Secrecy and privacy

Now, the other topic that cropped up whilst I was away and making plum jam was the whole farrago of secrecy/privacy/Wikileaks/government scrutiny of e-mails/Edward Snowden, NSA and Moscow Airport.  Then there was the detention of the partner of the Guardian journalist who broke a lot of the Wikileaks story at Heathrow airport.

Sorry, folks, but I can’t help you here.  You must tell me what I should think about this.  In what way is a journalist/whistle-blower revealing the names and activities of government agents and agencies different from what Kim Philby, Burgess and Maclean got up to in the 1940s and 50s ?  We now know that led to the torture and death of western agents in the Soviet system.  I recall outraged letters to the press pointing out that Bradley/Chelsea Manning got a longer sentence for revealing US security information than the guards at Abu Ghraib prison did for humiliating and abusing their charges.  But, appalling as their conduct was, it was surely less serious than revealing nationally sensitive secrets, or placing at risk the lives of those working on our behalf in murderous environments.

Help me here.   Is the position that any piece of personal information is secret and should not be revealed, whereas any piece of government information can properly be leaked by a ‘whistle-blower’ ?   If it isn’t, and the world requires a more subtle and nuanced position, where do we draw the line ?  And if we do draw a line, doesn’t it mean that it is OK for government agencies to intercept some of our stuff, and that some people who reveal security sensitive information should be prosecuted ?

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