Wednesday, December 08, 2010

When Is WikiLeaks Held Accountable by U.S.?

When asked during a recent White House daily briefing about the WikiLeaks document dumps, Press Secretary Gibbs answered as though he were a petulant middle school student -

"Our foreign policy and our country is stronger than one guy with one website," Gibbs said. "We should never be afraid of one guy who plopped down $35 and bought a web address. ... Let's not be scared of one guy with a laptop."

"We're the United States of America," he added. "We have a robust foreign policy that pursues our national interest and ensures the safety and security of those around the world. That's something this administration and administrations in the future, regardless of what one guy with a web site or what somebody does when leaking highly classified information. Those people are criminals and they'll be punished as such."

Oh, brother.

The documents were dumped by an Australian citizen, not an American, so "criminal" prosecution may be dicey. And, when exactly would that be brought into play, as this man has pursued the document dumps for about six months now.

Asked by a news anchor why the Obama administration chose to not stop WikiLeaks, if the capability was there all along, Defense Department Spokesman Geoff Morrell answered:

"We … clearly have offensive capabilities. But at the end of the day, the determination of those who are charged with such things, the decision was made not to proceed with any sort of aggressive action of that sort in this case. It was just deemed not appropriate for us to consider such a thing …

At the end of the day, as you heard from the Secretary of Defense yesterday, Megyn, this creates some awkward and embarrassing situations for the United States government, it clearly puts those who cooperate with us, even some of our diplomats, in difficult positions—hopefully not endangered situations. But, at the end of the day, it does not, at least over the long term, adversely impact America’s power or prestige."

So the Obama administration could have stopped WikiLeaks, and those “charged with such things” considered taking action. But in the end they chose not to proceed—because the leaks really weren’t so bad after all.

Keep in mind the original document dump was documents on the Afghanistan war in particular. Not so bad? Does that mean, not so important stateside? But that was then. This is now.

The author of the piece notes a different reaction from Morrell said of that document dump:
Morrell was singing a very different tune at an August 5 press conference, after WikiLeaks released 75,000 documents on the war in Afghanistan that exposed the identities of more than 100 Afghans who were secretly cooperating with the United States against the Taliban. Back then, Morrell thought the damage WikiLeaks had done was pretty severe. He said:

WikiLeaks’s public disclosure last week of a large number of our documents has already threatened the safety of our troops, our allies and Afghan citizens who are working with us to help bring about peace and stability in that part of the world. Public disclosure of additional Defense Department classified information can only make the damage worse. The only acceptable course is for WikiLeaks to take steps immediately to return all versions of all of these documents to the U.S. government and permanently delete them from its website, computers and records … They’ve shown no indication thus far that they appreciate the gravity, the seriousness of the situation they have caused—the lives they have endangered, the operations they have potentially undermined, the innocent people who have potentially been put in harm’s way as a result.

This failure to act prompted a patriotic hacker who goes by the name th3j35t3r (the Jester) to attack WikiLeaks himself, repeatedly taking down its Web site.

The article continues to conclusion: Some say attacking WikiLeaks would be fruitless. Really? In the past year, the Iranian nuclear system has been crippled by a computer worm called "Stuxnet," which has attacked Iran's industrial systems and the personal computers of Iranian nuclear scientists. To this day, no one has traced the origin of the worm. Imagine the impact on WikiLeaks's ability to distribute additional classified information if its systems were suddenly and mysteriously infected by a worm that would fry the computer of anyone who downloaded the documents. WikiLeaks would probably have very few future visitors to its Web site.

WikiLeaks represents a new and unprecedented cyber threat that cannot be ignored or wished away. Just as terrorism allows small groups of individuals to wreak destruction on a scale that was once the province of nation-states, information technology allows small actors such as Julian Assange to wreak previously unimagined destruction on U.S. national security through cyberspace. This is a threat that requires aU.S. response. Hillary Clinton is right - WikiLeaks has attacked America. The only question is: Will America return fire?

1 comment:

SummerRain said...

It's the governments job to keep the state secrets & the journalist to report the news. So, who is really the criminal here?

Along this line, I recommend reading a new book that's about Americans who finally take a stand against tyranny. It's about each of us. I'll be giving it out this holiday it's that good.

Also, can we trust our govt. with ObamaCare keeping our medical records confidential when our govt. seems to be leaking classified telegrams to WIKI?

Great article. Liked it!