Wikileaks, the mysterious online organization started by Julian Assange, has been a relatively major force in the 2016 election…and a thorn in the side of Hillary Clinton.
There is little to no question in my mind that the Russians have aided Wikileaks in targeting specific actors (mostly Democrats) in a bid to alter the course of the election. No one should delude themselves about how damaging such foreign intervention in our democracy could be. We should call them out, and should prosecute anyone involved in the theft of these materials.
Rubio came forcefully out against any use of the email leaks through Wikileaks:
“I will not discuss any issue that has become public solely on the basis of Wikileaks,” said Rubio, who sits on the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee. “As our intelligence agencies have said, these leaks are an effort by a foreign government to interfere with our electoral process and I will not indulge it.”
This is an honorable position. His argument is basically that any ill-gotten gains should be avoided.
However, I think that Marco Rubio is dead wrong about that position.
I by no means defend the actions of Wikileaks. They are, ultimately, simply thieves; they have stolen materials that they had no right to, and published them. As thieves, they should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
But there is nothing really new in this…this is how many whistleblowers come to light.
A few short years ago, Edward Snowden was praised by many on the political Left for his thievery (and in his case, treasonous actions) in making public loads of materials that were classified.
Here is one take from the New Yorker:
In revealing the colossal scale of the U.S. government’s eavesdropping on Americans and other people around the world, he has performed a great public service that more than outweighs any breach of trust he may have committed. Like Daniel Ellsberg, the former Defense Department official who released the Pentagon Papers, and Mordechai Vanunu, the Israeli nuclear technician who revealed the existence of Israel’s weapons program, before him, Snowden has brought to light important information that deserved to be in the public domain, while doing no lasting harm to the national security of his country.
There are many examples similar to this. Think back to the Pentagon Papers, and their effect on the Vietnam War. There is no question that, by releasing those papers to the New York Times and the Washington Post, Daniel Ellsberg clearly was at thief, and a treasonous one at that. But for decades, the Pentagon Papers has been heralded as a landmark for whistleblowers everywhere. Ellsberg, to this very day, is honored by Progressives for the good deeds he did…as a thief.
Note that a few weeks ago, someone leaked the private tax records of Donald J. Trump…and I heard of almost no Democrats decrying how dishonorable such an action was. In fact, there was celebration.
Only now, when the target of the whistleblowing is a Democrat, do we see the hypocrisy.
I personally don’t like the entire episode. Wikileaks is not a heroic organization, and should be treated like the criminals they are. But to simply ignore the materials they have released is pure idiocy.
Our democracy must be built on full transparency. The fact that it takes thieves to often uncover what our government is doing in our name is a black mark on how the Republic is failing.
Outside of the political reality that Rubio is ignoring (that Democrats have and would use similar materials against a Republican), there is a more simple argument: once material is in the public square, it should be debated, disseminated, and discussed. To fail to do so is a failure of the marketplace of ideas in fully accounting for all the evidence, data, and information we have available to make the most sound decision we can as voters and as Americans.
So like Ellsberg, Snowden and Wikileaks should both be prosecuted, to the full extent of the law. Ellsberg got off on technicalities; that is beside the point. Thieves of any sort should be held to account, regardless of if their thievery benefits the greater good.
But it is silly to ignore evidence that is readily available to make important decisions that face us all. Rubio, in this respect, is simply wrong.