Assange and WikiLeaks part of an old tradition
Julian Assange and WikiLeaks are under a lot of fire for leaking classified documents. It goes without saying that no one should be put in harm’s way for the sake of idealism. That said, there is an American tradition of whistleblowing on a grand scale.
Assange and WikiLeaks did as others have
There are a lot of differing views on what Julian Assange and WikiLeaks have done in leaking sensitive documents, which happened in “Cablegate.” It goes without saying that the desire of Assange, and others, to reveal government secrets should not trump the physical safety of others. Any information that could cause harm should remain secret. That said, there is a history of whistleblowing in America and elsewhere bringing injustices to light.
The Pentagon Papers
In 1967, then Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara ordered a study on the history of the conflict in Vietnam and American involvement. More than 7,000 pages of analysis and original documents were produced, eventually known as “The Pentagon Papers.” The documents revealed that the U.S. government had no stake in what happened to South Vietnam and only cared about not looking bad. Furthermore, President Johnson deliberately lied to the nation about the United States’ involvement. The papers were leaked by Daniel Ellsberg, who had worked on the study. He was labeled a traitor and terrorist by people at that time.
FBI Agent Mark Felt provided Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein with a series of tips concerning activities connected with the White House. The tips led to the investigation concerning the Watergate incident and the end of Nixon’s presidency.
A few among many
There have been other scandals, of course. The Iran Contra Affair and the illegal sale of arms to Iran to fund fascist revolutionaries in Nicaragua, for instance. Linda Tripp exposed the affair between Monica Lewinsky and President Clinton. In the Valerie Plame affair the name of a CIA agent was made public — just to name a few. Assange perhaps should have better chosen which documents to release, but Americans should celebrate the tradition of blowing the whistle on the corrupt and illegal in high places.