Friday, December 03, 2010

Why Aren't Media Companies Helping Wikileaks?

I don't understand why the major media companies that printed excerpts from Wikileaks have not set up mirror sites for all the raw documents to show solidarity and support the public's right to know. Instead, they seem to want to serve as some sort of censorship arm of the US government, "vetting" the material for suitability. If anything undermines media credibility, it is this sort of two-faced exploitation of Wikileaks for raw material (they recycle the documents for their articles) without providing the public with the information needed to make independent judgements.

As noted by Yale Law School Professor Stephen Carter in the Daily Beast:

Indeed, as several observers have pointed out, an interpretation of the Espionage Act sufficiently broad to encompass what WikiLeaks has done would surely cover as well the newspapers that have published the documents. If Assange’s actions have damaged the security of the United States, then the same argument presumably applies to The New York Times. Indeed, it is the publication of the documents by respected institutions of journalism, and not their posting on the Web, that provides sufficient imprimatur to stir the controversy.
The Espionage Act is a broadly written and scary statute. As Geoffrey Stone points out in a recent book, the statute was adopted precisely to chill dissent. Happily, the act has been enforced only rarely over the past half century. Rare is best. Dissent is the lifeblood of democracy, and should be carefully nourished, not scared into hiding. I have no trouble with pursuing the leakers who have done so much damage to the nation’s security; but those who publicize what is leaked are the symptoms, not the problem.