Tyler Cowan blogs:
Let’s say a group of criminal defense lawyers kept a database of their confidential conversations with their clients. That would include clients charged with murder, robbery, DUI, drug abuse, and so on. In turn, a hacker would break into that database and post the information from those conversations on Wikileaks. Of course a lot of those conversations would appear to be incriminating because — let’s face it — most of the people who require defense attorneys on criminal charges are in fact guilty. When asked why the hack was committed, the hacker would say “Most of those people are guilty. I want to make sure they do not escape punishment.”
How many of us would approve of that behavior? Keep in mind the hacker is spreading the information not only to prosecutors but to the entire world, and outside of any process sanctioned by the rule of law. The hacker is not backed by the serving of any criminal charges or judge-served warrants.
Yet somehow many of us approve when the victims are wealthy and higher status, as is the case with the Panama Papers. Furthermore most of those individuals probably did nothing illegal, but rather they were trying to minimize their tax burden through (mostly) legal shell corporations. Admittedly, very often the underlying tax laws should be changed, just as we should repeal the deduction for mortgage interest too. But in the meantime we are not justified in stealing information about those people, even if some of them are evil and powerful, as is indeed the case for homeowners too.
I agree – the ends don’t justify the means.
As Cowan says, imagine the outrage if the hack was of a criminal defence lawyer.