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Cablegate and Free Speech

December 7, 2010

There is no question that WikiLeaks has shaken up diplomatic relations in the past few weeks. Each morning, I tune into the news to find another discovery, another secret nickname for a leader, or another development in what action the United States will take to remedy this distaster.

While doing some googling, I stumbled upon a recent twitter post by the WikiLeaks organization that read:

Censorship in action – see all the attacks on wikileaks here: KEEP US STRONG.

The link directs to a timeline by the Guardian detailing the fallout from the release of US diplomatic cables. Within slightly over a week, most every company with ties (technological, monetary, political) to WikiLeaks withdrew its support.

In doing some further research, I came across an article from the Christian Science Monitor titled WikiLeaks and Amazon: A free speech issue? in which journalist Rebecca MacKinnon argues that  Amazon has essentially stated

If you engage in controversial speech that some individual members of the U.S. government don’t like – even if there is a strong case to be made that your speech is constitutionally protected – Amazon is going to dump you at the first sign of trouble.

Was WikiLeaks justified and correct in its releasing of these documents? Was it such a crime? Was Amazon justified in ejecting WikiLeaks from its server?

This thought sent me back to some of Mill’s writings. At one point in Mill’s work On Liberty he contends that “There ought to exist the fullest liberty of professing and discussing, as a matter of ethical conviction, any doctrine, however immoral it may be considered.” Under this view, WikiLeaks is justified in its releasing the sensitive information. However, later he explains that “The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.” This ultimately begs the question, did the leaking of the cables put Americans at risk? This something we will have to wait to find out.

  1. Andrew Laing permalink
    December 7, 2010 7:16 PM

    I am a supporter of wikileaks. It is fairly well known that countries like Turkey that are officially our “allies” commonly do not have our intrest in mind. The more leaks the better, our government should disclose much more on these issues to educate the people. The source of these leaks shouldn’t be some hacker, but the government itself. Why keep us in the dark anyway? How does keeping this secret increase our security? it dosent, it is a falsehood.

  2. lski9 permalink
    December 7, 2010 8:30 PM

    Free speech can only go so far once, free speech and the use of it starts to effect American lives it needs to be shut off and monitored. There is a difference opposing someone using free speech and using your free speech in a way that can put someone else’s life in danger. And from the comment above if the government disclosed and told us everything that was going on in our country our country would go up in flames. As Jack Nicholson said in A Few Good Men “You can’t handle the truth” and honestly most Americans can’t handle the truth if told because some of the info would put people in complete and utter panic. Once lives are put in danger in any way it isn’t a free speech anymore.

  3. yequan permalink
    December 7, 2010 10:32 PM

    To be honest, there is be No Free Speech in any government. Because government knows well that people can be mislead easily and even guided to wrongdoing. So free speech has to be sort of limited, eventually the idea of free speech is just our imagination. But to myself, I still wikileak did a good job, it shows us “truth”. I mean citizens deserve to know it, isn’t it.

  4. Shauna Sitarek permalink
    December 7, 2010 11:16 PM

    All of you have made great points. I agree with the fact that we as american citizens, have the right to know the truth, even if it isn’t what we want to hear. I think that in order for the rest of the nation, and most importantly the youth who have to some day take over, need to know details about what our leaders are actually doing, and why. In a way, it allows people to learn from others, weather that will be their mistakes or their successes, similar to what Mill talks about in “On Liberty”. I think Wikileaks is a good thing and I find myself comforted that I know more about certain issues, even if it isn’t what I want to hear.

  5. December 8, 2010 1:26 AM

    Wikileaks represent a cool concept that make me wonder what the founding fathers would have thought of them. The founding fathers wanted citizens to elect the government, but not run it. This is because they had little faith that popular vote would make the best decisions for everyone all the time. They believe that the citizens would be able to vote for a person that represented their needs and then make the correct decisions for them. With this concept in mind, it would make sense that not everything that goes on in government should be disclosed to the public. If the public can’t handle running the government, then they wouldn’t be able to handle all the information that goes through it. Therefore I believe the founding fathers would be against wikileaks. Some things people just cannot handle and that is why there are secrets in the system. I personally am against the secrets. I would like to know everything that goes on in our government. But I can understand why the government wouldn’t want everyone to know certain things. Some decisions or actions made might seem bad at first glance to the average citizen, but ultimately may be beneficial in the long run. Wikilinks may cause unneeded controversy or rebellion. If you believe that the population has enough intelligence to make the right decisions for everyone in the country, just look at PROP 9. That is what happens when you let the majority state their opinions. You get bigotry and hate.

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