On Wikileaks, the US Government is also to Blame

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This clip captures Julian Assange’s recent release on bail from British prison — and I must say that I’m very impressed by how he is managing his public profile.
While I am not one wildly enthusiastic about the release of documents showing American infrastructure vulnerabilities — and in fact, have strongly condemned the Wikileaks release of a particular Homeland Security document, I support the right of Wikileaks to pursue classified and sensitive documentation on national security matters and to release these to the public.
We have had too much growth of official secrecy in our government — and too much of what we are seeing in the Wikileaks material, particularly in what we have learned on Afghanistan and Iraq, is the government covering up its mistakes and errors or hiding the misbehavior of contractors and the like. So much of what we are reading should never have been held back from the public.
I see Wikileaks increasingly as a natural market reaction to the sprawling intelligence apparatus that Dana Priest described earlier in the Washington Post.
And until government gets its act together (don’t hold your breath), I support Wikileaks being part of the public response to defend the rights of a free and open civil society.
— Steve Clemons

Comments

32 comments on “On Wikileaks, the US Government is also to Blame

  1. YY says:

    There’s considerable evidence of bias in the reports, but this is probably to be expected. What is not expected is outright untruths, which are not attributable to anything other than a desire to push a particular agenda. Given the internal nature of the documents, the concern is that there is dishonesty and pure fiction in “information” to effect policy, as opposed to spinning the public. Case in point is the current item about Sicko in Cuba. It is one thing for health care in Cuba to be interpreted as not being ideal, it is another to say that a film is banned when it wasn’t. First can be attributed to interpretation but whether a film is banned or not is either objectively true or false. Unfortunately the Guardian hasn’t shown yet, other than Michael Moore’s statement (which while believable), an adequate objective check of facts. It never occurred to me that Sicko would be of interest to any audience outside of USA, given the issue is of unique interest only to Americans. So not being shown elsewhere particularly Cuba is not a surprise. That indeed it’s been widely shown and not banned as the report says, calls to question the character of the author and of the organization that employs him/her. If this is the kind of thing that fuels US policy to Cuba, then it is being set not just by biases but by utter untruths. Not healthy.

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  2. PissedOffAmerican says:

    They can’t pay these first responders, because of the admission they’d be making in doing so. Bush, and that fuckin’ piece of shit Whitman would be shown to be culpable in decieving the American people, and particularly these first reponders that were told the air was safe. Further, it is not only first responders that breathed this air, it is all the residents and businesspeople of the area, so if they pay off the first responders, than they open themselves up for having to pay the residents that are suffering health problems due to Whitman’s criminal deception…..
    Ex-EPA chief Christie Todd Whitman can’t be held liable in 9/11 air case
    BY Tracy Connor
    DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
    Wednesday, April 23rd 2008, 1:54 AM
    An appeals court ruled Tuesday that the former EPA chief can’t be punished for falsely telling New Yorkers the air near Ground Zero was safe after 9/11.
    Even though thousands were sickened by toxic dust, the federal judges decided Whitman isn’t personally liable for inaccurate reassurances she gave to the public.
    The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals cited her “inadequate management” and the Environmental Protection Agency’s “flawed” handling of the crisis.
    But the 28-page ruling said there was no evidence Whitman knew she was dispensing lies and her decision to go along with a White House whitewash didn’t “shock the conscience.”
    continues….
    http://www.nydailynews.com/news/2008/04/22/2008-04-22_exepa_chief_christie_todd_whitman_cant_b.html
    Can it become more apparent, after these last ten years, that the courts and the rule of law have abandoned “the people”? Is it a suprise that this piece of shit Whitman was just one more party lacky placed in her position to obey her masters, rather than protect the interests of “the people”?
    The irony is that these lemmings like Drew, who drool their talking points by rote, mean no more to these sacks of shit than the lowly serfs on the left do. Is Drew so fuckin’ dense that he thinks Whitman and Bush separated the RW first responders from the left before they were sent in to breath air that Whitman KNEW was deadly??? Or that they are quietly paying off the Republican first responders behind the scenes??? Nope. These sacks of shit are equal opportunity ghouls, who really don’t give a rat’s ass who is damaged by their actions. They’ll chew up Drew just as fast as they’ll chew up you or me. So what’s his ignorant loyalty get him? A royal fuckin’, thats what. And he’ll probably cheerlead until the very instant he’s thrown over the edge with the rest of us. Thats what lemmings do. And, really, its what they deserve.

