One of the core goals of WikiLeaks is the exposure of what Assange calls the “Invisible Government,” the collection of career state department, intelligence and defense officials who represent a transnational state apparatus that operates across different elected (and unelected) governments. This apparatus is necessarily not merely unelected, but actually contemptuous about democratic processes. Marcy has remarked on this as have other commentators.
The tension between a newspaper’s obligation to inform and the government’s responsibility to protect is hardly new. At least until this year, nothing The Times did on my watch caused nearly so much agitation as two articles we published about tactics employed by the Bush administration after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The first, which was published in 2005 and won a Pulitzer Prize, revealed that the National Security Agency was eavesdropping on domestic phone conversations and e-mail without the legal courtesy of a warrant. The other,published in 2006, described a vast Treasury Departmentprogram to screen international banking records.
I have vivid memories of sitting in the Oval Office as President George W. Bush tried to persuade me and the paper’s publisher to withhold the eavesdropping story, saying that if we published it, we should share the blame for the next terrorist attack. We were unconvinced by his argument and published the story, and the reaction from the government — and conservative commentators in particular — was vociferous.
The story, of course,had been submitted to Times’ editors in October of 2004.