The real fallout from WikiLeaks

The release of hundreds of thousands of State Department documents by WikiLeaks, many of which were reported this weekend by the New York Times and other newspapers around the world, is a humiliation for the United States. But it need not be a catastrophe.

While the leaked documents reveal some highly undiplomatic lip-flapping on the part of U.S. emissaries, I don’t think it will harm our relations with other nations as much as some people fear, for two reasons. First, other nations’ leaders will probably see this as a there-but-for-the-grace-of-God-go-I moment; their diplomatic corps most likely make assessments of one another — including ours — that are at least as frank as the ones now being aired publicly. (Although they will surely instruct their ambassadors and staff not to put such thoughts in electronic documents — something one would have hoped had been common practice before now for our own State Department.)

The second reason, related to the first, is that there was no apparent reason for the leaks besides our sheer humiliation, and no reason for our allies, at least, to believe they will remain immune from similar treatment in the future. As our State Department and the Obama administration work to limit the damage from the leaks, this is a point they will probably try to make.

There will of course be some bitterness among some parties. But as heads and tempers cool, I suspect the real perceived enemy here will not be us but the founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange.

Assange has been described as a neo-anarchist and an enemy of the United States, and both are true on the evidence. His false moral crusade is not an effort to replace American might with something else, just to tear it down. In a just world, it is Assange, not Rupert Murdoch or Ted Turner, who would provide inspiration for a James Bond villain.

Those who tut-tut approvingly about a “democracy [that] purports to be ‘world policeman’ “ being brought down a peg ignore the fact that we have fallen into this role in large part due to the abdication by numerous other Western nations of their own security responsibilities. If our capacity is weakened, the result will be a vacuum of responsibility, not a shift. That is well understood in other capitals, which is another reason I suspect the fallout from this episode will be more muted than one might expect.

That’s not to say there shouldn’t be consequences.

The leak itself is the embarrassment here, and the Obama administration should re-double, re-triple, re-quadruple its efforts to tighten up this obviously gaping hole in our national security. Some people, including Assange himself, seem intent on casting this as being particularly embarrassing and hypocritical for President Obama, who promised “smart power” and a return to respect for America abroad. To be sure, it isn’t very smart to produce and store hackable documents with such unflattering commentary, but neither that practice nor our apparent electronic vulnerability began Jan. 20, 2009 — or Jan. 20, 2001, for that matter.

Along those lines, one useful result of Assange’s idiocy is that it shoots a very large hole through the notion, popular on the left here and abroad, that anti-Americanism was novel or exclusive to the Bush era. People who hate America hate us no matter who the president is. To think otherwise is naive or willfully ignorant.

Beyond that, the leaker(s) of these documents — an American soldier, Bradley Manning, is again suspected as the source — should be prosecuted for treason and, if found guilty, executed. Assange and his cohorts should be charged as co-conspirators, and our allies urged in the strongest way possible to cooperate with their arrest. They, too, should face the most severe punishments that our justice system affords for their crimes.

See, that’s the problem for these dirtbags’ efforts to expose the U.S. government as a bunch of hypocrites. What now is Washington’s motivation for not proving them right — by pursuing them mercilessly until the end?

91 comments Add your comment

Ragnar Danneskjöld

November 29th, 2010
12:31 pm

Well-argued, I agree 98% with the thesis here. I understand (without verification) that the raw documents released to the media include names and/or highly descriptive information about people cooperating with the US, thus putting their lives at risk. I generally think disclosure of undiplomatic-diplospeech is no big deal, as argued by Kyle; however the reckless divulging of names-of-interest to the thugocrats around the world will get people killed (or more likely will merely “disappear”). The divulgers should be held strictly accountable for such foreseeable deaths if they occur.

Kyle Wingfield

November 29th, 2010
12:35 pm

Ragnar: If those names are released, I agree. Certainly, they already exposed a number of U.S. informants in Afghanistan to real danger in a past leak.

Add that to the list of charges these goons should face.

