Friday, May 9, 2014

Should Leakers of Classified Government Wrong-Doings Be Punished?

Wielding Power has published its fourth issue: Should Leakers of Classified Government Wrong-Doings Be Punished?

Congratulations to the winner and finalists!
Winner: Ethan Deitrich
Finalist: Melanie Smith
Finalist: Tony Leyh

Please use the comments to continue the conversation. What do you think the answer is? What are your thoughts on the essays in the issue? Don't be shy!

As long as there aren't too many comments, I will try to respond to them. The winner and finalists may also stop by from time to time this month.

[A few points of order.

First, please be respectful. Imagine this is a conversation after dinner among friends. We're all trying to get to truth together. We want your true, honest thoughts, but ugliness can sometimes emerge when people hide behind computer screens. That has no place here. This is not the place for ad hominem attacks or nasty takedowns. These are controversial, and sometimes emotionally charged, questions, so we're not all going to agree. But respectful disagreement can be profoundly illuminating.

Second, feel free to use a pseudonym if you'd prefer. If you do, please pick a name that's distinguishable (like 'squirrel'). If we have several people called 'anonymous', it's harder to follow the conversation.]


  1. Ethan- you argue that whistleblowers should act responsibly. But what if they don't?

  2. Melanie- why do you think the risk of compromising security is worse than the risk of government wrongdoing and abuse?

    1. RKJ - Thanks for your question.
      I think both are troubling risks, but I guess I expect, because of the inherent nature of governments, that it is inevitable that a government will at some point abuse its power. I see the compromising of national security by those who leak classified government documents as something that is not inevitable but "preventable." When I say preventable, I mean that those who wish to leak government documents can be deterred by the illegality of leaking those documents. I realize, however, that it is inevitable that there will be dissenters who are going to do what they are going to do and will absolutely not be deterred. To put an entire nation at risk by leaking classified government documents and not knowing the repercussions, whatever the reason may be, is "worse" than the normal government overreaching or overstepping of its bounds.

  3. Tony- Could you say more about why you think a leaker mostly isn't responsible for any harms that come from leaking?

  4. RKJ -
    In your essay you proposed an oversight branch, which would be responsible for making the decision on whether government actions should be made public or not. I'am wondering how you can trust so few people - 3 as you proposed - with so much power.

    Initially, you argued that we need the oversight branch because the government is trusted with too much power. But don't you agree that by establishing such branch, we are not solving the problem at all? We are just shifting it, as now the oversight branch has way too much power.
    Sure, the people could remove the current heads of the oversight branch by a popular vote. But they can never know if the oversight branch is making decisions against their will, since the branch is working behind closed doors.

    Do you think this control mechanism is sufficient? If not, do you have an idea how to improve your proposal?


    1. Robin,

      That's a great question. I'll think about it and try to give you a good answer on Monday or Tuesday when I'll have more time to write something.

    2. Robin,
      I wrote a post in response. You can view it here: