The Espionage Act was used during a time when the U.S. population was at unrest, just as it is today during the War on Iraq. So when WikiLeaks “leaks” private governmental information on its website for the entire world to see, anger, anxiety, and serious concern are not the only emotions to arise. But when does this information morph from investigative journalism to dangerous reporting?
When the instilled aim of journalists is to always be first, whether that be getting unknown facts or discovering a controversial scandal, the gray area in publication becomes even grayer. For Assange, his initial goal was probably aimed towards recognition and success, not defiance of the government. And although the government was less than enthused about Assange’s website, it is difficult to stop the truth from being published. And just as Jay Rosen from NYU puts it, “we find the state, which holds the secrets but is powerless to prevent their release; the stateless news organization, deciding on how to release them…”
Should the government take a look back in history and use the Espionage Act in this case? To me, there is a difference between revealing secrets that the public needs to know, compared to revealing secrets that could harm the public. WikiLeaks is an example of something journalists would want to achieve but only as long as their files do not hinder the people. In that case, the line between want could and could not hinder the people, especially during a time of war, is not easily distinguished. Therefore, the information on WikiLeaks is not necessarily important enough to post worldwide when U.S. enemies can easily access it.