Free Markets, Free People

Wikileaks


Wikileaks leaker’s legal docs leaked

I’m sorry but I find this both ironic and amusing:

LAWYERS for Julian Assange have expressed anger about an alleged smear campaign against the Australian WikiLeaks founder.

Incriminating police files were published in the British newspaper that has used him as its source for hundreds of leaked US embassy cables.

They couldn’t be more outraged than the hundreds of Afghans who cooperated with the US were when their lives were put in jeopardy by this guy.

Yeah, I know, “two wrongs don’t make a right”, but there is a certain bit of satisfying shadenfreude in the scenario.  I’m sure I’ll eventually get over it.

~McQ


Irony: Michael Moore’s "Sicko" was banned in Cuba

And why was the Oscar nominated 2007 “documentary” film banned?

Authorities feared footage of gleaming hospital in Michael Moore’s Oscar-nominated film would provoke a popular backlash.

Or said another way, it was propaganda that even those who were made to look good found so dishonest they refused to show it. A communist regime. One steeped in propaganda designed to make them look good.

Yup, Michael Moore’s work in a nutshell.

More irony?  This info was contained in a confidential cable released by Wikileaks and Moore just helped bail Wikileaks founder Julian Assange out of jail.

~McQ


Gates statement on Wikileaks release provides a dose of reality in foreign affairs

eriously, I really enjoyed reading what Sec. Gates had to say about why nations deal with the US and while the leaks are embarrassing and awkward, aren’t particularly significant.  I think his assessment of their impact is right on the mark:

But let me – let me just offer some perspective as somebody who’s been at this a long time. Every other government in the world knows the United States government leaks like a sieve, and it has for a long time. And I dragged this up the other day when I was looking at some of these prospective releases. And this is a quote from John Adams: “How can a government go on, publishing all of their negotiations with foreign nations, I know not. To me, it appears as dangerous and pernicious as it is novel.”

When we went to real congressional oversight of intelligence in the mid-’70s, there was a broad view that no other foreign intelligence service would ever share information with us again if we were going to share it all with the Congress. Those fears all proved unfounded.

Now, I’ve heard the impact of these releases on our foreign policy described as a meltdown, as a game-changer, and so on. I think – I think those descriptions are fairly significantly overwrought. The fact is, governments deal with the United States because it’s in their interest, not because they like us, not because they trust us, and not because they believe we can keep secrets.

Many governments – some governments deal with us because they fear us, some because they respect us, most because they need us. We are still essentially, as has been said before, the indispensable nation. So other nations will continue to deal with us. They will continue to work with us. We will continue to share sensitive information with one another. Is this embarrassing? Yes. Is it awkward? Yes. Consequences for U.S. foreign policy? I think fairly modest.

Emphasis mine.

The reason I’ve highlighted that portion of the text is it speaks to something I’ve said for years and is an answer to those who claim we must be “liked” in the world community to be effective.

No.  We.  Don’t.

It isn’t at all important that we be “liked” by anyone  – to include our allies.  It is much more important that we be respected, feared and indispensible.  Being “liked” is simply not important in international affairs.  We can be friendly, a “friend”, an ally, and a supporter to other countries, but other countries don’t deal with us because they like or dislike us – they deal with us because of what we can do to them or for them depending on how they act toward us. 

Or said another way, they act in their own rational self interest, with “like” being so far down on the priority list that it isn’t worth mentioning.

However, whenever I hear a candidate, party or group talking about the importance of other countries “liking” us, I immediately tag them as hopelessly naïve and, if in power, dangerous to our best interests.

Gates’ statement is a bit of fresh air considering the Commander-in-Chief’s “like” priority.  Obviously he doesn’t have the final say in foreign policy decisions or our foreign policy priorities, but it is nice to see that there’s a least one adult in DC who, unlike the “reality based community” and their “reset” buttons, understands how (and why) the real world works.

~McQ


Julian Assange: Tattletale

[The original version of this post appeared at the Washington Examiner on Nov. 29, 2010]

Well somebody really doesn’t like the United States now, do they? Or perhaps, as childish antics often turn out to be, Julian Assange’s provocations are really cries for attention from the most powerful nation in the world. Then again, maybe he just needs a nap. Whatever the actual reasons, Mr. Assange and Wikileaks do not warrant being treated as public enemy number one.

Some disagree, of course, such as Rep. Peter King (R-NY) who ranked Assange’s (and, consequently, suspected leaker Bradley Manning’s) actions as worse than al Qaeda’s:

“This is worse even than a physical attack on Americans, it’s worse than a military attack,” King said.

King has written letters to both U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asking for swift action to be taken against WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange.

King wants Holder to prosecute Assange under the Espionage Act and has also called on Clinton to determine whether WikiLeaks could be designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization.

All hyperbole aside, Rep. King’s suggested course of action — i.e. pursuing judicial remedies — are a bit over the top, but at least somewhat within reason. I’m not sure that anything Assange has done is actually prosecutable since he did not steal the information, and there is no discernible difference between his release of the information and that of, say, the New York Times. But at least criminal prosecution is within the realm of reason.

I’ve heard others mention much more violent courses of action for Assange, up to and including assassination. That would be truly ludicrous, especially given that the information leaked thusfar has done little more than expose the diplomatic corps as petty, niggling and dishonest.

