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Watering Democracy through WikiLeaks

The Editorial Board
January 7, 2011

An Editorial

“We know that the wages of secrecy are corruption. We know that in secrecy, error undetected will flourish and subvert.”

—J. Robert Oppenheimer

Woe to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. He has yanked the tails of many tigers, and now he is trapped in their lair. Sarah Palin called for Assange to be hunted down like a Taliban or al-Qaeda leader. Representative Peter King (R-NY), soon-to-be chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, wants to designate WikiLeaks as a “foreign terrorist organization.” We can’t imagine Assange evading long-term imprisonment or even assassination — but let us, at least, help prevent character assassination.

Among his few defenders in the corridors of power has been Representative Ron Paul (R-TX), the libertarian iconoclast who told FOX news in December: “In a free society we’re supposed to know the truth. In a society where truth becomes treason, then we’re in big trouble.”

That says it all. In fact, WikiLeaks has served purposes opposite to terrorism: By unveiling some of the inner workings of our government, it has rejuvenated the possibility of democratic change, of media reviving its watchdog role, of citizens seeing behind the rhetoric to the real workings of power. Whereas terrorism has driven our democracy towards fear and fiat, WikiLeaks has pushed us towards responsibility. “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants,” said Thomas Jefferson. Assange, whatever his shortcomings, is a blood donor.