I’ve found the whole Wikileaks situation very challenging, which is one reason I haven’t blogged much about it. Another reason is because it’s also out of the forefront of my consciousness at the moment and I never reached any solid conclusions of my own.
On one side, I do think it is well within the bounds of the government’s military powers to classify information and keep it away from public and international eyes. No, I am not prepared to offer a hard-and-fast guideline for determining what should be classified and what should not. But I have a sense that there is a need for that power and so such a principle can be developed.
On the other hand, I do think that public scrutiny of government action is absolutely critical and the government’s legitimate power for keeping secrets is very, very limited. (Again, what those limits are exactly is unknown to me.)
I think what most disturbs me about the Wikileaks drama is the tang of vigilante-ism that surrounds it.
Nevertheless, there is a discussion about the situation over at The Agitator that I find very thought-provoking.
So why is that? Here’s my guess: McVeigh, Loughner, and Ames merely killed people, or caused people to be killed. Their transgressions were despicable, but they didn’t splash back any embarrassment on the government itself (Aimes arguably did to a certain degree, in that it took so long for him to be discovered). Manning, on the other hand, embarrassed the government. In the community of people who believe government to be the noblest, most honorable, most vaunted possible calling, that’s a far worse offense. It’s probably the worst offense.
I don’t tend to buy into accusations of base venality (I know I’m particularly naive in this regard) when it comes to, well, everyone, but in this case Balko’s points are well taken and fairly persuasive. Definitely worthy of some further contemplation over this challenging issue.