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  3. Kathleen says:

    Drew go watch the Stewart clip on the Zadroga Bill. You are right that it says a great deal when a comedian has to take up these critical issues because Fox, CNN, MSNBC, NPR etc have not. When Al Jazeera gives more time and attention to the absence of full medical support for the 9/11 first responders and how Republicans continue to fillibuster this bill then thank goodness that Jon Stewart has brought attention to this critical issue.
    Go watch it first and then blow your horn. But when you are clearly unable to even watch the clip (four first responders on there who all suffering from complications of their exposure during 9/11) with an open mind. That tells it all. Your mind is as tight as an…

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  4. DakotabornKansan says:
  5. rc says:

    Kathleen, Dec 17 2010, 4:05PM — I note Obama’s speech about non violence being the way forward.
    It is a view, but also an excuse. It lacks context. How many years and suffering millions would have ended sooner if African Americans had stood up earlier and fort for justice?
    With two wars (Independence form the British empire & the Civil war) being key markers for progress in the emergence of the modern USA, I find Obama’s rhetoric lacking substance in this case. Clearly it is too simplistic. It is platitude to the victims.
    If his logic is true then why has the US so much investment in the military industrial complex? Why has Israel so much military power?
    Clearly what he is really saying to the Palestinians is they are different: the State of Israel is supported with massive military and economic aid so they can fight for their existence in the ME after the terrible outcomes of the WW2 because European Jews and Roma etc did not/could not fight back sufficiently. The violence of 1948 to establish the Zionist state on Palestinian lands would equally be condemned by Obama’s logic. Clearly double standards and no credibility imo.
    He may as well have add a foot note: sit on your backsides and suffer the shit thrown on your heads and you may get a Palestinian president of Israel in a couple of hundred years time. This guy is looking and sounding more like a clown every day! So he gets the peace prize for what? Telling the losers to sit down and take it while the winners should continue to fight for their dominance?
    If Obama is right, then send flowers to Israel — not guns! What a chump!

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  6. samuelburke says:

    Steve, i think the system has dissent built into it, what do you
    think?
    Wikileaks is a great idea. If some agency didn’t come up with it they
    ought to have. Who says there is no intelligent life on earth?
    I saw this someplace.
    Abu Ramah has been imprisoned by Israel for over one year on
    charges the EU says are “intended to prevent him and other
    Palestinian from exercising their legitimate right to protest against
    the existence of the separation barries in a nonviolent manner”

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  7. drew says:

    People who would cite a comedian (Stewart) in regard to these
    matters are — I don’t know what they are. Absurd?
    What does Steve Martin think about Wikileaks. Silverman? Leno?
    This is a vanity blog with half-a-dozen lightweights contributing
    overmuch.

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  8. DakotabornKansan says:

    Uniformity and Obedience of the media.
    Re: little to no coverage of the protest organized by Veterans For Peace or the arrest. [Post by Kathleen]
    In a similar vein, Jon Stewart expressed his outrage for the media failing to cover the story of the GOP

    Reply

  9. Kathleen says:

    Pissed off American.
    During an interview with Amy Goodman Daniel Ellsberg said that most of the documents that have been released are low level information. Not in the top secret arena. He has also stated that he hopes far more will be released/
    Glenn Greenwald focusing on issues no one else is in regard to Wikileaks
    http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/
    Getting to Assange through Manning

    Reply

  10. nadine says:

    “Part of the problem is that the US does not respect the
    sovereignity of other states unless they act in full accordance
    with perceived US “national interests”. (Paul Norheim)
    As opposed to Russia? or China? or Iran? or Pakistan? or India? or any other sovereign nation? It’s called the Great Game, Paul. It didn’t stop just because Norway decided to stop playing. Nor will it, for all your moralizing.
    While it continues, diplomacy remains an essential part of the game. Diplomats require secure channels over which they can express their frank opinions, which is what Wikileaks threatens. The bloated US security apparat will have to adapt to the new reality.

