger to these leaks. The success of our military is at stake! Many of you have brought up issues of free speech, but in perilous times, shouldn't there be at least SOME restriction of what one can say or give up?