Dec. 9, 2010By Kayla Purvis
As I am sure you know, or have heard, a large amount of classified government files have been dumped into the hands — or rather, eyes — of the American people. Without permission. After the initial question of, “How do we stop this?” comes, “Or do we?”
A common argument in this matter is that the public has a right to these classified government files, thanks to the Freedom of Information Act. Signed by Lyndon B. Johnson in 1966, FOIA is commonly mistaken as giving the American people complete access to any documents that the government possesses.
But according to the U.S. Department of State website, FOIA gives limited access to Americans. We cannot and do not have access to “lawfully classified” national security records that remain classified. Here is strike number one for our WikiLeaks friends. Other examples include records used for law enforcement; records that, if released, would invade an individual’s privacy; and records protected by laws other than the Freedom of Information Act.
Many, if not most, of the documents released by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and the rest of that crew are classified — lawfully and currently. So as the public, we do not have a right to these files.
Some of the files that have been released are our plans if various countries attack or invade.
As a result of this, a few countries are offended (as if they don’t have their own similar files) and a couple now think America is planning to start a war with them. And either coincidentally or consequently, North Korea became more aggressive shortly after the leaks started.
While this situation is like a train wreck that grips your attention even though you know you should look away, I would encourage Americans to intentionally stay away from the documents. Once WikiLeaks loses its audience, it should stop pouring out all of this information. At this point, the damage has been done. But that doesn’t mean we should feed the fire by continuing to view what has been put out there. We don’t have a right to it. Do not use the fact that it’s out there to justify accessing files that are illegally available to you.
I suspect that the people obtaining these cables are annoyed Americans are acting in obnoxiously idiotic ways in an attempt to get back at the government. Maybe they want to prove a point, maybe they are conspiracy theorists, maybe they are just looking for some entertainment or maybe they have a misconception about Americans’ right to information. Whatever the case, they are putting America at risk.
Personally, I don’t want to know what’s in the U.S. government’s classified files. I don’t want to know how many countries we’re at risk of being invaded by, or the sneaky hacking actions of China, or the possible financial tactics that Middle Eastern terrorists are using. I really don’t! My New York Times inbox headlines have been going crazy about the information within the cables being released.
I believe that if the files are classified, there’s a darn good reason for it. Does that mean that there aren’t classified files just for the sake of keeping them private? Of course not. But the vast majority of those cables are truly being kept private for valid reasons.
After all, the major role of our government is to provide protection for Americans. Part of that protection is keeping us sheltered from things we don’t need to know, or that would cause mass panic or paranoia.
I guess the part I find most frustrating is the fact that all of this fragile information is being mass-released on the Internet, without a care as to who can see it. I don’t appreciate it when people recklessly endanger America. I’m the first to admit her flaws, but there’s no country I love more. And I think it’s utterly stupid to breach national security intentionally.
Williston resident Kayla Purvis is a senior at Champlain Valley Union High School.