The moral standards of Wikileaks' critics

The title is cribbed from this salon.com articleby Glenn Greenwald.

In it, he talks about the relative morality he sees in the people who are calling for the imprisonment or death of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. He starts off with a quote from Time magazine’s Joe Klein:

From there, he makes a good case that the people upset with Assange are largely hypocrites, at best, calling for the support of policies and people who are themselves, some of them, directly responsible for actions that have led to the deaths of innocent people, and also to acts that have directly tried to cover up the deaths, or involvement in the deaths or ensuing cover-ups.

So, I thought it would make an interesting debate: what are the moral standards of Wikileaks’ critics, and do they really have a leg to stand on in their call for action(s) against Julian Assange?

I’m not sure hypocrisy is the correct diagnosis, it seems to me that the problem is that some have accepted the premise that there is an expectation of secrecy where there really isn’t. In this case, the critics are presuming that all communications taken on behalf of the government should be secret by default and I think you can make an argument that secrecy applies by exception, not default.

Relevant excerpt from the cited article:

What bothers me about Wikileaks is that it shines a harsh light on our (America’s) diplomatic corps, but one in which I don’t think any other country’s envoys would look any better. Isn’t it an essential part of the job that you have to know something about the personalities of your counterparts from other countries? To negotiate effectively, isn’t it extremely helpful to know details such as “this one’s quick to fly off the handle”, “don’t mention narcotics with that one”, “the envoys from that country are known to gradually lower their counterparts’ chairs during negotiations”? I would bet my life that diplomats everywhere do this sort of thing, so why should ours be singled out?

Any evidence that Wikileaks does single out the US? My impression was that they’d publish material they got about anyone.

Couldn’t agree more. The people in hysterics are all lacking something essential in their morality.

For example, there was some data leaked by wikileaks pointing to the U.S pressuring Germany NOT to do anything about some incompetent CIA operatives that kidnapped a German national. An innocent German national.

No one is calling for the people responsible for the fuckup or those trying to cover it up, though.

Imagine the outcry from the same critics of wikileaks if some other country’s secret force kidnapped an innocent US citizen, and then tried to cover it up! I can just picture Fox new’s headline: “TRAITORS FOLD UNDER FOREIGN TERRORIST PRESSURE TO COVER UP KIDNAPPING ON US SOIL!!! OMG!!!”

Like I’ve posted a number of times, the punchline that the leaks are “endangering lives” is all any rational person needs to hear to know how asinine any ire directed at the Wikileaks founder is and how desparate the US are to try make this something Assange has to answer for, rather then they themselves rightfully should.

It’s only for the lack of American intelligence (literally) that the US govt can even take this kind of idiotically obvious tact and keep a straight face, in lieu of just falling back into pure damage control mode - what they should be doing. A diversional tactic as face-palm embarrassingly hypocritical as what’s being spun here can only exist is a world fraught with morons, I’m afraid.

You might as well believe Assange was somehow responsible for 9/11 if you’re gonna entertain drivel like this. :rolleyes:

Why is it even being discussed?! :confused:

They may be hypocrites but this has absolutely no relevance in determining whether their moral assessment and judgments of Assange are legitimate.

I never supported the Iraq war. I never supported torture. I support detention of actual, dangerous terrorists to the extent that US and international law provide.

I also think the United States government has a right to keep aspects of its foreign relations secret, and to the extent that someone breaks duly constituted laws that violate that principle, they should be locked up for long periods of time. I think Assange is a total bastard and to the extent that he has broken those laws, he should serve every minute of whatever prison sentence that he may have earned.

I’m not following where my hypocrisy is.

Are you talking about breaking American laws and an American prison sentence?

Sure, if the law provides for it.

I saw a program the other day which showed the UFO info was classified "top secret’’ . The stuff that is coming out is secret., It has been a long time that we have had arguments that far too much is labeled classified. It is done for convenience of the admin, but it does not tell you that the stuff that comes out is dangerous or important.

Does this also apply to other governments with respect to ,say, American journalists. If an American journalist writes a story about the Chinese government which breaks Chinese law should they go to prison?

In any event it’s not Assange’s job to keep the US government’s secrets. The fault lies with the US government which gives far too many people access to far too many internal documents and is unable to police its own employees. I am still amazed that a very junior analyst in the US army could access and download hundreds of thousands of State Department documents which while not top secret were obviously pretty sensitive. And if a single disgruntled employee could get all this stuff how difficult would it be for the Russian or Chinese intelligence services to get much more?

Considering that some former Wikileaks activists are starting their own party, with blackjack and hookers, specifically because they think Wikileaks is focusing too much on the US, I’d conclude there is some mild evidence it singles out the US, yes.

So this is the grand point on which the claim of my lack of moral standards rests? That’s all you got? It all breaks down to my belief that the US justice system is better than Chinese kangaroo courts?

In case this also makes me more immoral, I root for American athletes at the Olympics, and hope the Chinese lose. Oh, the hypocrisy.

Agreed, but focusing on Assange is the wrong way to go about it. I can’t see that he’s broken any US laws. Manning, on the other hand… throw the book at him.

I think the double standards arise from the fact that you seem unwilling to articulate under what circumstances you would be willing to imprison US journalists who violate another country’s laws while working on US soil. Presumably even China has the right to have state secrets and punish people who disclose them. What about a country like Singapore which is quite authoritarian but runs a modern legal system. Or for that matter England which generally has stricter laws about official secrets?

Are there any circumstances where you would imprison a US citizen who
a) is working on US soil
b) violates another country’s official secrets law
c) doesn’t violate US law

If the answer is no, then yes you are a hypocrite.

Right. I think Assange showed some poor judgement (I do believe that U.S, diplomats do have a reasonable expectation of privacy and releasing the memos didn’t uncover some grievous wrongdoing), but I don’t see that he broke any laws. Nor does he, or should he, have any loyalty the U.S.

Manning is a much different story.

I guess I would reciprocally ask whether we should wonder about the moral standards of Assange’s supporters. Even setting aside policy disagreements such as the destabilization of US policy as to Al Qaeda in Yemen and Hezbollah in Lebanon, he has arguably moved the world closer to war over Iran and North Korea. In exchange for what public benefit?

I just have a SNEAKING suspicion that the ones MOST outraged at Assange would consider Scooty Libby a real patriot persecuted for his goodness. Me, I think Assange is a hero and Libby belongs in a prison with the traitors and war criminals known as George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.

So, what distinguishes your position from the first group?