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WikiLeaks: When is it 'right' to leak national security secrets?

The WikiLeaks trove of 91,000 classified US military documents has prompted discussion about how to maintain national security in the digital age – and when the end justifies the means.

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Shortly after speculation hit the Internet that a US Army intelligence analyst, Bradley Manning, might be one source of the 91,000 classified documents on Afghanistan that the website WikiLeaks released, a visitor to a liberal blog offered the following comment: "Bradley Manning is my kind of war hero."

Yet Mr. Manning – an Army specialist in his early 20s who sits in a military jail over his alleged leaking of a military video capturing a 2007 helicopter attack in Iraq – is considered by others a treasonous villain. The FBI is currently investigating Manning and possible accomplices who may have provided the technical expertise to steal the material.

No doubt, this mix of Jekyll and Hyde is the sort of characterization that leakers and whistle-blowers have always endured. But the US military's focus on Manning in its investigation of the highest-profile leak of classified documents since the Pentagon Papers in 1971 raises questions about the culture of leaks in the Information Age – and in the era of the pocket-size USB stick.

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