This morning I read in the paper (the Herald-Tribune is the third largest newspaper in the New York Times Company) that Daniel Ellsberg defended Wikileaks creator Julian Assange's rights to publish the leaked US Government papers. The justification, just as with the letter from the faculty of the School of Journalism at Columbia University sent to President Obama, is freedom of the Press. Mr. Ellsberg equates the latest Wikileaks publishing "accomplishment" with his release of the Pentagon Papers to New York Times reporter Neil Sheenan in February 1971. The reporter would then begin publishing excerpts from the 43 volumes he received (there were a total of 45 volumes) in June of the same year.
There is a significant difference between the Pentagon Papers and the leaked US Embassy cables. Neither Mr. Ellsberg nor the Faculty at Columbia seem to have realized this. In the first instance, the results of a research project privately sponsored by then Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, and thus not an official US Government document, where made public through Mr. Ellsberg, who by the way, had worked on portions of the research. The result was to disclose that behavior by various elected officials was both disingenuous and at times illegal when it came to the conduct of the War in Vietnam.
In the second instance, there does not seem to be any illegal activity, just private opinions and ideas, regarding particular foreign personalities and international events. Thus the only "service" provided is to satisfy the prurient curiosity of a segment of the population. Although some of the wording might be considered a bit extreme, so far the "disclosures" have not revealed anything any thinking observer of the international dynamics did not already know. And I am using the word "observer" instead of "analyst" on purpose. One does not have to be dedicated student of international affair: one just needs to be a reader, or listener, of international news, especially when combining US sources with a few international ones.
Freedom of the press is not a total indiscriminate opportunity to publish anything one wants. Every freedom comes with a responsibility. The responsibility to act honestly and in the best interest of the community. Freedom of the press does not mean that every individual has the authorization to disclose any item of information he or she finds necessary to publish. I am sure most people would agree that freedom of the press does not give the right to an employee to disclose Marketing and Sales strategies and tactics of a company.
Equally, reedom of the Press does not mean that an employee can disclose the workings of a product like an EDA tool, simply because "it would be good for users to know how it works".
Or, for that matter, to disclose the contents of a private communication between two people, or organizations. Of course, if such information is either the result or the cause of illegal behavior, then individuals not only have the right, but the obligation, to report it to the authorities.
Freedom of the Press means that the public has the right to know, and thus authors have the right to publish, reliable and relevant information about actions and plans that may either benefit or endanger individual or public welfare. It also allows authors to develop products based on their creativity, like novels, pictures, films, theatrical productions, and other forms of entertainment which are properly labeled as such.
Julian Assange is acting not in the interest of the pubic but to actualize his belief that any form of government goes against the welfare of the community. His interest is not to inform, but to destroy. Those who defend him, should take intent in consideration and not be so quick at using him to defend the Freedom of the Press.