Should the activities of WikiLeaks be protected as free speech?

Some members of Congress have suggested that the WikiLeaks website should be prosecuted for distributing classified information. Today’s Question: Should the activities of WikiLeaks be protected as free speech?

  • Hiram

    And as freedom of the press? The problem I have is constructing a theory of the case that puts Assange in jail, but not the New York Times. Is there a meaningful constitutional, legal or moral distinction between the two?

  • Duane

    Our constitution allows free speech of our opinion, not to publish stolen information that responsible people feel needs to be available to only those that need that information. We have the Freedom of Information act which will allow information to be made available at such time that it can do no harm. Irresponsible people gaining access to information can be quite damaging to a government and to the population in general.

  • Steve the Cynic

    Whether WikiLeaks’ activities are protected is irrelevant. The fact is, secrets are hard to keep. All it takes is one rogue actor, and the information gets out. If Assange weren’t doing this, some other scumbag would. What we need is for our government to be as open as possible, to keep as few secrets as possible, and to more closely guard those that are necessary.

  • J

    No, of course not. Remember that old saying by Sophocles, “No one loves the messenger who brings bad news.” The real question here is not Wikileaks, but the inane things US diplomats are doing and saying in our name.

  • James

    Steve the Cynic, I agree 100%

    DTOM

  • Ananda

    It’s a challenging question…but the answer has to be ABSOLUTELY, they’re rights to release documents (which were found in somewhat public domain – as in they did not break in to some secure server to obtain the docs)

    Take the case of whistle blowers, or they guy who released the telephone company docs that revealed the government was illegally tapping citizens phones. There was an attempt at quelling the release of that info.

    Take into account all of the important info that the public should be made aware of in order to keep our own government in check. If Bush were in office and this had happened I’m sure many Democrats would be against this crack down!

  • Emma Onawa

    Absolutely! Freedom of speech means nothing if it can be limited only to speech that’s palatable and not potentially embarrassing. Hate speech is so protected. Free speech is particularly important when it relates to governments that are overly secretive and lie, as the US government is wont to do. Julian Assange should be admired for his courage and perserverance.

  • Steve the Cynic

    If DTOM James agrees with me, maybe I misunderstood the question. ;-}

  • Tracy

    Yes! As long as everything posted is true. Don’t get me wrong I believe it is all true I am just pointing out that it is not slander. And as long as wikileaks is just reporting and not spinning it or anything like that the only thing they really did wrong was theft of the documents. I would be very disapointed if this goes so far as people get tried for treason.

  • James

    Steve the Cynic, comunication is good!

    We are rowing this big ship…

    just make sure you row the same way I do… :-)

    I think we could be good friends!

    Thanks MPR for this chance to make bridges.

    DTOM

  • Allison

    I suggest we ask Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, a Chinese dissident who was unable to attend the award ceremony today because he is imprisoned for criticizing the Chinese government.

  • jack goldman

    America was a refuge from evil empires. Now America is the evil empire. Evil empires like Great Britain, Nazi Germany, Zionist Israel, Communist China, Global America hate and despise true free speech. Criticism of the illegal immoral war in Iraq and Afghanistan are politically incorrect.

    Of course it’s free speech. Of course the empire wants to stomp out free speech. Of course the Empires of Great Britain, Israel, and America don’t want to be outed in their global scam to pillage the world.

    The truth shall set you free, unless you are an individual without protection by the empire. We need free speech protection. It is a crime against humanity to outlaw free speech regarding holocaust against the Israeli Empire or criticism of illegal immoral wars for Israel and global zionism in Iraq.

    Go ahead and flame me. I love free speech. All views of all subjects should be heard if we want a functional democracy.

    Communism needs no free speech. Take your pick, Communism or Democracy. It’s just personal choice. I prefer democracy and free speech. Many others prefer Communism and speech censorship by the State as there is in Israel or Nazi Germany or all empires.

  • Colin

    Stealing state secrets is not the same as publishing offensive opinions or exposing damaging facts through investigative journalism. Assange and those he employed (including, presumably, US soldier Pfc Manning) crossed the line from investigative journalism to espionage when they stole secret and confidential files from a US government server and published them.

