I was listening to a discussion on NPR yesterday about Wikileaks.com, the web site that allows people who have secret information, be it corporate or government secrets, to post them anonymously on line. The discussion was sparked by a recent incident in which a disaffected member of the US Army, stationed in Kuwait, allegedly passed on to the site as many as 150,000 classified documents and videos regarding the wars in Iran and Afghanistan. Needless to say the military and US State Dept. are having fits about this. So far the site has only published onetop secret cockpit video of US chopperschopping up a bunch of Iraqi civilians, including at least one journalist. The US command has arrested the leaker, (who was caught only because he could not resist bragging about his exploits.) But Wikileaks still has the hot docs and says it intends to publish them in series in the weeks ahead, beginning with another "even more distrubing" cockpit video.
The NPR debate was over whether publishing leaked government secrets is a good thing, a bad thing or ... well, or what? It's either a good thing or a bad thing. I come down on the good-thing side of the argument. And here's why.
It's true, as anti-leak forces claim, that leaking the wrong classified documents could get people killed. But before you decide that settles the matter, then you have to take one step first; compare the alternative, which is keeping all that stuff secret in the first place. The premise that leaked government secrets could get people killed is just that, a premise. We have no evidence of that happening, at least yet.
What we do have, thought, is a s--tload of evidence that at least some government secrets, kept secret long enough, can get a helluva lot of people killed. Let's take just one example in which a big-ass secret, revealed too late, got at least 60,000 Americans killed and who knows how many hundreds of thousands of others. Torn from the pages of today's news, I offerExhibit A:
Records Show Doubts on '64 Vietnam Crisis
WASHINGTON -- In an echo of the debates over the discredited intelligence that helped make the case for the war in Iraq, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday released more than 1,100 pages of previously classifiedVietnam-era transcripts that show senators of the time sharply questioning whether they had been deceived by the White House and the Pentagon over the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident...."If this country has been misled, if this committee, this Congress, has been misled by pretext into a war in which thousands of young men have died, and many more thousands have been crippled for life, and out of which their country has lost prestige, moral position in the world, the consequences are very great," SenatorAlbert Gore Sr.of Tennessee, the father of the future vice president, said in March 1968 in a closed session of the Foreign Relations Committee. (Full Story)
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Since there was no Internet and WikiLeaks around in 1964 that secret remained safely secret, and the rest is another chapter of bloody history. Even more disturbing is that since Johnson, et al, got away with a lie that started a war, that provided the Bush/Cheney administration an template for their own Gulf of Tonkin lie -- their entirely contrived Iraq WMD's.
Now we have WikiLeaks, and that site may be in possession of the most important stack of leaked documents since The Pentagon Papers caper. Only this time the Washington Post and New York Times are not interested. Hell, even if they had the same pile of documents as WikiLeaks has we'd probably never see them. (At the insistence of the Bush White House, the Times sat on evidence of Bush's illegal wiretapping for over a year before they summoned the courage to publish anything, and then only after they were about to lose their "scoop."
But we do have WikiLeaks, and I say, thank goodness for it. Since it's clear we are not going to get well-researched, well-vetted, aggressive investigated journalism, then at least get us access to the raw materials so we can draw our own --fully informed-- conclusions.
There's lots we need know. For example, what say someone at the Dept. of Energy should leak the transcripts of Dick Cheney's 2001 secret Energy Task Force meetings with oil executives, particularly BP? Maybe that would shed light on what secret decisions were made back then that laid the ground for the mess in the Gulf today. Since Congress is clearly not about to pry those Cheney/BP documents loose, then why not get them up on WikiLeaks so we can judge for ourselves? They gave us "drill baby drill," so we'd like to do just that, drill down into those secret Cheney/BP documents.
Yeah, I know that leaking secret government documents is against the law. I also know that encouraging others to break the law is against the law. So arrest me. There's a lot of more disturbing talk these days coming out of those Tea Party dimwits about their "Second Amendment remedies." Jesus H.Christ people, those nuts are ready to start shooting! All I'm suggesting is that someone lock and load and shoot some hot docs up to WikiLeaks. But the folks in DC appear unconcerned with Tea Party threats of gun play, but they're all atwitter over WikiLeaks:
Sure the day will come when the wrong document will get leaked and people will get sued, get fired, get jailed or even get killed. Maybe the first three will be richly deserved while the last is rarely a good outcome. Nevertheless, national security secrets, based on misinformation, disinformation or flat out lies, have gotten millions of people killed just during my 65-years on the planet. How many of those lives might have been saved if a few those secrets had been forced to withstand the glare of daylight.