Pentagon Papers, meet WikiLeaksPosted 8 December 2010 by Bob Chapman
In 1971, the New York Times began publication of what became known as the Pentagon Papers. Officially titled United States–Vietnam Relations, 1945–1967: A Study Prepared by the Department of Defense, this was a top secret study of the political and military involvement by the United States in Vietnam from 1945 to 1967. The United States government tried to prevent publication by the New York Times and many other newpapers in the courts. The outcome of the all the court proceedings was a 6 to 3 decision by the Supreme Court that the First Amendment to the Constitution meant what it said. There was not sufficient cause for a “prior restraint” injunction to stop publication.
It was not the cleanest of victories in the 6 to 3 decision. All the justices wrote a dissent on some part of the decision. Even so, when the dust settled, the press was still able to publish information regarding government policy.
In 2010, WikiLeaks published over 250,000 secret cables from diplomats of the United States Department of State. These cables come from over a 40 year period, from the 1960s to the present.
There is some similarity between the Pentagon Papers case and the current publishing of the State Department cables. One thing is different, though. The New York Times had the lawyers and financial means to defend itself in court. WikiLeaks does not have lawyers and bank accounts that go with a major corporation. The Electronic Frontier Foundation website says on “Join EFF in Standing up Against Internet Censorship”:
The debate about the wisdom of releasing secret government documents has turned into a massive attack on the right of intermediaries to publish truthful information. Suddenly, WikiLeaks has become the Internet’s scapegoat, with a Who’s Who of American and foreign companies choosing to shun the site. (Retrieved December 8, 2010)
This is resulting in a type of civil war on the Web. Companies that make the choice to withdraw services from WikiLeaks have had successful denial of service attacks against their websites.
Personally, I am a little suprised the level of success Anonymous has had in the denial of service attacks. Companies and governments were supposed to be preparing for such attacks, correct? Meanwhile, several websites in several countries have been taken down by these attacks. And, I still can post on my blog while all this happens.
The revolution will not be televised. But, it will be blogged.
At some point, government and business need to realize that publishing the Pentagon Papers settled whether or not there is a right to publish the WikiLeaks documents. Deal with it and move on.