The conduct of the American government


Ethics issues raised by the conduct of the American government in dealing with Wikileaks and Assange

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The behavior of the American government towards Wikileaks raises serious ethical issues related to government intimidation of the private company. The founder of Wikileaks has also experienced a great deal of harassment in light of the Wikileaks scandal which has called into question the integrity of the American government in pursuing justice through means that are inconsistent with the fairness ethos the government usually espouses. Lastly the case brings to light ethical issues related to the attempt of the government to censor free speech and limit the freedom of the press. All of these issues will be explored in the subsequent discourse.

Ethical Issue 1

The most blatant ethical issue that is raised with the American Government is the way it has gone about attempting to dismantle the Wikileaks site. Instead of finding legitimate and legal ways to ensure that the site is not releasing information that could be harmful to troops and others, the government has been reduced to attacking the site, so that people cannot view the information being exposed via the site. This practice is underhanded and not consistent with the messages of free speech that America consistently espouses. This ethical issue also has legal ramifications, particularly if the American governmental is responsible for the attacks on the Wikileaks site.

Alternative solution 1

Since this particular ethical issue deals with justice and conflict resolution procedural ethics should be applied. Procedural ethics is concerned with ensuring that fairness prevails in any given situation. The American government and some other governments have exhibited poor decision making skills and have not had a fair and balanced approach in dealing with Wikileaks as a company. The American government has resorted to using tactics that may even be unlawful as it pertains to freedom of speech. The stakeholders are Wikileaks, Military personnel, and the government.

Alternative solution 2

Distributive ethics can also be utilized to address the actions of Wikileaks. Distributive ethics focuses on fairness in outcomes. If the American government is concerned with ensuring that the way it confronts this issues is fair for all stakeholders, this approach should be adopted. The benefit to tae stakeholders is that the outcome will not cause as much harm as the manner in which the situation is currently being handled. At the current time the treatment of Wikileaks means that there has been some interference with the ability of the site to carry out its journalistic endeavors. The stakeholders in this situation are Wikileaks and other press outlets.

Ethical issue 2

Another ethical issue has been the treatment of Assange by the American government as a result of Wikileaks actions. There are many reports that prior to being held in solitary confinement the American government and her allies were attempting to hunt down Assange. In addition Assange reports that various employees have been harassed and hunted in the same manner. While the American government has the right to pursue people who they feel have violated the law, it must do so in a manner that is lawful and respectful. A superpower acting in ways that mimic vigilantism is unbecoming and contradicts the message of justice and fairness that American continually espouses.

Alternative solution 1

Deontological Ethics would be helpful to utilize in this situation. Deontology asserts “that there are certain things that are right or wrong intrinsically. We should do them or not do them simply because of the sorts of things they are, regardless of the consequences of doing them.”[footnoteRef:1] The American government needs to utilize this philosophy in handling the situation with Assange. There are right and wrong ways of doing anything. The American government has chosen the wrong way of addressing the problems it has with Assange’s actions. For stakeholders this approach would ensure humane treatment and would tarnish the image and understanding that people have concerning democratic ideas about America and her allies. The stakeholders are Assange, the American government and her allies. [1: “deontology.” The Blackwell Dictionary of Western Philosophy. BUNNIN, NICHOLAS and JIYUAN YU (eds). Blackwell Publishing, 2004. Blackwell Reference Online. 26 March 2011 ]

Alternative solution 2

The conducting of a Cost Benefit Analysis would also be helpful in this situation. A cost benefit analysis simply gages what the costs of decisions are relative to the benefits the decisions produce. In the realm of ethics a cost benefit analysis is used to make sound decisions. In the case of Wikileaks founder, Assange, the American government needs to weigh whether or not the costs associated with pursuing him in the way that they have outweighs the benefits of such a pursuit. America’s treatment of Assange seems to be costing the government a great deal of credibility throughout the world. A cost benefit analysis would allow the stakeholders to improve the reputation they have acquire as a result of the way this ordeal was handled The primary stakeholder in a cost benefit analysis is the American government and some of her allies.

Ethical issue 3

Attempting to sensor free speech and infringe upon the rights of a free press and also ethical issues that arise in this case. These ethical issues do indeed have legal ramifications. Attempting to prevent free speech and freedom of the press is a violation of the constitution of the United States. In the United States and in democracies all over the world freedom of speech and a free press all the hallmarks of a healthy democracy.

Alternative solution 1

Rights Theory can be applied to this issue. Rights based theories contend that “rights form the basis of obligations because they best express the purpose of morality, which is the securing of liberties or other benefits from rights holders.”[footnoteRef:2] This particular theory can be applied to this situation because it focuses on basic human rights. Human rights in American society are taken seriously and free speech and freedom so speech are an aspect of human rights. Stakeholders would benefit from the application of this alternative because it ensures that their rights will be protected and they will have the ability to express truth without the fear of government intimidation. The stakeholders are all citizens of democratic countries, Wikileakes and the press in general. [2: Grading Rubic for Conference]

Alternative solution 2

Kantian theory can also be applied to this situation. Kantian theory asserts that human beings have absolute rights related to freedom of speech. In this situation the Kantian theory would appeal to the humanity of the situation and assist decision makers in focusing on what is important for the overall security and safety of society. A society without freedom of speech or free press is void of true expression or the ability to be heard and understood. The stakeholders would benefit from a system that recognizes their inherent rights as human beings and seeks to protect such rights. The stakeholders in this case are citizens, governments and the press.

Recommendation for Ethics issue 1

Alternative solution 1, utilizing procedural ethics, is the best solution for this particular ethical issue arising from the treatment of the Wikileaks. This particular alternative is recommended because it will allow that American government to thoroughly investigate its actions in terms of fairness. The government has received a great deal of criticism for the way it has interacted with Wikileaks and procedural ethics might assist the government as it pertains to making better decisions as it relates to Wikileaks. In addition if the government wants to avoid legal battles related to its actions this approach should be taken into consideration.

Recommendation for Ethics issue 2

Alternative solution 1, utilizing deontological ethics, provides the most optimal solution for this ethical issue arising from the treatment of Assange by the government. This recommendation is made because deontological ethics is dedicated to doing the right thing just because it is the right thing to do. This philosophy is consistent with what America claims to stand for and as such it should be the approach used by the American government in addressing Assange’s actions. This ethical standard is also consistent with the human rights standards that the United States and other developed nation’s claim to espouse.

Recommendation for Ethics issue 3

Alternative solution 2, the Kantian ethics, is most appropriate for handling this ethical dilemma. This recommendation is made because this approach focuses on the importance of absolute rights. The issue of freedom of speech and a free press is based on the concept of inherent or absolute rights. As such this approach would be the most beneficial in ensuring that freedom of speech and of the press is not hindered as it pertains to the Wikileaks case.

Works Cited

“deontology.” The Blackwell Dictionary of Western Philosophy. BUNNIN, NICHOLAS and JIYUAN YU (eds). Blackwell Publishing, 2004. Blackwell Reference Online. 26 March 2011

Grading Rubric for Conference

Julian Assange: WikiLeaks faces ‘very aggressive’ investigation by U.S.

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