Gweg

Wikileaks

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For those claiming that the government should not keep secrets, what if one of the scientists working on the Manhattan project had made public to the world the plans for the atomic bomb? Would you view him as a hero for fighting government secrecy, even though it would mean the deaths of millions of Americans?

Obviously you can object that there is a difference in degree; none of the information “leaked” recently could be used to unleash such mass death. But if you concede that the government must be able to keep secrets to ensure the safety of American citizens, then the argument is already lost. Any information that can be used to advance American freedoms, but which would lose its value if made public, must be kept secret. That’s the purpose of having a system of classified information, rated for its sensitivity. Likewise, no intelligence system that is understood by the enemy is any use to us, since it can be compromised.

When a newspaper outs a CIA agent, for example, this removes them as a source. Every time secret information is leaked or information gathering methods are exposed, this makes our system less reliable. In fact, since one of the purposes of counterintelligence is to undermine the enemy’s intelligence processes, “journalists” who do this under the pretense of a “right to know” are essentially doing the work of the enemy. This is the case even if the information made public appears trivial. Many times military actions are based on information that would seem unimportant to the casual reader, and often intelligence utilizes public sources (the significance of which even the enemy may not be aware of, unless they are made aware of it).

However much contempt I may have for individuals in office today, and for our foreign policy, I want our government reformed, not brought down. Wikileaks should be shut down and Assange should be in prison.

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My edit in bold:

We are either a nation of rational, right-protecting laws, or we aren't.

We aren't.

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My edit in bold:
We are either a nation of rational, right-protecting laws, or we aren't.

We aren't.

Editing another's post like this is confusing. Regardless of that, civilization wouldn't continue to exist and actually be growing if we weren't living in societies where individual rights are protected more than they are thwarted. We (America, and some other western countries) are mixed political systems that are operating poorly, but still well enough to be growing, prosperous, and allow for hundreds of millions of people to live freely and happily.

Nations that really aren't nations of "rational, right-protecting laws", as you phrased it, are not stable and will spectacularly fail and collapse (USSR).

Regardless even of that, I don't think you got my point when I said

We are either a nation of laws, or we aren't.

What I meant is that one either lives his day-to-day life respecting the law and the civil process of the country, or he doesn't. If you think it is no longer feasible to be living a normal civil life in a country and respecting its laws, shouldn't you be starting a revolution?

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And my point is that when the gvt is such an irrational beast, it becomes irrational to follow laws blindingly as if it were a package deal.

Nations that are irrational will eventually collapse, but even in the absolute worst cases in history - USSR, N. Korea, Cuba,... - that takes MANY generations. It would take much longer for the US.

I don't understand why people here are so respectful of the US' gvt. I suspect it's a combination of reverence for the historical philosophical roots of the country, combined with a fear of adopting the views of Libertarians. Having lived as an adult in both the US and the much maligned France, I can tell you that the US today is much closer to France than it is to the ideal, mythical US of the Founding Fathers.

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I don't understand why people here are so respectful of the US' gvt.

For starters, it's one of the best governments in human history. Notwithstanding that there are copious things I'd like to see changed I respect the need for our military and State Department to do the things necessary (keep secrets, etc.) to keep us safe.

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I don't understand why people here are so respectful of the US' gvt. I suspect it's a combination of reverence for the historical philosophical roots of the country, combined with a fear of adopting the views of Libertarians.
Rather than ascribe incorrect psychological motives, why not ask?
Having lived as an adult in both the US and the much maligned France, I can tell you that the US today is much closer to France than it is to the ideal, mythical US of the Founding Fathers.

I'll feel the need to respond once America initiates a 4-day-work-week, torches hundreds of cars per night in riots and generally matches France's level of civil unrest, treats middle east dictators in hospitals, as well as grants asylum to child-rapers from other countries.

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I'll feel the need to respond once America initiates a 4-day-work-week, torches hundreds of cars per night in riots and generally matches France's level of civil unrest, treats middle east dictators in hospitals, as well as grants asylum to child-rapers from other countries.

[LIKE]

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Having lived as an adult in both the US and the much maligned France, I can tell you that the US today is much closer to France ....

