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Campus Media Response: WikiLeaks is no Champion of Free Speech

Writing for Rutgers’ Daily Targum, Cody Gorman comes to a conclusion about the WikiLeaks controversy that is starkly different from the position we articulated two weeks ago:

All in all, Assange idealizes what this country is founded on — checking the power of elected officials to protect against abuse. When even that ability is blocked and condemned by the governments, action is necessary. . . . For the United States, and other global actors alike, to actually take strides in acting unilaterally, the liars and schemers in government must be exposed and voted out. It is time to embrace Julian Assange for the hero that he is.

While WikiLeaks may have released some documents that expose government corruption, we cannot ignore the fact that it has also released information that is sensitive to American security interests and the lives of American operatives and troops. Sadly, this fact does not lead Gorman to reevaluate Assange:

Basically, blaming Assange is like blaming the deaths of murder victims on the inventor of the gun. Assange was simply the producer of the means to allow the leaks, not the actual “leaker” himself. He has, however, admirably stood by what he believes to be the right thing to do.

But Assange is not just a WikiLeaks web programmer. He is an active supporter of the site’s ongoing mission, serving as its media representative, editor, and fundraiser. He is not just the “messenger”: he and his organization consciously chose to deliver a message— a stolen message its authors wanted kept confidential. Theft of property—especially of confidential material that endangers American security and the lives of American servicemen—is properly treated as a crime, and Assange and his cohorts are clearly aiding and abetting that crime.

In another article in the Targum, Ehud Cohen goes so far as to say that the WikiLeaks revelation is protected by the freedom of speech. But freedom of speech does not include the right to scream “Fire!” in a crowded theater, or anything else that endangers the rights and lives of others (such as compromising methods the military uses to detect explosives).

If we are to worry about the freedom of speech, we should speak up in defense of those journalists who are being targeted with death threats by the same Islamic totalitarians whom the WikiLeaks releases enable. But cowardly Western governments—and other journalists—have failed to come to their defense. Defending an illusion of free speech—in the person of Assange—will do nothing to assuage their guilt.

Image from Wikimedia Commons.

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Valery Publius is the pen name of a teacher living in the American South.