Wikileaks: Freedom of Information v National Security

In April this year, Wikileaks posted a video of US Military personnel celebrating after launching an airstrike that killed a dozen Iraqi civilians, including two Reuters journalists. The Pentagon had initially blocked an application by the Reuters News Agency to obtain the video on the grounds that it would compromise US national security; however, Wikileaks director Julian Assange was leaked the video and able to view the recording after breaking through military encyption protecting it. The US has since released an arrest warrant for Mr Assange, who has been advised not to travel to the States.

Since Wikileaks posted the video a soldier has been charged. However, not for the attack on the Iraqi civilians, in direct violation of international law, but rather for leaking the video itself. Army Specialist Bradley Manning was charged with two criminal counts including disclosing classified national defence information, exceeding his authorised access to US computers and transferring classified data onto his personal computer.

Whilst Mr Assange has not risked travelling to the US, a senior Wikileaks editor, Jacob Appelbaum, was interrogated this week by the FBI on the whereabouts of Mr Assange, on his attitudes to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and on the philosophy behind Wikileaks.

Thus, the debate rages regarding where the line between the right of freedom of information and the interests of national security can acceptably be drawn. Should a soldier escape condemnation for his disregard of the lives of civilians by being allowed to hide under a protective veil of national security censorship? Or is it in the public interest to expose such events and see what really goes on behind the scenes?

Mr Appelbaum has defended Wikileaks’ commitment to exposing the information governments try to hide: “All governments are on a continuum of tyranny” he said. And whilst the US contends that Wikileaks is an ‘irresponsible’ threat to national security, Wikileaks argues it is just simply aiming to correct wrongs by exposing them to show that censorship is counterproductive.

For as long as Wikileaks aim is to expose the secrets national governments want to keep, can the tensions between of freedom of information and national security ever be reconciled?

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3 Responses to “Wikileaks: Freedom of Information v National Security”


  1. 1 AC Jones December 13, 2010 at 2:23 pm

    I really like the example of the video showing our military personnel joking about killing civilians as a way to frame the entire debate over the release of these cables and the proposed threat it causes to national security versus freedom of information. I linked to your article on a post that we published on the topic as well. I think our readers will like your take.

    Best,

    AC Jones


  1. 1 What's Your Take on Julian Assange & the WikiLeaks Situation | Providence Forum Trackback on December 13, 2010 at 2:19 pm
  2. 2 FAIP Bulletin – Hemispheric Security Trackback on August 4, 2011 at 12:51 pm

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