Thursday, December 16, 2010

Mixed Feelings

I’m on the road again. As is common during my many business trips, I spent this evening reading articles on the New York Times and Washington Post. Tonight, mostly about Julian Assange and Wikileaks. I take particular interest in the Executive response. Mostly because I am an Executive employee. Through a long line of bureaucracy, President Obama is my boss. My boss says I can’t view the leaked cables. I read tonight that certain Executive departments have blocked employees from viewing media accounts of the leaks. As my title implies, I have mixed feelings.

As a general matter, I am disgusted with Bradley Manning. He had no right to leak sensitive documents, and in so doing, he broke the law. He put civil servants in harm’s way, and put America in danger. Period. Like many of my fellow citizens, 0ften I may not agree with my government. But I earn a living enforcing laws, and thus, I demand that my fellow citizens follow the laws of this country, whether or not they or I believe in them as a matter of principle.

Still, the way this has unfolded causes me trouble. Once these classified documents were released to the media, what response was appropriate from our government who must then answer for their actions? Clearly the president has the right to demand that his employees refrain from reading the classified materials. For it is not the general public for whom the disclosure laws are drafted and passed, but the Executive employees who are responsible for safeguarding the sensitive information. I cannot disclose – even to my wife – certain information that I learn professionally. But once that information is disseminated publicly, what is the government’s proper response? Is it right to tell Executive employees (who moonlight as ordinary Americans) that they are prohibited from viewing sensitive material? Surely there is little reason to believe that federal employees can be shielded from the remaining 199 million Americans who can’t be told to avert their eyes. What is President Obama really hoping to accomplish by managing his employees’ behavior in this way? Surely he cannot expect that preventing such a small portion of Americans from learning this information will have any effect at all. Except, of course, for the clear message that it sends to his employees.

Personally, I don’t care much to read the leaked cables. But I do care to read the New York Times’ articles about them. And I do care to discuss the topic with my friends and family. It’s a slippery slope when anyone’s employer (or government) tells them what they can or cannot read in the media. Access to media is a fundamental American right.

I am incredibly thankful for the work of the members of our armed services. I support my government. I follow directions from my boss. In many ways, I feel they all failed me on this one.

Oh, I almost forgot, Julian Assange is a 100% total mega-douche.

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