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How did vital U.S. secrets get leaked?

A democracy works best when its government is the most transparent to the people it governs. But there are exceptions.

The first duty of government is to protect the people whom it governs. In order to do that, there must be a certain level of confidentiality, lest those whom the government is protecting the people from can use that information to usurp the safety of the people.

That's a convoluted way of saying that while our democracy upholds the First Amendment right of a free press, it also must protect the people, even if that means withholding certain information that, if released, would endanger the public at large or those individuals charged with protecting our democracy.

Over the weekend, the WikiLeaks website released thousands of U.S. State Department documents that would arguably do just that -- put Americans in danger. Fortunately, the website was compromised and many of the documents weren't posted. But it managed to "leak" the documents to many major news outlets. Most of them in the United States wisely withheld specific information that would endanger individuals, but the materials that were released did damage the United States' stature in the world arena.

In order to form a complete picture of touchy diplomatic situations, it is important for U.S. officials and their foreign counterparts to be able to offer blunt assessments that would not otherwise be offered if known they would become public. -- Bemidji Pioneer