Despite the significant decline in economic freedom since 2008, United States is still the 8th freest country in the world according to the 2010 Index of Economic Freedom.

France is 64th.

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The burden is on the holder of the information to keep it secret. There is not a legal obligation on everyone at large to help contain a secret which is already starting to leak. Of course, some individuals with access to the information may be bound by confidentiality agreements (and I recognize the validity of implicit or assumed agreements in many contexts), and those people are legally obligated to abide by those.

The dissemination of national security information which has already been leaked is a separate issue from the initial confidentiality agreements of those who were granted access to the information (or theft, if a computer was broken into), and may be covered by either laws or military acts deriving from the principle of not giving aid and comfort to the enemy (which can take many forms).

One's right to free speech does not give them the right to put others in harms way.

With which I agree, and which does not conflict with what I stated.

And if someone is taking "leaked" information that they know is of a confidential manner and making it public it is treason and totally immoral on all levels.

I disagree that this is always true, though Wikileaks itself may be being indiscriminate or nihilistic. But to reach the conclusion about whether the leaks are harmful, I would need more information about the context of the information disclosed, including information about the entire context of the US's diplomatic activity and its strategies. It's not clear to me that the only types of effects of these leaks are exposure of short-term secrets and thus that it can only be harmful. It may be harmful, but that's not self-evident just from the fact that it is legitimate for the US government to attempt to keep secrets.

To repeat again, I'm not arguing that this is legal cover for whatever laws were broken by Wikileaks (if any).

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The burden is on the holder of the information to keep it secret. There is not a legal obligation on everyone at large to help contain a secret which is already starting to leak. Of course, some individuals with access to the information may be bound by confidentiality agreements (and I recognize the validity of implicit or assumed agreements in many contexts), and those people are legally obligated to abide by those.

The dissemination of national security information which has already been leaked is a separate issue from the initial confidentiality agreements of those who were granted access to the information (or theft, if a computer was broken into), and may be covered by either laws or military acts deriving from the principle of not giving aid and comfort to the enemy (which can take many forms).

One's right to free speech does not give them the right to put others in harms way.

With which I agree, and which does not conflict with what I stated.

And if someone is taking "leaked" information that they know is of a confidential manner and making it public it is treason and totally immoral on all levels.

I disagree that this is always true, though Wikileaks itself may be being indiscriminate or nihilistic. But to reach the conclusion about whether the leaks are harmful, I would need more information about the context of the information disclosed, including information about the entire context of the US's diplomatic activity and its strategies. It's not clear to me that the only types of effects of these leaks are exposure of short-term secrets and thus that it can only be harmful. It may be harmful, but that's not self-evident just from the fact that it is legitimate for the US government to attempt to keep secrets.

To repeat again, I'm not arguing that this is legal cover for whatever laws were broken by Wikileaks (if any).

I disagree, in the context under discussion it does not matter what harm may come from the person's actions. The information under discussion was of a confidentional nature, taking it and publizicing it is not only immoral but could be considered treason. In the military, and units that have similar protocols, there are multiple levels of classified material sucha as; confidential, secret, top secret. For one to view any level of information they must first have the appropriate security clearance and then "have the need to know." Not only does the person "leaking" the information not have an appropriate level of clearance they do not "have the need to know."

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I disagree, in the context under discussion it does not matter what harm may come from the person's actions. The information under discussion was of a confidentional nature, taking it and publizicing it is not only immoral but could be considered treason. In the military, and units that have similar protocols, there are multiple levels of classified material sucha as; confidential, secret, top secret. For one to view any level of information they must first have the appropriate security clearance and then "have the need to know." Not only does the person "leaking" the information not have an appropriate level of clearance they do not "have the need to know."

I am not disputing the illegality of the initial breaking of confidentiality, or of breaking into a computer system. Thus most of this isn't relevant to my arguments.

I am arguing for the standard by which one should evaluate actions which do not respect a country's desire to keep secret information secret (even if that information was originally stolen).