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  11. Kathleen says:

    I anyone aware of an alleged rapist being held in solitary confinement for not wearing a condom? As Julian Assange was. Amazing that only a few people are talking about another real hero Bradley Manning and how he is being held in solitary confinement under no charges
    Glenn Greenwald is addressing this over at Salon
    Also of importance
    Thursday Dec 16 th, 500 people protested just outside the White House against the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and drones being used in Pakistan, Afghanistan and that part of the world. The protest was organized by Veterans For Peace and the crowd was made up of Vets, Daniel Ellsberg, Cindy Sheehan, Dr. Margaret Flowers, former CIA analyst Ray McGovern, members of the anti war pro peace organization Code Pink and many others. There has been little to no coverage of the protest or the arrest. No coverage by Rachel Maddow who only seems to cover Iranian

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  12. Don Bacon says:

    DB: “The contrary argument is that the antidote to excessive government secrecy isn’t to defend the illegal release of classified information but to press for change in the laws and procedures that result in excessive classification.”
    People in government obey the law? You must be kidding. The function of people in government is to sustain their power, not obey the law. It is the functions of citizens to challenge these people, and not to expect them to obey the law. They never do.

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  13. Paul Norheim says:

    Sovereign states? How many truly sovereign states are there
    on our planet right now? China? Turkey? Brasil? Israel? A
    handful more?
    Part of the problem is that the US does not respect the
    sovereignity of other states unless they act in full accordance
    with perceived US “national interests”. How many “sovereign
    states” have been invaded by America during the last six
    decades, or got their democratically elected leaders removed
    through coups and assasinations?
    You must be joking, Drew.

    Reply

  14. David Billington says:

    Steve – There is a contrary argument that I think you need to address, even if in the end you
    maintain your view. The contrary argument is that the antidote to excessive government
    secrecy isn’t to defend the illegal release of classified information but to press for change in
    the laws and procedures that result in excessive classification.
    The argument you make seems to imply that since the laws and procedures governing
    classification are unlikely to change anytime soon, and abuses are going on behind the veil of
    secrecy, the breach of law involved in exposing these abuses is a lesser evil than allowing
    them to continue. Your argument is qualified by opposition to certain kinds of releases, but
    the argument you make still raises two problems.
    One is that it cannot be fully squared with the rule of law. This could be one of the many
    cases in our history in which moral action and legal action are not coextensive, but it follows
    then that there is a genuine conflict of principle, between those who stand by the rule of law
    and those who believe that disobedience is proper when law and procedure go too far. The
    problem isn’t just one of administrative disagreement over a matter of degree. I think you
    could acknowledge this.
    The other is that your last sentence could be interpreted as giving up on efforts to amend the
    law. I understand your frustration (and perhaps realism) here but I think you would make a
    stronger case if you called attention to those who are indeed trying through legislative efforts
    to change the law.

    Reply

  15. Don Bacon says:

    POA, you’re not reading my comments which include a secret wikileaks cable, which is a ‘crime’ unless you work for the government and then you’re forbidden to read wikileaks. And raise your hand if you want to take a leak, etc.

    Reply

  16. PissedOffAmerican says:

    And when people like Drew make the assertion that “people will die” as a result of this latest propaganda stunt, he should at least be honest enough to provide some specificity. But he won’t, because he can’t. Such statements are pulled directly out of his ass, where he has chosen to store the script.

    Reply

  17. Don Bacon says:

    drew: “But at the moment we have a world that only offers sovereign states, and people who have acted to further the interests of Obama’s government, are now going to be killed.”
    Huh? This makes no sense.
    If you mean that people are going to die because of wikileaks, do you have any evidence?

    Reply

  18. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “What strikes me about almost all of the documents I’ve read is that they shouldn’t have been classified in the first place”
    NONE of the documents were classified as secret, according to reports I’ve heard.

