Last week the government and its lapdog news media were telling us how much safer we are now that Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents are taking pornographic photos and groping us at airports. This week they’ve been telling us how much less safe we are as a result of Monday’s leak of some 250,000 classified documents by the website WikiLeaks.
And, yes, I’ve provided a link to it (twice — in case you missed the first one). This is just the most recent link. The site has had to keep moving as a result of cyber attacks and being kicked off of servers by several hosts and domain name services.
I would have jumped on this story sooner, but I wanted to find out what’s so dangerous about the information that was leaked.
Let’s see, I learned that Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi is afraid to fly over water, never goes anywhere without his “voluptuous blonde” Ukrainian nurse, and likes to stay on the ground floor of hotels.
I learned that King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia wants the U. S. to take military action to stop Iran’s nuclear program, and that some of the king’s friends are al-Qaeda supporters. He also wants to implant tracking chips in Guantanamo inmates when they are released.
I learned that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Agency (ISI) has dealt with the Taliban. And that the U. S. has been secretly bombing jihadists in Yemen and letting the Yemen government take the credit or blame, depending on one’s point of view. And that U. S. officials believe Afghan president Hamid Karzai is “weak”.
And that U. S. diplomats consider Russia to be a “mafia state”.
And, most interesting of all, I learned that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had instructed U. S. diplomats working at the United Nations to spy on their counterparts from other countries. She wants them to get their credit card numbers, computer passwords and even their DNA samples. Clinton thought this was very embarrassing.
“Embarrassing” is definitely the operative word here. Not dangerous, but definitely embarrassing.
What is especially embarrassing is that the leak occurred at all. Reportedly, the source of all these leaked diplomatic cables is PFC Bradley Manning, an intelligence analyst assigned to a brigade of the 10th Mountain Division in Iraq. The question I have is, how was a low-ranking enlisted man in a brigade S-2 shop able to access classified diplomatic cables?
When I was in the Army more than 40 years ago, it was not enough to have a high-level security clearance to access classified information. You had to demonstrate a need to know. Brigade S-2 shops are only concerned with tactical or battlefield intelligence, not strategic intelligence. They want to know things like where the enemy is, how many of them there are, what weapons they have, what their plans are — things related to the brigade’s immediate mission. Presumably, diplomatic cables will shed no light on these questions.
So the first thing the leaked documents reveal is that our government’s security apparatus is so incompetent that it can’t even keep its incompetence secret.
The second thing the documents reveal is stuff everybody already knows — and a lot of gossip. And the fact that our diplomats suck up to people they despise. And that they say things that are exactly the opposite of what they really think. So what else is new?
The third thing revealed by the documents is our government’s utter paranoia. Why is most of this stuff secret anyway? Contrary to what some critics have claimed, nothing in these leaked diplomatic cables directly endangers anyone’s life. Yes, some unstable individual might take offense at the private opinion expressed by some diplomat and seek to exact revenge. But that could happen as a result of something he reads in the newspapers. And I really don’t see how any of the information leaked materially threatens U. S. interests.
It is true that last summer’s leak contained the names of some Afghan informants, and the Taliban said it would hunt them down. This led Adm. Mike Mullens, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to accuse WikiLeaks of having “blood on their hands” — a charge reiterated by Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) and Sarah Palin earlier this week.
However, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was rebuffed when he asked the Pentagon to review those documents before their release and redact the names of anyone who might be endangered by having their names published. And so far nobody has offered any evidence that anybody has died as a result of that leak, or of any other leaks, for that matter.
It has been argued by some — by, among others, Carl Bildt, the foreign minister of Sweden, the country that until recently harbored Assange — that, even if the leaks don’t directly endanger any lives, they damage American diplomacy and, as a result, make the world less safe. However, there is no evidence that has happened, either. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been on a tour of Asian and Middle Eastern countries, meeting with many of those whose names have been prominently mentioned in the leaked cables. “Don’t worry about it”, said one of them. “You should see what we say about you.”
I would argue that the world is a much safer place with WikiLeaks than it would be without it. Had WikiLeaks been around in 1914 we could have avoided the horrors of World War I — and World War II, which was just an extension of the first war. That war was the end result of secrecy. I seriously doubt that the belligerents in that conflict would have chosen to go to war had they known of the true intentions and capabilities of their enemies and allies. Certainly, the citizens of the belligerent nations would not have stood for it had they known of their leaders’ secret dealings.
One thought on “WikiLeaks and the inconvenience of truth — 1”
First, PFC Manning, if he did indeed leak the documents, must be held accountable.
Second, this is clearly a failure on the part of the government to keep its secrets, secret, and needs to be addressed forthwith.
Third, one has to question Assange’s motives. It’s one thing to expose a government cover-up of criminal activities carried out on its behalf; it’s another thing to expose embarrassing but, ultimately, inconsequential information contained such as was contained in the State Department communiques.
WikiLeaks is a bad idea. It is naive to believe that the world would be better off if governments couldn’t operate in secrecy when needed to protect its citizens. What’s next, your individual right to privacy?
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