The whole world was watching and waiting. Once again Julian Assange's crew had gotten its hands on hundreds of thousands of embarrassing documents, this time from the U.S. State Department.
This is much more than cyberhacking. There clearly are people in the U.S. military and government, and elsewhere, who are embarrassed that the truth has been withheld and are working with Wikileaks.
Assange is on the run as the Swedes try to figure out how to stop him with dubious rape charges. Perhaps Hollywood has trained us to think that anyone like this is a superhero. He didn't likely have anything to do with the State Department documents. Indeed, he probably didn't want to know.
It is now accepted that the U.S. invasion of Iraq was launched based on false claims that Saddam Hussein had a large store of WMDs. The media, even our finest outlets, helped the Bush Administration convince the public that there was no choice. But there were those who knew the truth and some are still in the government.
With so many lies out there it was inevitable that the leaks would begin.
The most powerful argument against leaking information that I have heard, even if it shows extensive lying, is whether it will threaten the lives of our soldiers, diplomats and others.
As for leaked information threatening lives, go see Fair Game. A member of the Bush administration leaked to journalists that the wife of a diplomat challenging the validity of WMD threats was a CIA agent. That could have cost her her life.
And what was the story? That Valerie Plame worked for the CIA? In addition to violating the law there was no story. It was an attempt to discredit her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, because he investigated claims about Niger providing enriched uranium to terrorists and found them to be false.
Journalists who had spent time in Niger knew that it was highly unlikely it was supplying Iraq and others with enriched uranium. Why? Because it would have required the French soldiers based in their former colony to ignore it.
Despite the fact that many leading editors had been involved in the coverage of the disaster of the Vietnam War, the nation seemed unwilling to ask questions. No doubt the horror of Sept. 11 caused people to want to take action, any action.
Yet there were many in the military and in the State Department who no doubt had not forgotten their history.
During the Vietnam War, Daniel Ellsberg demonstrated that even high-ranking officials would risk their careers to do the right thing.
In many ways, once the military had persuaded the media to work with them: i.e. become embedded, corruption stories could not be simply taken to a great newspaper.
In "The Day of the Condor," Robert Redford boasts to Cliff Roberston that he has given all the information on a CIA plot to the New York Times.
Here is the dialogue:
Robertston: How do know they'll print it? You can take a walk, but how far if they don't print it.
Redford: "They'll print it."
Robertson: "How do you know?
Of course, Robertson didn't understand the media has a split personality. On the one hand it wants to be patriotic, on the other hand outlets know that if someone else publishes the material and they don't they will look stupid.
The standard excuse in cases like this is that "we had no choice but to publish." Thank God for capitalism.
And even though we may not have as many heroic, truth-teller journalists as we did in Vietnam, there is one thing not available then.
The Internet. That is where Julian Assange comes into the picture. It doesn't matter whether, as some media have written, Assange is an egoist with mental problems.
Wikileaks is a lot more than one person. It shows up on Facebook pages all over the world.
Perhaps it is time to honor those who put their honor ahead of everything else. Whoever they are.