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I disagree, in the context under discussion it does not matter what harm may come from the person's actions. The information under discussion was of a confidentional nature, taking it and publizicing it is not only immoral but could be considered treason. In the military, and units that have similar protocols, there are multiple levels of classified material sucha as; confidential, secret, top secret. For one to view any level of information they must first have the appropriate security clearance and then "have the need to know." Not only does the person "leaking" the information not have an appropriate level of clearance they do not "have the need to know."

I am not disputing the illegality of the initial breaking of confidentiality, or of breaking into a computer system. Thus most of this isn't relevant to my arguments.

I am arguing for the standard by which one should evaluate actions which do not respect a country's desire to keep secret information secret (even if that information was originally stolen).

When an employee of Coca-Cola was offered the "special ingredients" for Pepsi, he turned the man in to the local authorities. It does not matter that the Coca-Cola employee did not originally steal the information, he would have been just as immoral as the Pepsi employee if he took the stolen goods. If this example does not give you a standard in which to evaluate one's actions then I do not know what will.

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When an employee of Coca-Cola was offered the "special ingredients" for Pepsi, he turned the man in to the local authorities. It does not matter that the Coca-Cola employee did not originally steal the information, he would have been just as immoral as the Pepsi employee if he took the stolen goods. If this example does not give you a standard in which to evaluate one's actions then I do not know what will.

I don't need an example to reach a standard, as I already have one.

The standard I use in this case is the same standard that I have used for years in deciding which laws to advocate for or against, or which people to vote for: Whether those laws, or those people in government, work for, or against, the protection of individual rights.

In the Pepsi example, willfully becoming an active party to a stolen commercial trade secret, intending to benefit from it, violates rights. Pepsi creating drinks with a secret recipe in no way violates anybody's rights.

Today we have a federal government run by an administration that we know is overtly hostile to US interests and works to harm the US's standing in the world, while at the same time we still rely on the government for some rights protections. There is no self-evident assumption, with today's government, that exposure of certain of its secrets is harmful to a proper government's operations. Maybe the Wikileaks exposure is harmful as such (or more likely, some harm, and some benefit), but that assessment falls on the results of a contextual examination.

The law is properly blind to the above analysis, but whether such actions violate rights as properly understood is not subservient to any law, but only reality.

I noticed this is similar to the situation where documents were stolen which exposed global warming fraud:

http://forum.objectivismonline.net/index.p...st&p=241798

The link is to the index of Dr. Peikoff's podcasts where he answered a question about it.

00:52: "'Hackers just hit the University of East Anglia's climate research unit and made public a set of some 4,000 documents, which include emails, which, if true, expose those scientists as frauds and call into question the voracity of the climate change theory. While I find myself gleeful at the prospect of exposing the climate change folks as quacks and shams, I am dismayed by the means by which this information was obtained. It was stolen. Can this be moral?'"

I am not claiming that the Wikileaks leaked cables are in the same category; only making an analogy to the situation to illustrate the principle that the legality is a separate question than a moral analysis of the action.

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I don't need an example to reach a standard, as I already have one.

So, to you there is no difference between supplying government secrets that put military members in harms way, beyond what is expected which will also put American citizens in further harms way, compared to bringing attention to lying cheating thieves? I offer that you rethink what is the standard of a rational, objective morality, life and that which destroys it is evil, that which enhances it is the good. Putting our defense system in further harms way, bad for life and hence evil. Reporting on fraudulent people that are destroying life enhances life and hence is good.

It seems by your standards that our police forces should allow stolen records of their secret, undercover operations, to include the individuals within them, to be published as long as the publisher is not the one that stole them. It also seems that you want to put a buch of crooks and frauds that are destroying life on the same moral level as those that are protecting life. I must disagree.

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I don't need an example to reach a standard, as I already have one.

So, to you there is no difference between supplying government secrets that put military members in harms way, beyond what is expected which will also put American citizens in further harms way, compared to bringing attention to lying cheating thieves? I offer that you rethink what is the standard of a rational, objective morality, life and that which destroys it is evil, that which enhances it is the good. Putting our defense system in further harms way, bad for life and hence evil. Reporting on fraudulent people that are destroying life enhances life and hence is good.

It seems by your standards that our police forces should allow stolen records of their secret, undercover operations, to include the individuals within them, to be published as long as the publisher is not the one that stole them. It also seems that you want to put a buch of crooks and frauds that are destroying life on the same moral level as those that are protecting life. I must disagree.

