Monday, December 06, 2010

The Fall-out Over WikiLeaks

Some smart folks who write for a living think that Hillary Clinton should be fired. The issue is Clinton's directive for State Department diplomats to spy on other diplomats. The conclusion is now that the wikileak documents have become public, Clinton will no longer be effective in her job as Secretary of State.

In the name of fairness, the publication names former Secretary of State Rice as another who issued the same directive. And, oh yeah, it is mentioned that others probably did it before them. Duh! What wonderful insight, guys!

But what makes Clinton's sleuthing unique is the paper trail that documents her spying-on-their-diplomats-with-our-diplomat orders, a paper trail that is now being splashed around the world on the Web and printed in top newspapers. No matter what sort of noises Clinton makes about how the disclosures are "an attack on America" and "the international community," as she did today, she's become the issue. She'll never be an effective negotiator with diplomats who refuse to forgive her exuberances, and even foreign diplomats who do forgive her will still regard her as the symbol of an overreaching United States. Diplomacy is about face, and the only way for other nations to save face will be to give them Clinton's scalp.

I tend to come down on a more measured side of this dilemma. I think the real damage is in the chilled ability of diplomats and foreign service personnel to speak freely with each other in memos without the fear that it will end up in the public domain.

I agree with this:

The greatest danger of episodes like this is not the “damage” that might be done to foreign policy—which is minimal, since everybody knows that friendly governments gossip about one another, have occasional spats, and negotiate on many fronts—but to free and unfettered communication on matters of war and peace, life and death. If an ambassador or military officer knows that his honest answers to questions from superiors will soon be in the public domain, he will begin to furnish dishonest answers—or no answers at all. How any news organization can conclude that this is in the public interest is beyond me.

And of the news organizations involved, it is noted that The Wall Street Journal and CNN didn't play ball with the slimy person releasing the material: On the other hand, the Wall Street Journal refused to play along.

“We didn’t want to agree to a set of pre-conditions related to the disclosure of the Wikileaks documents without even being given a broad understanding of what these documents contained,” a spokeswoman for the paper said. CNN also declined to make an agreement with WikiLeaks.

The State Department is going on the offense after being put on defense: even to the extent of warning college students not to post on Facebook about the leaks.

Hi students,

We received a call today from a SIPA alumnus who is working at the State Department. He asked us to pass along the following information to anyone who will be applying for jobs in the federal government, since all would require a background investigation and in some instances a security clearance.

The documents released during the past few months through Wikileaks are still considered classified documents. He recommends that you DO NOT post links to these documents nor make comments on social media sites such as Facebook or through Twitter. Engaging in these activities would call into question your ability to deal with confidential information, which is part of most positions with the federal government.


Office of Career Services

And there is a report that the Obama administration will move around personnel within the Pentagon, State Department and Embassies.

Administration officials tell The Daily Beast that while planning is only in its preliminary stages, the State Department, the Pentagon, and the CIA assume that they will have to shake up staffing at a number of American embassies and consulates within the coming months.

The State Department acknowledges that the WikiLeaks dump has done damage to American foreign policy, a problem that is likely to be compounded by the withdrawal of U.S. diplomats and other embassy officials who cannot be easily replaced because they are—not surprisingly—among the government's best-trained specialists on the foreign nations and regions where they are now posted.

It seems to me that the real problem is the availability of a young soldier stationed north of Baghdad to the secure and separate Internet system on which the classified information of our government operates. Secure it and tighten security on who has clearance to use the computer system. If the information is classified and secret, then why was it not better secured?


amarkonmywall said...

Agreed. In this era of instant communication without restraint, people-especially diplomats in positions of power and influence- need to look to the editor within. At the same time, WikiLeaks seems to me to have very little to do with the right of the people to know what's what and I continue to wonder about the motivation of media editors.

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