Thursday, May 5, 2011

Harmful or Helpful?

Brittany Bell

The Espionage Act
The Espionage Act has been tested, argued, and altered since its birth in 1917. Being created in a time of fear and distress due to involvement in the then-occurring World War I, the Espionage Act was created to prevent alliance with the enemies, opposition to the military, and interference with military recruitment. The Espionage Act has been used in popular trials, like Schenck v. United States (1919), but after many years of being idle, the act may be used against Julian Assange, the creator of a website called WikiLeaks.
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. In fact, a Norwegian parliamentarian has even nominated Assange for the Nobel Peace Prize due to WikiLeaks' fight for human rights and freedom of speech. 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…”
Decisions Decisions...
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 information does not hinder the people. In that case, the line between what 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.

XO is a No-No
If the publicity of WikiLeaks is enough to cause an uproar from the government, what happens when the government reverses roles and takes a dive into the controversial spotlight?
The controversial videos posted by Captain Owen Honors, a Navy Seal previously on-board an aircraft carrier called Enterprise, immediately prompted public concerns after obtained by The Virginia-Pilot. In fact, Capt. Honors was temporarily released from the Navy just a few months ago. But is his released validated by the content in the videos?

If You-Tube Can Do It, So Can I!
To me, it's irrational to take such extreme measures towards the captain for simply creating entertainment on ship he was stuck on for days after days. Although his title requires maturity, none of the videos were intended to insult or exemplify his personal viewpoints. However, while there were some supporters of Capt. Honor, other Seals on the ship took the videos offensively, contributing to the release of the captain.
Some Seals were offended by the videos' sexual content, homosexual portrayals, and many other issues. But was the captain forcing them to watch the videos? Were the videos meant to be serious? Don't hundreds of online videos post even worse footage without any scrutiny? And most importantly, were the videos even meant to be public?
The answers to all these questions all have something in common: they begin and end with "No!" For that reason, who cares if Captain Honor wasn't honorable about making comical videos. So here's a toast to his infamous popularity, his temporary unemployment, and the reason for all of it. Enjoy.

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