At this point, I'm repeating myself and am primarily responding to highlight to people quickly reading or skimming the thread that your summary does not remotely describe the views I have stated in the posts in this thread.

Particularly look at what I wrote earlier:

Morally, which is a separate question from the legality, the situation depends on whether actual harm to legitimate US interests (that is, the ability of the US to protect individual rights) is being done. Or if, perhaps, on the contrary, activities destructive to the protection of individual rights are exposed.

If the leaks actually (or having been reviewed, should have reasonably been expected to) put military members in harm's way, then those leaks are harmful and immoral. (Why would anyone conclude that I excluded the protection of our military members when I state that the legitimate purpose of the government is the protection of rights?)

I don't know if the leaks put military members in harm's way. The fact of the large magnitude of the leak doesn't answer that question for me. Politicians' seemingly knee-jerk statements that it puts lives at risk could just as easily be hyperbolic bluster as they are accurate (judged from the perspective of a lay person), so the fact that they said this doesn't answer that question for me either. I could easily see that leaks might deservedly embarrass politicians or expose to be shams high-level political strategies, either of which might have a beneficial effect.

Of course, I won't and wouldn't do anything to support Wikileaks unless I was sure it was both legal and moral, including that it didn't put military members in harm's way. I don't know either right now. But I want to be clear the standard I would use to reach such an assessment of (im)morality, and that simply the magnitude of the leak, or the fact that it targeted the US, do not self-evidently answer that question. (And if people have reviewed the Wikileaks releases and were to convince me they are harmful, then I state these principles as what I would use to evaluate a leak in the general case.)

I very clearly stated that the question of morality depends on whether harm to individual rights is being done by the release. How you could conclude that I therefore would support any type of leak (which I take to be the meaning of your example that I would support disrupting a planned police raid, presumably of actual criminals), regardless, is a mystery to me.

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If the leaks actually (or having been reviewed, should have reasonably been expected to) put military members in harm's way, then those leaks are harmful and immoral...

I very clearly stated that the question of morality depends on whether harm to individual rights is being done by the release.

Does that mean releasing classified documents is a proper activity for private citizens to be engaging in, with damage assessment carried out after the fact?

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JeffT, and I responding to primarily let others know that I understand your statements and disagree with them. I also very clearly stated that it does not matter if the "leaks" have caused harm or not. If the information being leaked deals with our nations security (which means American citizens lifes) then whether it causes harm right now or 6 months from now does not change that it was wrong to release. There is a moral difference between a government that is (at least is supposed to be) acting for it's citizen's best interest and a group of theives that are acting in the opposite manner.

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If the leaks actually (or having been reviewed, should have reasonably been expected to) put military members in harm's way, then those leaks are harmful and immoral...

I very clearly stated that the question of morality depends on whether harm to individual rights is being done by the release.

Does that mean releasing classified documents is a proper activity for private citizens to be engaging in, with damage assessment carried out after the fact?

The premise of this question confuses the abstract issue of the morality of releasing documents with the practicality of doing so in a society where such activities are not legal (or the legality is murky, but too legally risky for almost anybody to perform). As a practical matter, the answer to your question is no. Presumably the government can in most cases both effectively prevent leaks and punish those who do so, and the contrary is the exception, and it would make no sense for people to indiscriminately attempt to steal or leak what they like. It usually makes no sense to openly defy the law in protest, or to martyr oneself.

I disagree with the implicit suggestion in your question that my declaration that a possibly illegal act might be moral implies anarchy. Anybody who violates the law does so at their own risk and without legal cover. It is not necessarily a contradiction to say "Action <x> was good and moral, though actor <a> unexpectedly was caught and prosecuted, and because I obey the law, I won't materially support or legally defend <a>'s actions, or incite similar actions".

To make an analogy with a clearer example:

What if one is drafted to the military? One could ask "does that mean evading the draft is a proper activity for private citizens to be engaged in, with damage assessment carried out after the fact?" Anyone's choice to break the law in that situation is only theirs to make, and the fact that if caught and prosecuted they would not have legal cover doesn't mean that that person has committed a moral injustice against anyone.

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If the information being leaked deals with our nations security (which means American citizens lifes) then whether it causes harm right now or 6 months from now does not change that it was wrong to release.

And if I knew that it would cause harm to our citizens' lives either right now or 6 months from now, or whenever in the future, (this includes indirectly, including in ways that might not be apparent to the leaker, and if the leaker cannot be sure of the contrary then the moral burden is on him) I would be clear in my belief that it was wrong and immoral. But stating a priori that a group of thieves (speaking legally) are acting in the "opposite manner" (based on the facts of reality, irrespective of any just or unjust laws) is begging the question.

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If the information being leaked deals with our nations security (which means American citizens lifes) then whether it causes harm right now or 6 months from now does not change that it was wrong to release.

And if I knew that it would cause harm to our citizens' lives either right now or 6 months from now, or whenever in the future, (this includes indirectly, including in ways that might not be apparent to the leaker, and if the leaker cannot be sure of the contrary then the moral burden is on him) I would be clear in my belief that it was wrong and immoral. But stating a priori that a group of thieves (speaking legally) are acting in the "opposite manner" (based on the facts of reality, irrespective of any just or unjust laws) is begging the question.

You are the one that brought up the "global warming" frauds as an example or comparison to what has been done here which is why I stated that there is a difference between the two situations and groups. One group has been allocated the authority to act in our best interest and with that authority it is proper to deem certain information as classified and not for public viewing. So, within that type of situation if a group or individual acts to publicize that which is deemed as classified it is immoral no matter what harm may or may not come.

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What if one is drafted to the military? One could ask "does that mean evading the draft is a proper activity for private citizens to be engaged in, with damage assessment carried out after the fact?" Anyone's choice to break the law in that situation is only theirs to make, and the fact that if caught and prosecuted they would not have legal cover doesn't mean that that person has committed a moral injustice against anyone.

Not a comparable example. Avoiding slavery does not affect anyone but oneself, and is an act of guarding one's right to life. There is no inherent right to release classified documents. If I were to defend against the release of documents, I wouldn't do it because it's illegal, but because that law might make sense.

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You are the one that brought up the "global warming" frauds as an example or comparison to what has been done here which is why I stated that there is a difference between the two situations and groups. One group has been allocated the authority to act in our best interest and with that authority it is proper to deem certain information as classified and not for public viewing.

I agree they properly have the authority to deem information classified, both legally, and also morally so long as they are actually acting in our interest (to protect our rights). They do not have the proper moral authority to go around the world bowing down to dictators and slighting our allies, and doing nothing about major threats like Iran. I don't know enough about our foreign policy operations to know the degree to which these two conflicting activities occur, or which dominates (and to be very clear here, I would not support a leak in any way unless I had the proper knowledge to know the contextually relevant facts and that it was good, and that beyond questions of morality that it was legal, as I have no interest in breaking the law in this regard).

So, within that type of situation if a group or individual acts to publicize that which is deemed as classified it is immoral no matter what harm may or may not come.

If we are in that type of situation.

What if one is drafted to the military? One could ask "does that mean evading the draft is a proper activity for private citizens to be engaged in, with damage assessment carried out after the fact?" Anyone's choice to break the law in that situation is only theirs to make, and the fact that if caught and prosecuted they would not have legal cover doesn't mean that that person has committed a moral injustice against anyone.

Not a comparable example. Avoiding slavery does not affect anyone but oneself, and is an act of guarding one's right to life. There is no inherent right to release classified documents. If I were to defend against the release of documents, I wouldn't do it because it's illegal, but because that law might make sense.

It's not comparable in magnitude, but there are situations where it might be the same in principle. To illustrate, I chose an analogy where it was very obvious the moral good that might come from breaking a law. For releasing documents it is neither obvious nor is it even the case that it is a moral good much of the time, but I maintain that in some situations it could be.

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JeffT, in America if Americans do not like the way an official is acting or their policies then they can vote them out. One does not have to know secret information to see what the government official is doing wrong as your example demonstrates. Anyone that pays even a little attention to the news can see what is going on and when we "get in bed" with out enemies it is time to replace those government officials that chose to do so.

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