Professors Differ On Ethics Of Using WikiLeaks Cables
RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:
Some of what we know about the inner workings of the Egyptian government come from the recent release of American diplomatic cables by WikiLeaks. And some college professors are now using WikiLeaks cables in the classroom. But as NPR's Jessica Diehl reports, there's a debate within the academic community, about whether that is ethical.
JESSICA DEAHL: Students here will go on to work in the State Department and in embassies around the world. But first, they have to learn the fundamentals of how U.S. foreign policy is made. And following the release of thousands of classified diplomatic cables, through the Web site WikiLeaks, the professor in this classroom has some new teaching materials.
PIERO GLEIJESES: I thought it was a positive thing, quite frankly. I'm very glad that Assange has published these documents, has made available these documents.
DEAHL: That's Professor Piero Gleijeses. He's referring to Julian Assange the man behind WikiLeaks. Gleijeses says he has no reservations about using these secret cables in his classroom. As raw documents from contemporary diplomats, he believes they offer the kind of insight that no book or article could provide.
GLEIJESES: Obviously they're extremely valuable - extremely valuable.
DEAHL: Gleijeses says he could use it to illustrate the assumptions that exist behind U.S. policy.
GLEIJESES: And then a thinking student might ask himself whether our hatred for Cuba or our dislike for Venezuela, justifies such concerns and what should be the policy, et cetera, et cetera.
DEAHL: Here's Ambassador Marc Grossman. He teaches across town at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service.
MARC GROSSMAN: In India apparently, they're showing their own diplomats the cables to say this is what we want - we want, you know, kind of this shape and this size, you know, and very interesting.
DEAHL: The cables give glimpses into the life of a U.S. diplomat; prepping the secretary of state for a meeting with the king of Saudi Arabia, reporting from a lavish wedding ceremony in the former Soviet Union, assessing corruption high up the ranks in the Afghan government.
GROSSMAN: There are probably people out there who will look at these and say, gosh, I'd like to be a diplomat, I'd like to be a Foreign Service Officer, I'd like to be part of something that interesting and that good.
DEAHL: Despite all of these reasons to use them, Ambassador Grossman will not be bringing the cables into his classroom.
GROSSMAN: I feel morally obligated not to. You know, they're stolen documents, as far as I'm concerned.
DEAHL: He understands why they're enticing. But he worries that by asking students who want to be diplomats to read stolen classified cables, he could be hurting their future job prospects.
GROSSMAN: I have to be careful in my class about not putting those people into any jeopardy. They need their security clearances; they want to have their careers.
DEAHL: Jessica Deahl, NPR News, Washington.
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