Debate Forum Right 08/04/2010

David H. Landon

Your Right To Know Doesn’t Supersede Our Right To Exist

There was sheer idiocy on display last week as a Web site known as WikiLeaks released  100 megabytes totaling some 90,000 pages of secret tactical American military reports regarding the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan. These documents were released by WikiLeaks in conjunction with newspapers The New York Times, Germany’s Der Spiegel and Britain’s Guardian. Braced in the illogical and naïve belief that transparency in all matters of government will lead to a more peaceful and loving world, WikiLeaks has just made our world more dangerous. The release of these documents has put both U.S. troops and those Afghans who are helping us in mortal danger. Despite WikiLeaks’ claims to have applied their “harm minimization” standards to the information by removing names and information that might cause harm to individuals prior to its release, hundreds of individual Afghans whose names appear in these documents will be targeted by the Taliban and al-Qaeda as a result.

Within two hours of the release of the documents, The Times of London found dozens of  names and villages of Afghans who had provided information to the Americans. So much for the “harm minimization’ standards; people will most certainly lose their lives because of WikiLeaks. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told a British news channel that they were reviewing the documents and the names of the Afghans listed in the reports and “If they are U.S. spies, then we know how to punish them.” Also in the documents released are classified materials prepared by State Department officials in the Middle East that discuss the workings of Arab governments and their leaders. These are the type of blunt assessments that, while necessary for foreign policy analysis, are candid assessments of the strengths and weaknesses of these foreign leaders and are often unflattering. These leaks will make foreign governments and their intelligence agencies, from our allies to friendly governments in the Middle East and everywhere in between, far less likely to share their intelligence with the United States. They will be concerned, and with good cause, that the information they share might end up on the front page of The New York Times. In the future this will cause the withholding of intelligence information by these governments from the U.S. and will probably cause further U.S. military and civilian deaths.

Julian Assange is a member of the board and the spokesman and the face of WikiLeaks. Assange is a somewhat shadowy figure who is an Australian Internet activist, skilled hacker, semi-journalist and self-anointed protector of whistleblowers. Assange has designed WikiLeaks to allow whistleblowers the protection of anonymity as they make public the information that has come into their hands. For Assange it’s all about transparency in government. There should be no government secrets in the strange world of this wacko. He believes that by revealing all of these government secrets, all countries around the world will be able to somehow begin to live in peace. Is he that naïve or is he really
an anarchist?

Assange defended the actions of this organization and brags that there are more revelations to come. When he was asked about the potential deaths of innocent Afghans as a result of the WikiLeaks document dump, he responded that “Secretary Gates has overseen the killings of thousands of children and adults in these two countries.” In other words, his actions and the actions of WikiLeaks may cause deaths, but they are acceptable in comparison to the evil being caused by the war. So sayeth Julian Assange, this very wise man who has appointed himself in charge of foreign policy for the entire world. Unfortunately for Assange, there is no such position. Instead, he should be designated by the U.S. government as a foreign combatant, apprehended and sent to Guantanamo to be held for the duration of the war.

The information was probably provided to WikiLeaks by Bradley Manning, a U.S. Army intelligence specialist who had top secret clearance and access to the stolen documents while stationed in Afghanistan. Manning is currently under detention at Quantico and undergoing questioning for his role in an earlier WikiLeaks release. His motivation for the release of these documents is still being determined. Manning has apparently taken it on himself to release the classified information because he disagreed with the conduct of the war. To the anti-war left he is a hero. If he is proven to be the leaker, his actions place him in violation of the U.S. Espionage Act and he will deservedly be looking at a
long prison term.

WikiLeaks promises more of the same in the days to come. The larger question that must be asked and answered is how the government can stop the release of such information. Those who support WikiLeaks and similar whistleblower sites argue against censorship by the government. But this presupposes that governments are not allowed to have secrets. Sadly, there are forces of evil in the world today. The first obligation of government is to protect its citizens from these forces of evil. While that responsibility of government can be broadly interpreted and abused, it is impossible for a government to do its job without allowing some degree of secrecy. It’s especially absurd to take a position denying the right of government to have some secrets in matters of foreign policy. Simply put, your right to know does not supersede our right to
exist as a country.

David H. Landon is the former Chairman of the Montgomery County Republican Party Central Committee. He can be reached at contactus@daytoncitypaper.com


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