Cablegate and Free Speech
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:http://bit.ly/ePIKfV 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.