A lawyer friend writes of his concern about Wikileaks: "A concept I have defended repeatedly in my cases is something called "the deliberative process privilege."
"The idea is that if Joe Biden KNOWS that if he tells Barack Obama "you are being incredibly naive in trusting a self-serving chief of staff who couldn't care less about you except insofar as you can help him advance his own political career," if he knows that quote will be the headline in tomorrow's Times, he's going to be far less candid in offering his President his advice.
"Ditto for foreign service officers whose appraisals of Sarkozy make the headlines - if that becomes a routine occurrence, they're simply going to stop being frank and edit everything they write to their supervisors with an eye to how it would look in the paper. That, I submit, would not aid the prospects for good governance or intelligent formulation of policy after frankly considering all points of view."
The Wikileaks controversy, he says, "involves balancing two important interests, so there is no absolute answer where the one need always trumps the other." On the one hand, government officials need to be able to communicate openly with each other without watching their words, and, on the other hand, the public has a right to be informed about what their representatives are contemplating doing in their name.
He points out that the U.S. Supreme Court's full opinion in US v Nixon (1974) offers a classic discussion of that balancing process. "Governments, of course, tend to favor the institutional concern for their own freedom from oversight, to the point of absolutizing it, and the press favors openness, to the point of absolutizing it." But in his view, a balance must be struck between these two important interests.