Del

November 29th, 2010
12:42 pm

I’ve read reports that Manning was openly homosexual and a break up with his boyfriend sent him over the top. Reports also described him as vocally critical of U.S. foreign policy and the treatment of gay’s in the military. If these reports are accurate you would have to wonder how this individual was allowed such unfettered access to classified information.

Jimmy62

November 29th, 2010
12:58 pm

I’m betting the only people that really have problems with this will be politicians. They are the ones getting exposed. It’s not about protecting national secrets, it’s about protecting their own careers, and that’s something I don’t care about. If these documents show politicians behaving badly, then I am happy to see them exposed, and want to see even more!

JF McNamara

November 29th, 2010
1:00 pm

You can’t monitor every employees in the federal government constantly, but you can get out the hangin’ rope when one commits treason. It’s about that time.

George

November 29th, 2010
1:07 pm

Seriously?

“Assange has been described as a neo-anarchist and an enemy of the United States, and both are true on the evidence. His false moral crusade is not an effort to replace American might with something else, just to tear it down. In a just world, it is Assange, not Rupert Murdoch or Ted Turner, who would provide inspiration for a James Bond villain.”

Way to be a journalist. In a just world, journalists question government and corporate power. All you are doing is helping to vilify an organization willing to put themselves on the line to increase transparency in government.

If you did any research whatsoever you would know that Wikileaks has, historically, released many documents on other nations, only recently have they released US documents because they have them now. Go do some research, or quit your day job.

Kyle Wingfield

November 29th, 2010
1:11 pm

George: Of course journalists “question government and corporate power.” But they don’t steal documents to do it. And I don’t consider Assange a journalist.

Intown

November 29th, 2010
1:23 pm

I agree that they should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. I’m all for free speech but, this is a crime … plain and simple.

Jefferson

November 29th, 2010
1:23 pm

This sounds a lot like the way the GOP operates…

@@

November 29th, 2010
1:24 pm

According to the leaked cables, Putin is the alpha dog…True.

Supreme Leader Khamenei is terminally ill and could die in a few months, claims Iranian source in leaked U.S. diplomatic cable.

Could die in a few months? If true, the Ayatollah should’ve been dead back in 2009, so we can assume that claim was false.

It would be hard to convict Assange or Manning of treason when our own congress critters have escaped the charge(s) for decades….Kennedy….Rockefeller, to name but a few.

carlosgvv

November 29th, 2010
1:31 pm

I will venture to say we are probably the only Country in the world that would allow a PFC to have access to this much classified information. I wonder how long low ranking privates have had this kind of access and exactly whose idea this was? Some one has shown a dangerous level of incompetence here.

Double Standard

November 29th, 2010
1:31 pm

What about the entire American spy network sold to the soviets by Israel in the 1980’s, I hear no condemnation of Israel for that action? Remember Johnathan Pollard, the Jewish analyst at DOD, who stole the names of ALL our soviets spies, and sold that information to Israel? Israel then turned around and sold the names of OUR spies to the Soviets in exchange for a few Jews to immigrate to Israel. Pollard and Israel have both been covering their tracks in this case for near on 20 years now, but every President since Reagan has refused to allow Pollard to be released. On another note, only a fool would allow random Army privates access to our highest secrets, and apparently OUR Washington fools qualify. I think I know why we have NO human intelligence assets left in the world, because people cannot trust Washington not to betray them.

jconservative

November 29th, 2010
1:35 pm

A lot of government employees need to learn a lesson from the private sector – never put anything in an e-mail you would mind seeing published in the local paper. It appears a lot of these writers are in love with the reflection in the mirror.

Question: what kind of system would allow an employee to download millions of pages without someone in security being notified? Defense, and probably State, need to go back to the drawing board on system security.

CJ

November 29th, 2010
1:49 pm

Along those lines, one useful result of Assange’s idiocy is that it shoots a very large hole through the notion, popular on the left here and abroad, that anti-Americanism was novel or exclusive to the Bush era. People who hate America hate us no matter who the president is. To think otherwise is naive or willfully ignorant.

I’m not clear on how the attitudes of one individual’s or a small group of individuals’ anti-Americanism “blows a hole through the notion…that anti-Americanism was novel or exclusive to the Bush.” In fact, polls have consistently demonstrated that this notion is relatively accurate: http://bit.ly/b7OdBH To think otherwise is naive or willfully ignorant.

