The end of secrecy: How Wikileaks destroys journalistic discretion

The point is that in foreign policy, even more than other aspects of government, secrecy is both necessary and dangerous. It’s necessary because concealing things from your adversaries often requires concealing them from your own people. There’s no way to tell the American people everything Washington is doing to battle al Qaeda without telling al Qaeda as well. But secrecy is dangerous because without public knowledge and oversight, battling adversaries can become a blank check for all manner of self-defeating and immoral behavior. Journalists shouldn’t simply trust government officials to draw the line, since government officials have a professional self-interest in secrecy. But journalists need to draw that line themselves, recognizing that their professional self-interest may tempt them to violate secrecy more than is necessary to keep the government honest. That’s exactly what WikiLeaks does not do—for Julian Assange, virtually everything is fair game. And since Assange doesn’t care one whit about foreign policy secrecy, it no longer really matters if The Times does. People will see the documents no matter what.

For better or worse, this is the world we now live in. But living in it is one thing; celebrating it is another.

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