In the past year, Wikileaks has made headlines with their controversial release of classified diplomatic cables and documents on their website. Many journalists, librarians and others have made the claim that this is a great thing for First Amendment rights, that this is what this country needs – no lies, just the truth.
But do Americans have an inalienable right to know their government’s every move and all their conversations?
No, we don’t. When we elect officials into office we are placing our trust in them, relinquishing our rights to certain decisions, trusting them to do what is in our best interest.
The First Amendment gives Americans, and others in the United States, the freedom of speech, assembly, religion and the freedom to petition the government. It does not give outside parties the right to leak classified documents, nor does it give citizens the right to see them.
And while freedom of the press is extremely important, Wikileaks is not the press. They are not contacting the individuals who wrote these documents and asking them for the context they were written in or the reasons behind them and they aren’t reporting on something.
They are simply posting information because they can, information they obtained illegally and isn’t benefiting anyone by being released. In fact, numerous members of the U.S. government, from both sides of the political aisle, have come out and said these documents put the United States and its citizens in danger.
A letter sent from the Chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, Peter T. King (R-NY) on January 12, 2011 to U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner reads, “On January 7th, the New York Times reported that Wikileaks’ unauthorized disclosures have forced the State Department to warn ‘hundreds of human rights activists, foreign government officials and business people identified in leaked diplomatic cables of potential threats to their safety and has moved a handful of them to safer locations.’”
Whether we see the danger in these documents or not doesn’t mean they are not a potential threat. The leaked documents, and the subsequent scrutiny of them, could strain international relations and lead to hostility with countries we need as allies.
It would be one thing if these cables were describing some giant government conspiracy, but they aren’t.
Is it simply because those of us in the United States aren’t in any immediate danger that we don’t care about our soldiers, citizens, government officials and our many allies overseas who could be?
The United States is not favored around the world. There are many people who hate us and want to harm us. Why on earth should we favor something that is only creating more animosity towards us? It’s not only Americans who can access these documents. Anyone with an Internet connection can read them.
We should not be encouraging someone from another country to release our confidential documents, even if it was just the President’s grocery list? Americans should be outraged at the invasion of our government’s privacy, not applauding it.
The only good thing that has come from Wikileaks is that it is the only issue both political parties seem to agree on.