With regard to the leaks, we should remember that whistle blowers can and have revealed secrets about crimes, abuses, and corruption–revelations that have exposed wrongdoing and held officials accountable. However, the leakers in this case seem to be doing so entirely out of spite and pettiness. I agree that they should be prosecuted for something.

But executed? That’s insane. Bigger fish have gotten away with worse (for example, just recently, Eric Cantor deliberately, and possibly illegally, sought to undermine our foreign policy with Israel and, as I recall, George Bush authorized torture.).

Thurston B. Howell III

November 29th, 2010
2:00 pm

Ahhh Magoo….you’ve done it again.

Kyle Wingfield

November 29th, 2010
2:08 pm

CJ, I think you fail to draw a distinction between popularity/favorability, which can change as policies change, and anti-Americanism, which is simple hatred for our country. I think the latter is closer to the views of the likes of Assange — and al Qaeda.

Also, these leaks have not been about revealing crimes, abuses or corruption; this is not a whistleblower case. The Army private who abused his classified status to commit the crime of stealing this information and leaking it has committed treason.

on patroll

November 29th, 2010
2:30 pm

will venture to say we are probably the only Country in the world that would allow a PFC to have access to this much classified information

Wouldn’t you think that just maybe he’s a scapegoat? He got busted and now there are even more docs. and now you have people wondering how he got access to these docs? the simple answer is he didn’t. he may have leaked docs he did have access to but there is more than just him.

Peter de

November 29th, 2010
2:37 pm

Buffoonery are at all levels of Federal Government from the top on down.

The Wikileaks scandal exposes the level of idiocy at the top of the government food chain. These so called leaders have finally stuck their head in a hole. The hole they chose smells like they should qualify for contortionists at Cirque D Soleil.

I can not remember a time in my life where so many different issues, on a national and global level have exposed the inept and total breakdown of integrity. Where the lack of qualified leadership continues to haunt us, unable to set a definitive course to correct even the most basic problems that plague our nation.

The rationale displayed by our current administration has placed many of us who have stood by on the sidelines in a state of bewilderment and disgrace. This administration thinks our animosity is based solely on the economy, but everyday we are waking up to more of what is now becoming an almost daily occurrance of ineptitude on full display for all the world to see such as the wikileaks.

I’m ashamed for you, I’m ashamed for me, and I am ashamed for anyone who cares about how far we have fallen.

One additional note here. If you agree with the attitude of the main stream media who prefer to trivialize these almost daily events by downplaying them as a minor hiccup in the digestive system of the world you need only to look at all these issues as a collective and realize the cancer has been growing for a long long time, is in part based on the naivity of people whose distinctions would merely write this off as just another minor embarrassment.

Double Standard

November 29th, 2010
2:50 pm

To the Feds, the greatest crime that can be committed is to cause the Feds embarrassment! I luv watching Washington squirm like a bug on a hot plate! Make no mistake about it, the Washington clowns are just as big in the war crimes department as any other country. Who used napalm on primitive people living in straw huts? Washington did! Who carpet bombed a third world country? Washington did! Who uses 50 million dollar attack aircraft to launch smart bombs on civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan (and Yemen too)? Washington does! Save your sympathy for someone who deserves it, not for the Washington clowns.

JF McNamara

November 29th, 2010
2:53 pm

Peter de,

Back away from the propaganda machine. Its not that bad. You’d think we had 90% unemployment, anarchy in every city in America, and countries about to invade us over wiki leaks.

Despite our shortcomings, people are still walking through deserts with no water, faking passports, and having doorstop babies just to get here. Maybe I’m naive, but this isn’t even in my top 10 concerns…and it’ll be forgotten in a week.

DebbieDoRight

November 29th, 2010
2:55 pm

The guy who leaked the documents need to spend some time, (life), at Leavenworth sure. But what he did is not legally classified as “treason”. But he and the Wiki people are considered enemies of the state. If I were them, I’d fear for my life. The US, although known for our generosity, is also known for our long memories and our hatred of “tattlers”. Maybe he shouldn’t start his car for a couple of years and/or start taking the bus from now on………… just in case.