    Reply

  19. Kathleen says:

    Prof Cole over at Informed Comment has the AlJazeera segment that was devoted to 9/11 responders and their health issues. Stewart brought up how absurd that aljazeera has spent more time on this critical issue than U.S. MSM outlets
    http://www.juancole.com/

    Reply

  20. Paul Norheim says:

    “By conflating Clinton or Bush, with Assange and Manning,
    you’re not offering any logic or historical context.” (Drew)
    The names I mentioned are central in the “logic” and
    historical context of what Wikileaks actually does and have
    done in the past. Your attempt to link people dying due to
    leaks, with “having sex on sofas” and “scoolgirls in Sweden”,
    constitutes the absurd distraction – and certainly no attempt to
    offer “any logic” on these issues.
    Btw, comparing the illegal invasion of Iraq and the pointless,
    but bloody war in Afghanistan with the fight against Nazism,
    further proves that historical context and comparisons are not
    your strengths.

    Reply

  21. Kathleen says:

    This is important
    Zadroga Bill

    Reply

  22. drew says:

    Paul,
    I come up with those sentences because I can think and I believe
    them to be true.
    By conflating Clinton or Bush, with Assange and Manning, you’re
    not offering any logic or historical context. Because if you did
    provide consistent logic and historical context, instead of
    ideological cant, you’d be calling de Gaulle or Churchill or any
    leader of the Norwegian WWII resistence “mass murderers.” But
    they’re Europeans, so you don’t bother, because it collapses your
    argument, that Europeans occupy some position of moral
    superiority that we rubes cannot penetrate with our undeveloped
    minds.
    Assange’s real target, if he thinks at all about anything other
    than picking up schoolgirls in Sweden and having sex on sofas,
    is the notion of the sovereign state acting in its own interest.
    Well, I’m not unsympathetic to that trope, just as I am not
    unsympathetic to Ron Paul celebrating the Assange-leaks. But
    at the moment we have a world that only offers sovereign states,
    and people who have acted to further the interests of Obama’s
    government, are now going to be killed.
    Anyway, I’d not enjoy the next 50 years if I were Assange, and if I
    were Bradley Manning, I’d be praying nonstop for even another
    five years of breathing, because that’s a dude who just bought a
    ticket to a capital crime/treason tribunal.

    Reply

  23. Don Bacon says:

    The bureaucrats are upset that the public will actually learn more about the foolishness that is going on, conducted by people who think they are better able to view foreign affairs than we are. They are the “experts.”
    This was highlighted in the recent AfPak report news conference when a reporter asked about a recent US poll showing sixty percent negative on AfPak. SecDef Gates’s response was that in fact not only in the US but in all 49 US allies the majority of people were against the war, but that wasn’t significant because “leaders have a responsibility to protect the public interest.”
    Apparently the “public interest” is what the state says it is, and not what the public interest actually is.
    Regarding the actual documents, some are intesting and some aren’t. They’re raw information that has been, in many cases, incorrectly classified.
    SECRET – NO FOREIGN (S/NF)
    Information becomes classified “secret” when someone with authority in the executive branch determines that its revelation would cause “grave damage” to national security. No Foreign means that only Americans can know this, ’cause we’re special.
    Here’s an example of a “secret – no foreign” document (extract):
    (S/NF) Mubarak is 81 years old and in reasonably good health; his most notable problem is a hearing deficit in his left ear. He responds well to respect for Egypt and for his position, but is not swayed by personal flattery. Mubarak peppers his observations with anecdotes that demonstrate both his long experience and his sense of humor. . .
    So the “experts” have said it’s no big deal.
    SecDef Gates: “fairly modest”
    “I’ve heard the impact of these releases on our foreign policy described as a meltdown, as a game-changer and so on,” Gates told reporters at the Pentagon last week. “I think those descriptions are fairly significantly overwrought. . . . Is this embarrassing? Yes. Is it awkward? Yes. Consequences for U.S. foreign policy? I think fairly modest.”
    SecState Clinton: “not much news”
    “In fact, some of the analysis that has been done of the information that has been made available through these leaks has basically concluded that there

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  24. FlutterDrew says:

    Assange was finally released from jail after, a few days ago, they “released him on bail.” He’s not nearly through in court though. The U.S. is looking to file a suit against him under the Espionage Act. Obama calls it “deplorable.” Biden thinks that no “substantive” damage has been done. Some say the U.S. is to blame. One story citing people backing Wikileaks and Assange is from armytimes.com. New cables are available too.
    The world is opening. First, open source opened computer programming. Open innovation, open design, open courseware, etc followed. Now, Assange is helping governments to open up.
    This blog is one that I shared a link to in the bledit I just created. I really like this one. