Predictably, this week's release of thousands of classified documents by WikiLeaks — which also provided them to the New York Times, Germany's Der Spiegel and the Guardian in London — has fired up those who believe secrecy fosters national security and who shudder at the idea of journalists rummaging through classified material. Typical was the comment from tiresome Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.). WikiLeaks, he maintained, is armed with "an ideological agenda implacably hostile to our military and the most basic requirements of our national security."
To which one is tempted to say: So what?
What motivates WikiLeaks to post classified material is barely even interesting, much less important. Rather, the germane question is whether the United States and its allies are best served by secrecy or debate. And the answer is obvious: No democracy can or should fight a war without the consent of its people, and that consent is only meaningful if it is predicated on real information.
That is not to say classified material should be published in haste or with indifference. Thankfully, WikiLeaks and its media colleagues appear to have behaved thoughtfully in their handling of these documents. The New York Times sought and received guidance from the Obama administration on especially sensitive materials, and even WikiLeaks redacted thousands of pages that included names of people whose safety might be jeopardized. Those are the actions of responsible journalists.