Lots of people have stepped forward to defend WikiLeaks on a free speech / free press basis. That seems a fairly obvious conclusion, almost to the point of inarguable. There might be no freedom we hold more dear than free speech, believing as we do that no other freedoms can long endure without this one foundational right. Even if WikiLeaks is not afforded a constitutional protection, it not being a U.S. citizen, that principle is so deeply ingrained in our national character as to cover even WikiLeaks.

But WikiLeaks posting all these documents is only the second half of the story, isn’t it? The first half covers WikiLeaks obtaining them. Receipt of stolen goods is a crime. At the very least, isn’t it patently obvious that WikiLeaks committed that crime? It is not clear to me to what extent they actually organized the theft of these documents, but if that was case, then the criminal quotient goes up even more. If people acted on WikiLeaks’ instructions or instigation, or if WikiLeaks paid people to obtain these documents for them, then they are more criminally complicit still.

Maybe the publishing of the documents didn’t add to WikiLeaks’ rap sheet. But that doesn’t mean they didn’t do grave wrong and shouldn’t be held to account.

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