Double Standard

November 29th, 2010
2:57 pm

Ragnar Danneskjöld – The Washington clowns should be held responsible, not a person who has no legal obligation to maintain OUR secrets. Mr Assange is not an American citizen, he has not signed the National Secrets documents that the Washington clowns have signed, and he is not subject to our laws. Mr Assange has done us a service in revealing the gaping hole in our National Security system, a hole that our real enemies could exploit without us ever knowing. See my above post about a low level DOD employee who managed to gain access to our entire spy network in the former Soviet Union. Washington is the problem, not Wikileaks.

Peter de

November 29th, 2010
3:05 pm

JF McNamara, so you too would trivilize this as just another little blunder by the clowns in Washington. I think you missed the point, but you made mine. Go ahead and forget it in a week along with all the other missteps made and forgotten along the way. One morning you’ll wake up and realize that maybe you should have paid more attention to the actions of Washington, than whatever makes up that top 10 list of concerns you have. Now that would make for some interesting reading.

Hillbilly Deluxe

November 29th, 2010
3:07 pm

never put anything in an e-mail you would mind seeing published in the local paper

One would think common sense would tell people that but evidently, it doesn’t, in many cases.

Mr Assange is not an American citizen, he has not signed the National Secrets documents that the Washington clowns have signed, and he is not subject to our laws.

True but he can be tried as a spy.

Kyle Wingfield

November 29th, 2010
3:08 pm

Debbie: From Article 3, Section 3, of the Constitution:

“Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.”

I’d call this Aid and Comfort.

George

November 29th, 2010
3:27 pm

Kyle, I wasn’t saying Assange was a journalist. I was saying that if you consider yourself one, you are mistaken. I don’t understand why you people focus on Assange, he didn’t leak these documents, Bradley Manning probably did. Wikileaks is making them available, Assange is merely the figurehead.

Assange and wikileaks didn’t steal anything.

If you were a true journalist you would examine the documents instead of attacking the messenger.

Read true journalism at work: http://www.politics.co.uk/comment/culture-media-and-sport/comment-the-hypocrisy-of-the-media-attack-on-wikileaks-$21385948.htm

“The hypocrisy of the media attack on Wikileaks: The traditional media has become so toothless it is reduced to attacking Wikileaks for doing its job properly.”

John

November 29th, 2010
3:50 pm

Kyle:

George: Of course journalists “question government and corporate power.” But they don’t steal documents to do it. And I don’t consider Assange a journalist.

Wrong again. Journalists use leaked documents and information all the time. Nice rhetorical switcharoo there. Whether or not you consider Assange a journalist is irrelevant, the point is he’s doing the job people like you should be.

Please quit your day job.

John

November 29th, 2010
3:53 pm

Kyle:

“Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.” I’d call this Aid and Comfort.

Some people would also call building a mosque in the United States “aid and comfort” to “the enemy.” What are your criteria for aid and comfort? Unless your logic is a little more rigorous (which it isn’t) this is not a good argument.

Jefferson

November 29th, 2010
4:15 pm

So who are our enemies ?

Ragnar Danneskjöld

November 29th, 2010
4:17 pm

Dear Double @ 2:57, one need not be an American to be responsible for deaths of either Americans or of friends of America. I would not honor the technicality of non-citizenship as a reason to not aim a Predator drone at people such as Assange, those who recklessly aid and abet murder of innocents. Indeed, is that not the theory behind our Predators?

carlosgvv

November 29th, 2010
4:17 pm

on patroll

Excellent point. Our military has a sorry habit of dumping on enlisted personnel while letting guilty officers go scott free. This is not unlike what happens in big corporations, I might add. It will be interesting to see if any of the brass are shown to be involved in this.

