biggest leak of confidential U.S.
government papers is being debated in the public, and some
are calling it a betrayal of the country’s security position
as backroom conversation shows questionable practices of
our government. The “WikiLeaks” controversy has raised the
question, “Is Government security bigger than freedom of
the press, or is freedom of the press bigger than government
public trust runs deep as it relates to the American people’s
view of government. We trust that government will do whatever
is necessary to defend our democracy and maintain its stability.
And we trust that as “defenders of the free world,” our
government will do what is right to insure our global position
is right, philosophically and morally.
of the practice of foreign relations policy is the absence
of transparency that insures government is acting correctly
and is being held accountable for its actions in defending
our democracy. One reason we are able to hold our government
accountable, at all, is because of the watchdog role of
the press and our right to say that government isn’t always
right (Right to Petition Government). So why is WikiLeaks
viewed by some as a betrayal of government trust?
WikiLeaks website posted thousands of confidential memos
about the government’s negotiations in two highly questionable
wars in Iraq
- some of which show American diplomats in critical and
compromising conversations that, in the opinion of some,
look either weak or manipulative. Others show America resisting manipulation by other countries.
Thus is the process of foreign policy negotiation.
American people’s trust was truly tested as to the necessity
of both wars, but in the aftermath of a domestic terrorist
attack was tolerated as being necessary to defend the democracy.
The absence of reason, coupled with the presence of fear,
equates to free reign for our government. Any questioning
of principal or practice as it relates to diplomacy (or
the absence of it) and foreign relations engagement historically
brings the wrath of the government and the anti-patriotism
jacket that no one enjoys wearing.
“spokesman,” Julian Assange, who was arrested this week
in Switzerland on matters unrelated to the leak (what a
coincidence?), is bearing the brunt of the leak scrutiny
and most certainly will be harassed until a court defends
his “freedom of the press” rights. They say “all is fair
in love and war,” however, does that mean the American people
are not supposed to know the diplomacy engagements of its
government or call into question the integrity of its practices?
At what point does government answer to the people (beyond
the simplicities of voting and referendum legislating)?
questions were raised forty years ago when the Pentagon
Papers were leaked in 1971, and Daniel Ellsberg’s first
amendment press rights were defended by the U.S. Supreme
Court. The Pentagon Papers revealed our government’s 22-year
involvement in Viet Nam and the
fact that President Lyndon Johnson had lied to the public
and to Congress about the negotiations with the Viet Cong
and exaggerated the need to escalate the war.
freedom of the press protects anonymity in political discourse
when government has violated the public’s trust. Government
cover-ups are more common than it, or the public, wants
to admit. The public tends to turn a blind eye when it comes
to the complexities of foreign relations, as long as our
government gets it done, to the favor of the American people.
The blind eye becomes blind trust in this case. Fast forward
forty years later, and we see our government not being truthful
about the death tolls of Iraqis and Afghanis that reaches
into the millions, and the public seeing that, in an unpopular
war, the “collateral damage” on both sides of war as not
being worth the toll.
similarly to the Pentagon Papers, raises issue with the
government’s disclosures of the war and the conflicts that
the documents present as it relates to how we have come
to understand our government’s philosophical approach of
political realism. Do we have the right to ask the question,
from time to time, “Is our government lying to us?” Disclosing
confidential documents that undermine our government’s security
is not advocated by any means and traitors should be jailed.
Disclosing dishonesty in government practices by confidential
leaks is a responsibility of the press. Government agencies
(particularly the FBI and CIA) use leaks to discredit those
they don’t like or who they see as threats to the public
disclosures of government betrayal. Why should the press
not be able to do the same when it becomes obvious that
government has not been forthcoming in its dealing and has
violated the public trust? That’s what the WikiLeaks debate
is really about.
Dr. Anthony Asadullah Samad, PhD is a national columnist
and author of
Saving The Race: Empowerment Through Wisdom. His Website is
to contact Dr. Samad.