WikiLeaks: What’s the big deal?
December 21, 2010
WikiLeaks exposes secret information
Eastside Catholic High School
One of today’s most compelling and controversial current events is the WikiLeaks scandal.
The so-called whistleblower website was established in 2006 by Chinese dissidents, but is best known for its director, 39-year-old Australian computer hacker and Internet activist Julian Assange. Under the motto, “We help you safely get the truth out,” Assange and his colleagues published documents containing classified political and military information.
This seemingly innocent site has created global chaos. Assange has not only created problems for entire nations, but has also gotten himself into quite a bit of trouble.
He is wanted for sex crimes in Sweden. WikiLeaks is practically bankrupt, as well as condemned by several nations. Things seemingly couldn’t get worse for Assange.
Assange has caused outrage in many countries, including the United States, because of his recent leak of diplomatic cables. These files have embarrassed and angered leaders of France, Libya, Russia and Iran, to name a few.
But is Assange completely to blame? So far, the answer appears to be no. Detained U.S. Army Pvt. Bradley Manning is suspected to have given secret information to WikiLeaks. Manning has been in solitary confinement for about four months now and, although he has not received as much press as Assange, is sure to cause media frenzy when officials get to the bottom of this case.
Assange may come out of this mess with the upper hand. Although he will most likely be prosecuted in Sweden, it looks like virtually every other nation will be unable to punish him for the WikiLeaks controversy based on one small fact — his Australian citizenship. Manning, a U.S. citizen, may not be so lucky.
Should we shoot the messenger?
Skyline High School
Lately, you may have seen the media has been flooded with the controversy of WikiLeaks and its director, Julian Assange.
Government representatives have criticized Assange for publishing diplomatic cables on the Internet that were meant to remain confidential. Many Americans have expressed concern that WikiLeaks has the potential to affect the United States negatively. It is important to recognize that citizens of our country tend to take the media at face value, rather than consider the possibility of the government’s overreaction to be much more damaging than the leaks themselves.
Undoubtedly, a very complicated issue is being discussed, but WikiLeaks certainly brings several questions into play — one of the most prominent ones being, “Does the First Amendment protect the actions of Assange?”
Recently, a group of Columbia University professors have been asking the Obama administration not to prosecute Assange for WikiLeaks, as they believe he is protected by the First Amendment. Freedom of speech is one of the most basic constitutional rights, so the situation has exploded into such a mess because these rights can’t just be ignored.
The fact is that the information that was leaked is truthful. It can be argued that Assange was simply “engaging in journalistic activities.”
When discussing whether the information was obtained illegally, it becomes a completely different story. The government cannot necessarily prosecute Assange for publishing the information, because of discrepancies relating to the Constitution.
However, he is violating the Espionage Act of 1917, which is not brought up nearly as much as one would think.
The Espionage Act states that “any document … relating to the national defense which information the possessor has reason to believe could be used to the injury of the United States” is strictly prohibited. This law, established nearly 100 years ago, seems to very broad and contradictory to the Constitution.
Because of this, it is hard to tell what the future holds for Assange. Investigations will continue until the government can finally decide whether this is an appropriate situation to uphold the rights of the First Amendment.