Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Never Thought I'd Write: The Arabist is Wrong


First let me start by saying that I'm a huge fan of The Arabist. Saying that, I fully disagree with an unusually simplistic and inaccurate statement he made in one of his recent posts
"Wikileaks almost always acts criminally, in a strict legal sense, but not always irresponsibly or immorally."
Many would disagree, and most conservatives would agree, with the statement above. The legality of Wikileaks activities is extremely complex and a matter of debate as some believe it is protected as a whistleblower intermediary and would argue, like in the Pentagon Papers, the Supreme Court established that the American constitution protects the re-publication of illegally gained information provided the publishers did not themselves break any laws in acquiring it. Back in 2010, publishing those leaked documents was not illegal which is why Senator Joe Lieberman has put forward his proposed SHIELD law (stands for Securing Human Intelligence and Enforcing Lawful Dissemination), which made it a crime to publish leaked classified information if doing so endangered U.S. agents or was otherwise not in the national interest.

I realize there is a strong counter argument to the one above, hence the complexity of the matter. I'm not defending Wikileaks (they did make stupid mistakes that endangered some lives) but disappointed in the inaccurate language used by my favorite blogger The Arabist.   

UPDATED:

The Arabist updated the original post by adding a response to my dissenting opinion: 


In my opinion, there are four different stages involved: (a) obtaining the documents (Bradley Manning), (b) dissemination of the documents (Wikileaks), (c) further dissemination and publication (e.g., The New York Times) and (d) reading the documents (e.g., State Department staff are prohibited from reading the leaked documents). 

Based on the above, many would argue Manning broke the law (although some, like Glenn Greenwald, disagree as they think he should be protected as a whistleblower). As for Wikileaks, some believe it merely disseminated the documents, so did nothing illegal (however, some would argue Wikileaks' role was more than merely disseminating but actually aided Manning). As I said earlier, it's open for debate and as you rightly stated in your update "ambiguous".