As a writer the first amendment of the U.S. Constitution is of great importance to my ability to research information and pass it along to my readers. It is because of our right to free speech and an unencumbered press that Americans have some level of confidence in government oversight. We take for granted that officials know what they are doing and, even though that is not always the case, sometimes things need to be kept secret.
The operators of the website known as WikiLeaks claim that the First Amendment also gives them the right and, in their words, the responsibility, to disclose secret military and political information in the interest of government transparency. The reality is that WikiLeaks has become one of America’s biggest security risks.
In October, the site released more than 391,000 documents consisting of classified and confidential military cables as well as private communications between state department officials. Many military and government officials, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, have condemned the group for recently distributing information that could seriously endanger American lives.
As more information is distributed by the site U.S. officials – and the American people – are finally asking the more important question. Where is WikiLeaks getting all of this classified material?
Several agencies from the Pentagon to the White House are now coming under for having allowed the material to become public in the first place. Even Sarah Palin threw in her two cents worth recently, laying blame on President Obama saying, “…the latest round of publications of leaked classified U.S. documents through the shady organization called Wikileaks raises serious questions about the Obama administration’s incompetent handling of this whole fiasco.”
While Washington moguls stand around pointing fingers at each other, the founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, is getting the last laugh. His website is enormously popular and he announced this week that another round of material is about to be released, this time related to large banking organizations in the United States. Many people have argued that Assange should be prosecuted as a criminal under the Espionage Act.
Not surprisingly, the Australian-born Assange disagrees, claiming that his website is a deterrent to future war crimes and the Hollywood left seems to agree. Radically liberal film maker Michael Moore has been quoted praising those who have leaked information. During an August interview on CNN’s Larry King Live, Moore compared the suspected WikiLeaks source Bradley Manning with witnesses of Nazi atrocities testifying at Nuremberg.
As a soldier, Manning signed up to join the military – an instrument of war. Like it or not, that’s what our military is designed to do – go to war. Their job is to protect America and its allies using guns, tanks, missiles, and the like. Stressing the fact that we have an entirely volunteer military, comparing the U.S. Governement to that of Nazi Germany is not only distasteful it is flat our obscene.
Americans have more freedom than any other population in the history of the world, and our right to free speech is paramount to that liberty. But if the government is not permitted to maintain some level of secrecy, that liberty could be in jeopardy.
The average American cannot comprehend the lengths to which government officials must go in order to keep state secrets safe. Improper dissemination of classified military or state information could cost the lives of our troops, our citizens or our leaders. Deciding how much secrecy the government may be allowed, however, is the difficult question to which there is no simple answer.
In the end, we must show the world that what they share with us is secure and that all of our talk of freedom and liberty is not just empty rhetoric. Our government is truly one of the people, by the people and for the people and our officials need to keep that in mind. I once heard a speech in which a man said, “America needs to lead the free world, not bully it.” I couldn’t agree more.
Gery L. Deer is an independent writer based in Jamestown. Read more at www.gerydeer.com