Wikileaks and ‘Top Secret America': Hurting security or helping democracy?

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The July 19-21 "Top Secret America" series and the July 26 front-page article on the WikiLeaks release of classified documents from the war in Afghanistan call into question how transparent our intelligence community should be.

"Top Secret America" identified areas in the vast U.S. intelligence network where bureaucratic inefficiencies need to be remedied. But I strongly disagree with the media's decision to give WikiLeaks the same platform and opportunity to report classified information. While most of the leaked information appears benign, it still set a disconcerting precedent for the ease with which classified information was rapidly made public.

Whether their information was derived from open or closed sources, the "Top Secret America" series and the WikiLeaks articles provided information-gathering and other advantages to our enemies, especially within the domain of domestic information operations.

I understand Americans' appetite for information to inform their opinions about our government and its war efforts, but we also need to balance the desire for transparency against our need to protect strategic national security assets. Our enemies certainly do.

Aaron Sadusky, Arlington

The writer is an Army major and an Army Interagency Fellow at the State Department. The views expressed are his own.


It was the revealing of the truth about the Vietnam War through dramatic media coverage and the release of the Pentagon Papers, the Vietnam equivalent to the WikiLeaks document release ["Leaked files lay bare war in Afghanistan," front page, July 26], that turned Americans against that war in the 1960s and '70s and eventually forced the political leadership to stop it. The media have not covered the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as they did Vietnam, and that surely is a factor in the failure to have the same sort of popular movement against these wars.

But now we have electronic media. The release of documents and videos online helps Americans know more about the wars they are funding, and in which their relatives and friends are dying. Those doing the leaking are patriots breaking open the democratic process. They are tearing down the official walls blocking the truth from the citizenry. America owes them deep gratitude for the risks they take to let the people know what is done in their name.

William Samuel, Silver Spring

The writer is president of the anti-violence nonprofit group Consistent Life.

© 2010 The Washington Post Company