"Wikileaks Shares Documents About Alien Contact!" I wish. Now that would give us something more to talk about than diplomatic opinions of world leaders and documents showing that the reasons for war and actions during wartime are different than what we've heard on television and the internet. Not exactly mind-enhancing stuff, these leaks so far. Show me the truth about Area 51 however, and you'll really have my attention!
What is Wikileaks? Wikileaks is a whistleblower website, supposedly founded in 2006 by a group of political activists, entrepreneurs and journalists, which allows people to anonymously submit otherwise-unavailable documents, which are then checked for legitimacy, edited and published on the web. Being the intelligent person that I am, I had to look this up for myself under "Wikileaks for Dummies" by Duncan Geere.
I may not understand all of the technical mumbo jumbo about hosting sites, the legality of collecting funds for operation through third-party countries or how we can shut down all of the sites that Wikileaks is trying to utilize over the internet yet we cannot capture Osama bin Laden. What I do understand is that the potential indictment and prosecution of one of the aforementioned political activists and entrepreneurs, Julian Assange, will have far reaching implications for the future of the First Amendment of the Constitution and the Espionage Act, and possibly for your ability to enjoy your freedom of speech.
Assange has asserted that he has First Amendment rights as are afforded to journalists and news organizations in the United States. The First Amendment, for those that forget your US Civics lessons, guarantees freedom of speech at its core. The question is, if the US is going to try to indict and charge Assange on US soil, is he then afforded First Amendment rights like all people in the US are given under our Constitution? I don't know, but I'm sure attorneys on both sides would argue that point.
If he is charged and indicted, Assange would certainly state that hundreds of other news outlets had done the same thing that Wikileaks did - publish classified information that it had received from a source. Every major news outlet in the United States has done this, so what is the difference between the Washington Post and Wikileaks? Is Wikileaks a news outlet? Does it matter that the classified information was stolen and then given to Wikileaks? By the way, most of this information was stolen by a military person who downloaded all of these files from his computer while faking out security cameras by pretending to listen to music cd's at his workstation while the files were being copied to disc. I wonder how that security video played out - I just imagine some guy singing a Miley Cyrus song that he is pretending to listen to while all of these national secrets are being downloaded onto cd. I think they have better security measures at the junkyards in downtown Miami. If the US government does indeed successfully prosecute Assange, does every reporter who gets a "scoop" on some type of classified information face prosecution in the future if the story is published? I don't know.
The Espionage Act prohibits the willful communication, delivery or transmission to "any person not entitled to receive it" of "any document, writing, code book, signal book, sketch, photograph, photographic negative, blueprint, plan, map, model, instrument, appliance or note relating to the national defense, or information relating to the national defense which information the possessor has reason to believe could be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation." Whew! Courts have ruled that the defendant must have also acted in "bad faith" and requires some form of "specific intent" for a conviction. How do you prove that? I find myself thinking back to the imbedded reporters when the US soldiers were first entering Iraq and Afghanistan on foot. I remember thinking, "If I were the enemy of the US, I'd just watch CNN to find out what we were doing and what our strategy was." If we're truly worried about the safety of our soldiers, did it make sense to show the world where we were at and what we were doing in real time? If I were a soldier rushing into battle and I found out that CNN was showing my enemy where I was at and what I was doing, I may think that there was bad faith and specific intent, even if the US government wanted to show the world "shock and awe" firsthand. I'm not sure I would think about the shock and awe factor of live wartime TV if a bullet whizzed past my head. Will the US Government prosecute an imbedded reporter if his or her reporting leads to the death of US soldiers? They haven't yet - though if they are successful at prosecuting and convicting Assange, that may be next.
I do not agree with Julian Assange's reasons for releasing the information, as I do think he wants to harm the United States. My opinion is shared by about 50% of you out there. The data shows a 50/50 split between those that support what he did and those who think his actions were criminal. I understand government spin, and there is a big part of me that laughs when reading what we really think about the Russian President or North Korea's leader. I like the Enquirer, and I like reading about Italy's Prime Minister. However, I do feel that these documents could put Americans in harm’s way, and there are some documents that must stay classified if order is to be restored.
If I am working with a company to strategize about a reduction-in-force, and that information got to the workforce before implementation, chaos would ensue. Would the person who leaked this information to the workforce be prosecuted? Not likely, as there are very few documents that would endanger the United States (defense contractors notwithstanding). If I am a person who gets his hands on classified information showing all of the vulnerable sites that the United States deems critical for continuity, and I publish this information, I'm going to assume as an intelligent person that if I'm caught, I'm probably going to jail for espionage, conspiracy, treason or some other crime against the United States. From everything that I've read about Assange, he is obviously a brilliant man. Perhaps he thought being outside of the US would be enough protection for him and Wikileaks, and maybe it will be, unless he is prosecuted for his other sex-offense crimes. The point is, he knew exactly what he was doing, had intent, and probably acted in bad faith. The prediction here is that he will be prosecuted and convicted, and then news outlets and possibly all Americans will one day have to wonder if that conviction will lead to less freedom of speech for all of us. It might - heck, it probably will.
Can I just ask Wikileaks, and Julian Assange, one favor before he and all of his hactivists are sent to jail? Can you please release the truth about Area 51? As you are quick to say, I have the right to know the truth!