  • Patrick

    I wonder what the defenders of Wikkileaks would think if some source tapped into their personal cyber information and then was publicized world wide? These not so brave armchair cyber anarchists scream foul at government intrusion, then use similar tactics in their daily lives.

    This “anything goes” attitude on the net is a double-edged sword. As entities such as Wikkileaks pry into institutional secrets our own privacy is threatened and invaded as well. The face of Big Brother is changing, from that of some big fisted institution to that of a society with diminishing respect and sense of privacy.

    Assange appears as just another media driven opportunist. Anyone who relies on parasitic credit institutions as a tool to finance an operation cannot be trusted.

  • Robert Marshall

    The revelations of Wikileaks should absolutely be protected. Thanks to Wikileaks, I know that our taxes financed child sex trafficking in Afghanistan, that our government massacred civilians and a journalist in Iraq, and that our leaders lied to us about the coup in Honduras. We should be talking about prosecuting the people who did these things, not the people who exposed them. If we silence the organization that exposed these wrongdoings, we are collaborating with our government’s human rights violations.

  • Tony

    Freedom of speech is an American right.

    Freedom of the press is also an Amerian right.

    What’s not clear is whether or not Wikilieaks is American. The founder appears to be Australian.

    How should freedom of speech and freedom of the press apply in this situation? What if it were MPR or Fox News that broke these stories? Would that color your thinking?

    All kinds of interesting things happen in international diplomacy.

    What to do about Wikileaks is one question.

    Another question is what to do about our own officials who lie to us about doing horrible things in our names.

  • Steve the Cynic

    “Zionist Israel” is an empire? You slay me, Jack. Tell me another one.

  • Amy

    I dunno, are classified documents “free speech”? One would think not (or they wouldn’t be classifed). I think Assuage is discovering the cost of that infringement right now.

  • Chuck

    For me, it depends upon how the information was obtained. It seems clear that PFC Manning supplied the information. His life will be hell when the court martial is concluded and he gets to spend a fair amount of time in a military prison. But was he coerced, seduced or paid to steal information for wikileaks. If wikileaks did not do anything nefarious to obtain the information, then Assange should not be tried for revealing what was obtained. However, if wikileaks did participate in the theft of classified information they should suffer for it. And it looks like they are suffering for it.

    Unfortunately, wkileaks did not redact the names of some individuals. Some are going to face severe consequences as a result.

    It seems pretty clear that Julian Assange is a sleaze who may well get his come uppance is a Swedish prison. One can but hope.

  • Allison

    Amen, Robert Marshall and Jack Goldman!

  • Greg

    YES. and they should start posting Wikileaks on private companies too …. there is a lot more shenanigans going on that needs to be daylighted/sunlighted. too many bad behaviors are hidden instead of corrected. hiding them allows their re-use by others. Most folks intend to do good and do “bad” by accident. We need to grow up as a culture and learn to find problems and errant behavior in our oganizations – and correct it without permanently daming the responsible well-meaning responsible party. We are WAY TOO BIG on EXCESSIVE Punishment and shame. Time to get real.

  • Julie

    It seems as though the government is making wikileaks a bigger deal than if it had been ignored.

    Because of the government’s reaction, everyone is speaking out and taking action in favor of wikileaks.

    Come on leaders, do the right thing! Maybe now that we know what’s been going on, you’ll start being better role models.

    Thanks to the people that have endangered their lives to bring us truth.

  • ben

    Yes.

    Gov. work best for its people when it doesn’t keep secrets from them and lies to them.

    That’s why its part of our constitutional amendments.

    –Ben

  • hiram

    Legitimate news organizations are passing these stories along, just as Assange did. So what’s the difference? Does the fact that someone works in a large building in downtown Manhattan somehow create immunities from the application of the criminal laws?

  • Bruce

    Yes, absolutely. If speech is free how can it not be protected. When we begin to let the gov. decide what we can say speech will no longer be free or relevant. Just because someone is embarrassed by what they have said is no reason to limit that information. It is the governments own fault for giving access to a private in the Army. How stupid is that . I have not even read the information but I do support the right of every person to print and speak the truth and that is what has been done.

  • mary ellen niedenfuer

    Y.E.S.

  • K. R.

    Not unless high treason be also.

