Here’s my interview with OurBlook regarding the ethics of the Wikileaks dissemination of classified information. One of the Q&A:
The Times of London reported that the names of hundreds of Afghanis who had cooperated with the U.S. military, plus which villages they lived in, were contained in the WikiLeaks documents, thus targeting them for extermination by the Taliban and Al Qaeda. The New York Times refused to link directly to WikiLeaks mainly for this reason. Despite this precaution, do you think newspaper reporters are qualified to determine or guarantee that revealing military secrets would not endanger soldiers and civilians?
MD: I don’t think newspapers are qualified to guarantee that revealing military secrets won’t endanger soldiers and civilians. At times, however, revealing secrets can be ethically justifiable … particularly if you’re following a utilitarianism model in which the “greater good” of society is considered. In order for democracies to function effectively, the public may need to know about information that the government doesn’t want us to know about. (The Washington Post’s exposure of secret CIA prisons strikes me as an example where the newspaper was ethically justified in its reporting.) However, newspapers should be taking this role in determining the release of information very seriously and should only be disseminating such information in rare, ethically justified situations. (I don’t think the classified WikiLeaks information rises to that level.) Of course, the government is well within its right to prosecute and investigate the people who leak secrets. In this way, the balance between secrecy and dissemination can be maintained in a healthy fashion … creating a happy medium.
Click to read more about the ethics of Wikileaks. Check out some of the other interviewees — I’m certainly in good company.