Press "Enter" to skip to content

You Can’t Shut WikiLeaks Without Shutting Democracy

My mother just asked what i thought about WikiLeaks … and finally I had an answer (my gut reaction from the beginning has been to support WikiLeaks, but i haven’t articulated that support till now):

1. There is nothing you can do about it.

The internet is designed to support anonymous dumping of masses of documents. You can “shut down” WikiLeaks, but it doesn’t matter: there will be any number of ways anyone with documents they wish to leak will be able to do so, including reams of similar projects that will pop up all over the world, smarter and better than WikiLeaks. Trying to stop WikiLeaks is a pointless exercise, unless you wish to give the state the right to designate people or organizations illegal at will, with no due process.

2. If you shut WikiLeaks with law, you shut the free press.

If you say that the government can prosecute people for publishing information that the government doesn’t want published – for “national security” or any other reason – then you no longer have a free press or free speech. If the government has the ability to outlaw public discussions on whatever topics they please, based on national security, the government then can control the speech of the press, private citizens, and any other kind of mixture of the two. This is what Lieberman’s SHIELD law proposes.

So: there is no point in trying to stop WikiLeaks, and if you do, you have to criminalize activities that are fundamental to our understanding of Western Democracy. There’s not really a middle road, as far as I can tell.

One Comment

  1. Brian Mills Brian Mills 2011-03-15

    As a former journalist, I cannot forget a speech Christiane Amanpour once gave at RTNDA back in 2003 if my memory serves me correctly. One of her reasons for becoming a journalist was ( and I paraphrase here ) to shine a light on the bad guys, those that would harm people unable to protect themselves. I took this very much to heart as a journalist, and support anyone whose intention it is to do the same. I am very wary of anyone who thinks it is ok to try and shut others up for whatever reason. I commend you for writing this op ed. Brian

Comments are closed.