As America’s premier First Amendment lawyer, Floyd Abrams is a force to be reckoned with. The force is on display at full power in today’s Wall Street Journal, where he takes up the subject of WikiLeaks and offers a very dim view of the activities of Julian Assange. Among other things, Mr. Abrams contrasts the WikiLeaks data dumps to the leak of the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times back in 1971 in which Mr. Abrams represented the newspaper. As Mr. Abrams notes,
The Pentagon Papers revelations dealt with a discrete topic, the ever-increasing level of duplicity of our leaders over a score of years in increasing the nation's involvement in Vietnam while denying it. It revealed official wrongdoing or, at the least, a pervasive lack of candor by the government to its people.
WikiLeaks is different. It revels in the revelation of "secrets" simply because they are secret. It assaults the very notion of diplomacy that is not presented live on C-Span.
I offered my own view of the Pentagon Papers recently in National Affairs. But an outstanding account can also be found in Mr. Abrams’s 2005 book, Speaking Freely. Among other memorable gems, it explains the extraordinarily amusing precedent Mr. Abrams set when he came to appear before the United States Supreme Court wearing only one sock.