Double Standard

November 29th, 2010
4:19 pm

Its not the system in Washington, its the people. Democracy works only as long as we do not have an entrenched Congress and bureaucracy. We need to rotate the civil servants out of Washington, not let them dig in to the point where they think THEY are the government. I am not ruled by Washington, and I resent them thinking I owe them more than passing support for maintaining the union, and nothing toward implementing their pet policies. The system has been corrupted by the very people trusted to run it. We need term limits for Congress, one and done is my motto. We need rotation out of Washington for ALL civil servants, no more than five years in Washington, then out you go. We need a choker chain on lobbyist, especially those who lobby for a foreign power, even if they have domestic financial support. Put one inch spikes on that choker chain!

Ragnar Danneskjöld

November 29th, 2010
4:22 pm

Dear John @ 3:53, I think Kyle’s pretty solid on the law on this one. Jury question, or an issuer for the trier of fact – one could reasonably find that stealing and divulging secret information is treason when it leads to death of American agents during wartime, and it need not be a declared war. Just ask the Rosenbergs.

Kyle Wingfield

November 29th, 2010
4:23 pm

Well, let’s see, John. We are at war with al Qaeda; we’ve now breached the confidence of a national leader (Yemen’s President Saleh) who was cooperating with us in fighting Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. So there’s one. We are trying to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons; we’ve now breached the confidence of the leaders of other Middle East nations and had exposed our knowledge of Iran’s connections with North Korea, in a business where knowing what the other guy knows can be crucial.

You may consider this knowledge to be on par with, say, full transparency about a government contract. I don’t.

get out much?

November 29th, 2010
4:24 pm

What seems to be getting lost in this wikileaks tempest in a teapot is the government’s overuse and abuse of the classification stamp. I wonder how many things are marked “classified” just to prevent embarrassment or accountability.

Double Standard

November 29th, 2010
4:25 pm

The theory behind the predators is cowardice by the Washington clowns to put real pilots in harms way. You are under the false impression that washington is always right, and you could not be more wrong. It is illegal for the American government to target individuals for murder. Mr Assange is no different than the Washington Post or the New York Times, both of whom actually published the documents before Mr Assange, mostly because of the denial of service attacks on Assange’s computers. Both the WaPo and the nyt will argue that they intended to publish just after Mr Assange, not first, but the fact is they were first, and they therefore revealed our National Secrets to the public. Are you proposing the Predator solution to the WaPo and NYT?

George

November 29th, 2010
4:28 pm

Kyle, you’re an idiot. On one hand you say the government is bad and they should be stopped, and on the other, you are protecting everything they do that you agree with. You are cherry picking, you are not a journalist, you are just some guy who thinks he knows things, and it’s a sad state of the world when you are able to get your voice heard by so many.

Go read about what real journalists do, they question, they don’t cow tow to their government.

A Patriot

November 29th, 2010
4:30 pm

Execute the messenger?

The truth hurts.

JDW

November 29th, 2010
4:31 pm

Kyle wrote:

“Beyond that, the leaker(s) of these documents — an American soldier, Bradley Manning, is again suspected as the source — should be prosecuted for treason and, if found guilty, executed. Assange and his cohorts should be charged as co-conspirators, and our allies urged in the strongest way possible to cooperate with their arrest. They, too, should face the most severe punishments that our justice system affords for their crimes.”

Kyle, for once, we are in complete agreement.

A Patriot

November 29th, 2010
4:34 pm

We don’t need to know about this either………………I guess. From LR—————-

“Janet Napolitano has issued a decree—so it is written, so it shall be done—barring all packages mailed from Japan that weigh more than .9 pounds, are not sent by a commercial enterprise, and do not have the receiver’s SS# written on the package. Mike Rogers says this is big news in the Japanese press. He sends along an English language article he found…It follows……………….

“Japan Post Service Company (Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo-to, Representative Director: Shinichi Nabekura) has announced that, due to the elimination of air flights for the delivery of postal items over 453 grams (16 ounces) in weight following the recent anti-terrorism airport security enforcement on the part of the USA, these postal items will be suspended for shipment for the time being starting from November 17, 2010.
We will make a relevant announcement once the situation changes.”

Disgusted

November 29th, 2010
4:34 pm

I will venture to say we are probably the only Country in the world that would allow a PFC to have access to this much classified information. I wonder how long low ranking privates have had this kind of access and exactly whose idea this was? Some one has shown a dangerous level of incompetence here.

