December 17, 2010

Does WikiLeaks endanger lives?

"Let the eye of vigilance never be closed."
~Thomas Jefferson to Spencer Roane, 1821.

The US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, attacked WikiLeaks over U.S. embassy cables, claiming the publication of private diplomatic communications represents an attack on the fabric of "responsible government" and "it puts people's lives in danger". A White House spokesman also said that the stealing and dissemination of classified information is illegal and the Obama administration is considering legal action against WikiLeaks.

Let us briefly consider the aforementioned claims, the last one first. As far as I can determine from the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the Daniel Ellsburg case, WikiLeaks has done nothing illegal by merely disseminating U.S. documents sent to WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks had no part in the theft of those documents. That is why the Obama administration is still considering legal action against WikiLeaks. Any new laws would not apply to WikiLeaks due to the illegality of ex post facto laws. The government's problem and contacts with Wikileaks pre-dates any newly created laws.

That being the case, in the Ellsburg matter Supreme Court Justice Stewart’s opinion, joined by White, set the standard for what the Supreme Court would support for national security-based restrictions on press freedom: disclosure must “surely result in direct, immediate, and irreparable harm to our Nation, or its people.”

Stewart wrote: “We are asked, quite simply, to prevent the publication by two newspapers of material that the Executive Branch insists should not, in the national interest, be published. I am convinced that the Executive is correct with respect to some of the documents involved. But I cannot say that disclosure of any of them will surely result in direct, immediate, and irreparable harm to our Nation, or its people. That being so, there can under the First Amendment be but one judicial resolution of the issues before us.”

Justice Stewart also said: “In the absence of the governmental checks and balances present in other areas of our national life, the only effective restraint upon executive policy and power in the areas of national defense and international affairs may lie in an enlightened citizenry – in an informed and critical public opinion which alone can here protect the values of democratic government.”

Stewart described Executive power over internal security as “an awesome responsibility, requiring judgment and wisdom of a high order. I should suppose that moral, political, and practical considerations would dictate that a very first principle of that wisdom would be an insistence upon avoiding secrecy for its own sake. For when everything is classified, then nothing is classified, and the system becomes one to be disregarded by the cynical or the careless, and to be manipulated by those intent on self protection or self-promotion. I should suppose, in short, that the hallmark of a truly effective internal security system would be the maximum possible disclosure, recognizing that secrecy can best be preserved only when credibility is truly maintained.” (See all opinions, New York Times Co. v United States)

Hillary Clinton's claim to responsible government begs the question. If Clinton and the U.S. government took seriously the Constitution and international humanitarian law, then her remark would not appear so laughable. Clinton is an example of the kind of duplicitous politician who is responsible for the stark absence of credibility in the federal govenrment.

The accusation that WikiLeaks is endangering lives is so far answered by the fact there is no evidence to support to claim. Nonetheless, government officials repeat the "endangering lives" accusation ad nauseam. (See the BBC report Has release of Wikileaks documents cost lives?)

The accusation of "endangering lives" should be directed, rather, to the federal government. Inarguably, U.S. interventionist foreign "policy" is what endangers lives. It is a policy, if one can call it such, that runs roughshod over the Constitution and human rights. The WikiLeaks' disclosures leave no doubt as to where the real problem lies. 

If the U.S. government did not recklessly endanger lives, and conducted its affairs in a manner befitting a "responsible government", then it would have little to fear from WikiLeaks. The disclosures with have hardly gained public attention. Alas, this not the case.

The Empire will, as it must, persecute the whistleblower who revealed so many of its dirty little secrets. The following video examines the U.S. miltary's practice of turning prisoners over to the Iraqi government to be tortured. This is just one of countless atrocities that gives the lie to Hillary's claim that the federal government is a "responsible government."

See next, Wikileaks Iraq: data journalism maps every death

For myself, the data journalism maps call to mind General Tommy Franks bald-faced lie: "We don't do body counts", and George Bush's ludicrous statement: "Saddam Hussein is no longer in power. That’s for certain. He was in power, and now he is not. And therefore, the Iraqi people’s lives will be much better off."

Bush also said, "I’ve always said democracy is going to be hard. It’s not easy to go from being enslaved to being free. But it’s going to happen, because the basic instincts of mankind is to be free. They want to be free." So many Iraqis murdered -- that is an awfully strange way to spread democracy.

There is an inherent contradiction in the attempt to bring democracy to a country by totalitarian means. These means have done incalculably more harm to the Iraqi people than Saddam ever dreamed of doing, or was even capable of doing. 

Despite Bush's publicly stated reasons for unleashing war on Iraq, which were mere pretext, we know the neoconservatives real reasons for the invasion and occupation.

Share This