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 Freedom of Expression
 
The Possible Prosecution of WikiLeaks
The Independent Institute, United States Wednesday, August 25, 2010


The United States justice department is contemplating the prosecution of Julian Assange, the founder of wikileaks which published classified documents from governments. This might be to prevent him from making a set of documents on war in Afghanistan public. Excessive Government secrecy is not good.Why should Government prosecute third-party, non-governmental organizations?, writes Ivan Elands in The Independent Institute Newsroom.


The U.S. Justice Department is apparently considering prosecuting Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, which is a Web site that publishes classified documents from governments, under the rarely used Espionage Act of 1917. Such a prosecution would have adverse effects on the American people’s right to know what their government is doing in a republic that is supposed to be run by them.

Ironically, the U.S. government may have leaked the threat of prosecution to coerce Assange into giving back 76,000 classified documents on the war in Afghanistan and deleting them from his Web site, which the Pentagon has demanded. More important, this threat may be meant to intimidate Assange from making public another 15,000 documents that he says will be even juicier than the previous release.

...

The threatened prosecution may be just a bluff, because the Justice Department recently was forced to drop a similar case against two American pro-Israel lobbyists for taking documents from Larry Franklin, a Department of Defense employee who was successfully prosecuted for violating his secrecy oath.

...

Such journalistic stories are valuable and necessary, because much hush-hush information is overclassified, is kept under wraps only because it is embarrassing to the U.S. government, or is classified to keep the public in the dark about questionable government policies or actions. During the Cold War and continuing to this day, the American public is often the last to know information that is common knowledge among intelligence agencies of adversarial nations. Excessive government secrecy is a serious and underrated problem in a republic and has been exacerbated by the spike in clandestine government actions in the Bush-Obama war on terror.

If the government of a republic is going to keep secrets from its own people for their own good (faith is required here), they should keep the restricted information to the minimum.

...

Most important, if a republican government cannot keep its secrets secret, it should not prosecute third-party, non-governmental recipients of the material, but should concentrate on plugging the leaks in its security system.

This article was published in the The Independent Institute on Wednesday, August 25, 2010. Please read the original article here.
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