Freedom of speech and the public’s right to know has always been at war with national security. But where does someone’s right to speak freely and our nation’s “greater good” overlap? Being willing to throw away part of the first amendment to ensure the nation’s secrets and possible safety of the country as a whole is a tricky subject.
Information comes at us 24/7 from every possible source and angle. Sometimes that information however can come at the expense of our nation’s leverage on the world stage. The only thing a country truly has as an advantage on its adversary is secrets. However, the greatest right someone can have is the freedom to speak the truth and the right to know what’s really going on.
There is a reason why the first amendment is first. Without it everything else falls apart. If one is restricted from speaking on a subject regardless of what that subject is or what is going on in world affairs then those issues mean nothing. If Wikileaks decides to release information on a prominent political figure or a whistle blower posts insider material they should have the right to do it. If they are shut down or threatened with jail then everyone loses.
The Espionage Act of 1917 is outdated and not nearly as necessary as it was 50 or even 15 years ago. The speed at which we receive and consume data and news stories is exponentially greater than in the past. The world needs leaks because it’s the only way to keep the powers that be honest. So is it worth to possibly compromise security for our freedoms—yes. The right to know is all that keeps us from living in “1984” or in a totalitarian regime.