Is that even news? If exposing stuffed shirts to embarrassment is all that is necessary to hurl the globe into World War III, so much so that assassination is deemed an appropriate penalty for the likes of Assange, then that would sort of obviate the need for diplomats in the first place. And while a world without pompous and pampered scolds pretending to be in charge of everything does seem like paradise, knocking off some waifish ex-Aussie just seems like a really poor way of bring that about.

So what do we do then?

Well, the first thing would be for the U.S. government to get a better hold on anything it deems “secret” or “confidential.” Step 1 might include such precautions as limiting access to sensitive information to something less than 3 million people:

The US embassy cables are marked “Sipdis” – secret internet protocol distribution. They were compiled as part of a programme under which selected dispatches, considered moderately secret but suitable for sharing with other agencies, would be automatically loaded on to secure embassy websites, and linked with the military’s Siprnet internet system.

They are classified at various levels up to “secret noforn” [no foreigners]. More than 11,000 are marked secret, while around 9,000 of the cables are marked noforn.

More than 3 million US government personnel and soldiers, many extremely junior, are cleared to have potential access to this material, even though the cables contain the identities of foreign informants, often sensitive contacts in dictatorial regimes. Some are marked “protect” or “strictly protect”.

Step 2 should probably involve an intense training program for all State Department personnel called “The Internet is Forever” including a two-day workshop on “What not to write in an email accessible by over 3 million people.”

Although I am being glib, I don’t find anything redeeming about the behavior of Assange and Wikileaks, and if there is some law akin to charging them with receipt of stolen goods, then sobeit. Bradley Manning, if he is indeed the leaker, should face much stiffer penalties, primarily because he was placed in a position of trust and he violated the duties commensurate with his position. Facing the death penalty for treason is too much, but a court martial and potential jail time would appear to fit the crime at this point.

What we should not do is overreact. Assange and his cronies are acting like children, and that’s how they should be treated — i.e. neither ignoring the bad behavior outright, nor giving undue attention that will ensure further incidents of such behavior. Getting into a high dudgeon just gives the insolent mite the reaction he’s looking for. It is true that the leaks have caused a great deal of embarrassment for the United States, but other than the first four French Republics, no nation has been rent assunder by embarrassment.

Let’s not act like that’s the danger we’re facing.


3 million had access to diplomatic cables?

If you’re wondering why Wikileaks has been able to obtain military reports on Iraq and Afghanistan as well as diplomatic cables for the last 10 or so years, wonder no more.

According to the UK’s Guardian, up to 3 million people had potential access to those archives on the government’s Siprnet system.

More than 3 million US government personnel and soldiers, many extremely junior, are cleared to have potential access to this material, even though the cables contain the identities of foreign informants, often sensitive contacts in dictatorial regimes. Some are marked "protect" or "strictly protect".

To me that’s a phenomenal revelation.  If, like me, you were wondering how a Private First Class like Bradley Manning had access to this sort of information, now you know.  Had I been aware of the number who had potential access to these files, I’d have said it isn’t a matter of “if” but “when” a leak would occur.  Allowing that amount of access to information marked “Secret” and “NoForn”, short for “no foreign dissemination”, as well as the names of highly sensitive sources and contacts is a intelligence disaster waiting to happen.

A State Department Spokesman claims it was a reaction to pre-9/11 intelligence sharing – or lack there of:

"The 9/11 attacks and their aftermath revealed gaps in intra-governmental information sharing. Since the attacks of 9/11, the US government has taken significant steps to facilitate information sharing. These efforts were focused on giving diplomatic, military, law enforcement and intelligence specialists quicker and easier access to more data to more effectively do their jobs."

He added: "We have been taking aggressive action in recent weeks and months to enhance the security of our systems and to prevent the leak of information."

While I certainly don’t at all condone the Wikileaks publication of these cables, I have to tell you, given this new information, that I’m not at all surprised it has occurred.  In fact, I’m rather surprised it has taken this long.  And, of course, the damage being done is incalculable to US interests and foreign policy – not to mention those contacts and sources named.  Wikileaks claims to have safeguarded that information, however, that’s a hollow promise.  We have no idea who has seen these archives in full and what they may have done with the information.  Any present contacts or sources have to fear for their lives and the likelihood of developing new sources and contacts just took one hell of a shot in the head.

Prior to 9/11, human intelligence (HUMINT) was an area of extreme weakness for the US.  We’d made a conscious decision decades earlier to rely on technical means to gather intelligence – communications intercepts, spy satellites, etc.  But, with some very notable intelligence failures (India’s nuclear weapons, Cole Bombing, embassy bombings, 9/11), we again understood the critical importance of HUMINT and have been attempting to again establish networks around the world.   Obviously, the strictest secrecy must be maintained in order for that to work.  Leaks like this could completely destroy those new networks and make impossible our ability to establish new ones.

No matter what you think of Wikileaks, and I’m not at all pleased or happy with what they’ve done, the decision to put this information on a network on which 3 million had potential access to the information borders on criminal.  Sharing information is one thing – it should be done, but it must be done intelligently.  This wasn’t about sharing – it was about a structural failure to safeguard critical information in a manner in which it should have been safeguarded.

The fact that these cables are being published around the world right now isn’t just the fault of Wikileaks, but a government which allowed that information to be easily accessed by those who had no reason or need to access it.  The result of such poor management is now evident for all to see.

~McQ