Agreed, for the most part. Back in my service days, I knew a Marine who was denied a Top Secret clearance for the sole reason that he inadvertently bounced a check, which he made good immediately—no criminal background, no arrests, no other negative information. And somebody gave a PFC with very little time in service a top secret clearance and access to critically secret information? My, how times have changed!

Left wing management

November 29th, 2010
4:36 pm

Kyle: “Along those lines, one useful result of Assange’s idiocy is that it shoots a very large hole through the notion, popular on the left here and abroad, that anti-Americanism was novel or exclusive to the Bush era. People who hate America hate us no matter who the president is. To think otherwise is naive or willfully ignorant.”

But this implies an equally misguided and naive assumption, which is that anti-Americanism is a Left wing phenomenon.

You say: “People who hate America hate us no matter who the president is. To think otherwise is naive or willfully ignorant.”

But this strikes me as a fantasy that is all too popular among the American right: that haters of America are all driven by a single, unreasonable motive and agenda.

Has it ever occurred to you that some “haters of America” might be justified in their hatred?

I’m willing to entertain that possibility – and THAT’s no left wing fantasy.

Double Standard

November 29th, 2010
4:36 pm

Jefferson – good question, people masquerading as our friends steal tens of billions of tax dollars from us each and every year, spy on us, sell our secrets to other enemies, and work hard to make sure their enemies are our enemies. You know who I am talking about, and so do their minions in America. One day we will pay them back in spades!

JDW

November 29th, 2010
4:37 pm

George rote:

“The hypocrisy of the media attack on Wikileaks: The traditional media has become so toothless it is reduced to attacking Wikileaks for doing its job properly.”

HORSE HOOEY! Since when is being in receipt of stolen goods “doing your job properly”. That is a crime in any country.

Ragnar Danneskjöld

November 29th, 2010
4:37 pm

Dear Double @ 4:25, I have no moral reservations about President Obama’s decision to ramp up the predator program. I’ll admit some qualms about using them to target Americans, such as the Islamist now hiding in South Yemen, but that reservation certainly does not extend to not-targeting a white Euroweenie.

Ragnar Danneskjöld

November 29th, 2010
4:38 pm

In war, every bullet is aimed. We are in a war, and there are enemies out there who would undermine the war effort, who would declare, “this war is lost.”

Kyle Wingfield

November 29th, 2010
4:41 pm

George @ 4:28: “On one hand you say the government is bad and they should be stopped, and on the other, you are protecting everything they do that you agree with.”

So, you acknowledge that I sometimes criticize the government, but then you accuse me of a “cow tow” (sic) to the government. Did I get that right?

I oppose things that I disagree with, and I support things that I agree with. Am I supposed to either support everything that anyone in government wants to do, or oppose it all? Do you understand how silly you sound?

Kyle Wingfield

November 29th, 2010
4:49 pm

Left wing @ 4:36: “But this implies an equally misguided and naive assumption, which is that anti-Americanism is a Left wing phenomenon.”

That’s not what I said. I would never say that someone who has a belief about the nature of anti-Americanism — that it springs from the actions of a single president — also holds that belief. So, I don’t know how you got from what I wrote to “anti-Americanism is a Left wing phenomenon.”

I’m sure that people of all political stripes hate us, although I might argue that many of them don’t fit on the political spectrum as we’ve traditionally seen it.

A Patriot

November 29th, 2010
5:02 pm

Quick……..shut the Wikileaks off.

Only state-sponsored news is allowed to dribble to the American sheeple.

The rest of the world already knows.

Left wing management

November 29th, 2010
5:14 pm

Kyle:

Actually, I’ll credit you that one. I may have misunderstood. If you’re claiming there may have been some naivety on the left about overcoming anti-Americanism simply by replacing Bush, I’ll certainly grant you that. Many of our less well-informed left wing friends may have thought that the animus was merely anti-Bush, when in reality it was in large part based on a well grounded opposition to a neo-conservative takeover of US foreign policy.