Lovers necessarily keep or share secrets. Being in a healthy relationship means achieving a certain level of intimacy, where shared knowledge of each others’ weaknesses and insecurities is protected by a bond of mutual trust. Sometimes lovers might do devilish things that outsiders wouldn’t understand, or shouldn’t be privy to, and this is fine. But by and large, what they do is simply no one else’s business.
But imagine that the man in the relationship kept it a secret from his lover that he had other women on the side, kids, a criminal record, or a venereal disease. Imagine that he basically betrayed his lover in every way imaginable, unbeknownst to her? Now imagine if a third party felt it was their moral duty to reveal it?
No one questions that governments must maintain a certain level of secrecy, not even Julian Assange. The WikiLeaks founder told Time that “Secrecy is important for many things … [but it] shouldn’t be used to cover up abuses.” Assange’s whistleblower organization raises the following questions: To what degree is government secrecy justified? And in situations where these secrets could damage the other partner in the United States government’s relationship — the American people — when should these secrets be revealed in order to protect the public?
How often does our government use “national security” as an excuse to cover up questionable dealings? Reports Time: “In the past few years, governments have designated so much information secret that you wonder whether they intend the time of day to be classified. The number of new secrets designated as such by the U.S. government has risen 75 percent … At the same time, the number of documents and other communications created using those secrets has skyrocketed nearly 10 times.”
To say that government must keep secrets is not to say that all government secrets must be kept.
Even Pentagon officials and Defense Secretary Robert Gates admitted that none of WikiLeaks’ revelations do anything to compromise national security or endanger American lives, but they have wreaked havoc on political life in Washington, D.C. Apparently, Americans are not supposed to know that Saudi Arabia has been encouraging the U.S. to take military action against Iran behind-the-scenes. But if we end up going to war with Iran shouldn’t it be in America’s national interest, and not simply as a subcontractor for another country? Fox News’ Judith Miller asks, “Why should Americans not know that Arab states, often at the top level, have been urging Washington to take military or other drastic action against Iran, while they publicly oppose such action?”
And when did conservatives become so protective of Hillary Clinton? What happened to the days of the “Stop Hillary Express,” when right-wing talk radio portrayed the former first lady as Satan and discussed all the devious ways in which, if in power, she might conspire to bring down the entire country? When WikiLeaks revealed that Secretary of State Clinton tried to obtain DNA samples, fingerprints, credit card numbers, and other private information belonging to United Nations officials, we learned that Clinton’s style was every bit as mafia-esque as her conservative critics once warned. Yet, conservatives now attack WikiLeaks for revealing what they once feared.
It should also be remembered that the same conservatives now calling for Assange’s head either ignored or were sympathetic to Lewis “Scooter” Libby’s outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame, allegedly at the Bush administration’s behest. Plame’s outing was arguably a far greater threat to our national security than anything that has been released by WikiLeaks.
But the worst example of conservative hypocrisy has been the way the Right has reflexively defended the government and attacked WikiLeaks. Since when have conservatives believed that Washington should be able to shroud any action it likes in secrecy and that revealing government’s nefarious deeds is tantamount to treason?
Interestingly, the WikiLeaks’ founder espouses a traditionally conservative, Jeffersonian view that America’s constitutional structure limits and lessens government corruption. According to Time, Assange’s criticism of the U.S. stems from a “combination of the burgeoning power of the central government and a presidency that can expand its influence only by way of foreign affairs,” not the power of individual states to slow this process.
Decentralizing government power, limiting it, and challenging it — all of these things were intended by the Founders and have always been core conservative principles. Conservatives should prefer an explosion of whistleblower groups like WikiLeaks to a federal government powerful enough to take them down. Government officials who now attack WikiLeaks don’t fear national endangerment; they fear personal embarrassment. And while scores of conservatives have long promised to challenge the current monstrosity in Washington, D.C., it is now an organization not recognizably conservative that best challenges the political establishment and its very foundation.
Catch Southern Avenger commentaries every Tuesday and Friday at 7:50 a.m. on the “Morning Buzz with Richard Todd” on 1250 AM WTMA.