Trying to Get a Handle on WikiLeaks

I’ve been taking my time with the whole WikiLeaks thing, trying to understand what it really means to our country, culture and society. For anyone who was politically active during the Vietnam era, the obvious comparison is to the Pentagon Papers. Your feelings about that incident are probably solidified: You think it was either an act of treason or an act of patriotism. At first I though the WikiLeaks disclosures were essentially the same, but now I’m not so sure, and it’s going to be yet some time before I’ll be confident in my own opinion of the matter.

In the case of the Pentagon Papers, we were dealing with outright lies being told to the people of the U.S. by our military and civilian leaders. Daniel Ellsberg exposed those lies (and catalyzed the end of the Vietnam war) by publishing some secret documents. The publication of 250,000 diplomatic cables by WikiLeaks doesn’t prima facie serve the same purpose.

For now, here are some interesting writings on the subject (thanks to David for compiling):

One thought on “Trying to Get a Handle on WikiLeaks

  1. Doug, you’re right to question whether this bulk leak serves the public good to the same degree as the Pentagon Papers. But wherever history comes down on that question, I think government threats against Wikileaks show that independent voices are still more vulnerable than traditional journalism. My thoughts:

    By the way, is it really true that the Pentagon Papers were laser-focused on the lies being told by the government? They were voluminous–perhaps as voluminous for their day as Wikileaks in today’s age of networks. If we study the Pentagon Papers, will we find as much off-topic material as on Wikileaks, pound for pound? Did the Pentagon Papers disclose specific information that endangered people on the ground without exposing official wrongdoing? I don’t know, but I think it’s possible.


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