About every other week or so, we hear that the website WikiLeaks has bared another bundle of secrets on its website. By the time the reporting is completed on one of these episodes, we're often reminded that Army PFC Bradley Manning has been charged with feeding secrets to the website with the implication that he and WikiLeaks are solely to blame for the security breaches. Manning is a PRIVATE FIRST CLASS. Nothing against PFCs - I used to be one - but how did this one work around so much classified material without supervision and oversight? Who was in charge of him? Any idea how many tens of thousands of soldiers outrank PFC Manning?
I'm becoming very concerned about what is not being said by the government and what is not being asked by the media. Why isn't the media pressing the government for answers regarding how the release or compromise of this information to WikiLeaks could have ever happened in the first place? Who was the accountable custodian of the material? How did so many unsanitized State Department documents end up in these files at an Army base in Iraq of all places anyway? Why was the distribution of these classified documents handled so sloppily? What happened to "need to know?" Normally, the words "cover-up" and "scandal" would have been tossed around already, but they haven't been. Why not? Instead, we're being treated to a junk food diet of suggestions that WikiLeaks should be considered an enemy of the state, that the U. S. government is considering a crackdown on the site, and questions as to whether WikiLeaks is a terror organization. Of course, we're also cynically tantalized with tasty morsels of diplomatic gossip that dull our distaste for it all.
Before we chalk the lack of curiosity to a lazy and complacent national media, we ought to think a little harder about it. It might be that the media is not asking questions because it can't get past its own interest in making villains of its competition, the out-of-the-mainstream media. Why else would the media sit quietly while the government assails the First Amendment rights of others? The answer is obvious: many in the media care most about their own First Amendment rights and not so much about those same rights for others. Is it possible that an effective inquiry has been all but stifled by the mutual interests of the government and the mainstream media to undermine what they both consider to be the fringe media?
For my own part, I don't give two hoots about WikiLeaks' rights on this issue because it's behaving irresponsibly with wonton disregard for our security interests. Usually in this country, even the worst in the media have some regard for highly sensitive matters and they are generally reluctant to start fires just to watch them burn. Still, I find it odd - and telling - that the media is so quiet on this.
Whatever we think of WikiLeaks and however much we despise PFC Manning's actions, we should be utterly outraged over the failure of the media to ask the relevant questions and of the government to be accountable. In many ways, the failures of the media and the government in this regard pose a greater danger than WikiLeaks and PFC Manning ever will by themselves.