Should America tolerate Wikileaks or destroy it like any other national security threat?

Summary:Our own Jason Perlow sent me a link to a Washington Post editorial entitled WikiLeaks must be stopped.It's written by Marc A.

Our own Jason Perlow sent me a link to a Washington Post editorial entitled WikiLeaks must be stopped.

It's written by Marc A. Thiessen, a Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative policy institute. Whether or not you normally agree with AEI's rather right-wing views, Thiessen has a point.

He basically argues what I've talked about before: that Wikileaks is distributing classified information and putting America, American troops, and world diplomacy at risk.

I did an interview on Miami's WFTL last week where I discussed many of these issues and, to a degree, say pretty much what Thiessen is saying. You can listen to the interview here (you'll need to scroll down until you find a slightly misspelled version of my name on July 29).

So, should Wikileaks be stopped?

Wikileaks is a particularly modern phenomenon. It takes advantage of a Web site's ability to operate below the radar and yet have a global reach.

On one hand, Wikileaks is just a modern version of age-old media. After all, mainstream media publications have been reporting on juicy, if secret stories for as long as they could get their hands on them. Watergate and the Washington Post itself make for a prime example.

On the other hand, Wikileaks may be engaging in a form of public espionage. In the old days, if someone wanted to pass secrets from one nation to another, they often used a form of spycraft called a dead drop, where information would be left by one spy for another to pick up.

In those days, the stolen information was only viewed by the opposing nation. In Wikileaks' case, that information is (generally) available publicly. There is a curious exception. Wikileaks is currently hosting a large, highly encrypted file entitled simply "insurance". Since we can clearly see the file is there, we must assume that Julian Assange is making some sort of implied threat -- to someone.

Governments often do bad things and they often like to hide those bad things from public view. One of the very best ways to make sure our leaders stay on the straight and narrow is bringing those bad behaviors into the full light of public view.

This is what Assange, Wikileaks' curious leader, claims Wikileaks is trying to do. Personally, I don't think that's the case. I think Assange is in it for the publicity and is turning Wikileaks into his own notoriety engine. I think Wikileaks isn't on the side of the angels.

I think Wikileaks is trying to generate chaos for the sake of generating chaos.

Here's why.

If Wikileaks really wanted to expose wrong-doing, like Woodward and Bernstein did in 1972, they would have boiled down those 90,000 documents into a few pages that constituted some sort of smoking gun.

It would have been possible to expose wrongdoing without putting our troops, national security, confidential informers, and diplomatic efforts at risk. That's how real investigative journalism is done.

Instead, Assange did deals with major newspapers, shopped his story, dumped documents stolen by a love-starved intelligence analyst into the public pool, sat back, and waited to see how it would all turn out.

That's not exposing wrong-doing. That's fomenting chaos.

It's a shame, really, because the concept of what a Wikileaks could be is both fascinating and important. But there is a line between leaking anything, and leaking confidential national security information that can get people killed.

In that, I have to agree with Thiessen. If Wikileaks can't manage itself and can't control whether it's releasing dangerous information, then it needs to be controlled. In any instance where our national security is at risk, America needs to take action.

Practically, that's easier said than done. At the speed with which it's possible to mirror data (Can you say rsync? Sure, I knew you could!), it might be hard to chase down all the various mirrors and recover stolen information.

For that's what it is. Information was stolen and needs to be recovered. America's national interests need to be protected. If that means capturing Assange and effectively destroying Wikileaks, so be it.

Honestly, though, I wish this weren't the case. I wish Wikileaks had taken a slightly higher road and worked within the bounds of journalistic ethics. But since they're apparently willing to sacrifice the lives of American troops and the people who protect them, I agree with Thiessen.

I believe Wikileaks has gone too far. It's time to take the site down. If that requires the full might and power of the United States, so be it.

See also: I hate stupid hate Revisiting Wikileaks/Lamo and why antiwar fascists suck Adrian Lamo, Wikileaks, and what it means to be a patriot

When I post articles like this, where I take America's side, we have some readers living outside the U.S. who tend to disagree. To them, I say this: you're willing to disagree, but if you do, please post your nation of origin. It'd be nice to know where you're coming from. Thanks.

Topics: CXO

About

In addition to hosting the ZDNet Government and ZDNet DIY-IT blogs, CBS Interactive's Distinguished Lecturer David Gewirtz is an author, U.S. policy advisor and computer scientist. He is featured in The History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets, is one of America's foremost cyber-security experts, and is a top expert on savi... Full Bio

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