  • D

    Julian has the courage of his convictions to stand up against wayward giants, a very rare trait in society today. When the veil of secrecy is lifted, the establistment clumsily tries to kill the messenger with a variety of whack-a-mole attempts. However those attempting to quiet Julian are viewed as corrupted.

    The public has the right and duty to expose government corruption, which is always present in human society. Free speech must prevail.

  • Ron

    I think all the people that agree with Julian should allow every document in their personal archives to be taken and posted on the internet. Each one of them just may have some sway or influence over others’ lives and so everything they say or do should be exposed to the light of day. When they decide that freedom of speech includes the theft and distribution of their own “secrets”, I’ll jump on their rhetorical bandwagon and go for a ride. Until then, the world’s already a dangerous enough place without people justifying computer hacking for fun and profit.

  • Tom

    Maybe. What I find interesting is that the NYT did not publish Climategate information because it was stolen and yet readliy published Wikileaks…. Why the difference? Do we really have a free press or are we fed only what the NYT and NPR wants us to know?

  • Jennie

    Yes. I deserve to know how the money I continue to give to my country is used. It’s not my fault they’re embarrassed by what they’ve done.

  • Kevin VC

    Hard one really.

    On one hand they are exposing what was agreed to be confidential and secret. Thus exposing potential threat to the reason its kept secret. Many people will be exposed who are in the middle of activities….

    On the other hand it exposes what is secret that SHOULD be known….. Like countries being kinda 2 sided, like Saudia Arabia, understandable granted, but still we are taking the flack for the same action and desire they want done…..

    Then there is the stupidity of how easy it was to get the information out or the ease at which people had access to it in the first place…. If you are going to do security remember its not just the encryption, network method, and passwords…. Its the people.

    Kevin MItnick would say the easiest way to hack a computer is not head on, but through tricking the people who use it to give you the information willingly.

    In the end the devil is in the details.

    No easy answer.

    And I would be curious what is release or not. If there is some common sense (As in: nope that will put lives in danger, if so I would be more leaning to take them to court.)

    So as someone detached, I watch and learn from a distance.

  • Rob

    Yes it is protected free speech, it is not yelling fire in a movie theater or inciting violence. The only reason it is controversial is that it exposes the lies of the powerful. Since the press no longer really performs this function, it is left up to “rogue” journalists like micheal moore, wiki leaks, link tv and others to give us the truth since our government no longer trusts us with it. If we the people are no longer to be trusted with the truth, and dissent is no longer to be tolerated, then our demacracy does not have much longer to live. Julianne Assange is a hero, on the order of the signers of the declaration of independance. He knows by what he is doing of exposing the lies of the powerful corrupt that his life is eventually forfeit.

  • Bill Jolitz

    NO!

    Publishing stolen confidential information is like publishing a company’s stolen proprietary information. Or selling stolen goods.

    Publishing without properly investigating the context of a message AND describing it to others is a deliberate mislead.

    I think it is more about Assange’s “right to tell” than the public’s “right to know.”

  • MCO

    Some things serve the public better by remaining outside the auspices of legal or governmental control.

    Knowledge and outrage about surreptitious, dishonest behavior and motivates a certain number of people to expose it. Belief that information is easily available is more likely to promote complacency, so when no one watches the fox raids the hen house.

    Also, if WikiLeaks were protected as free speech, originators of controversial documents would simply be pressed to more furtive behavior in order to cover their tracks.

    I say leave WikiLeaks as it is; illegal. Let Julian Assange and people like him do their jobs, God bless ‘em. Those who hide destructive secrets can remain at risk.

  • Peter T

    I find the reaction of the political class repulsive. Of course, they don’t want us to know what they do behind closed doors, but declaring Assange a terrorist and a traitor (he’s Australian, for heaven’s sake)? I think Assange deserves praise for doing the work that journalists were once praised for doing but cannot find the money for anymore. If Assange is convicted, the American judicial system will have made a mockery of themselves.

  • Patrick

    This is another example of the fog of information.

    Decades of endless “useful” information….and where are we?….endless wars, endless poverty, endless corruption.

    Investigative reporting has been replaced with a web of gotcha-gossip, vain interpretations, and tasteless crackers to satisfy a host of parrots lacking insight and imagination.

    Assange and his groupies are just another pathetic reality show.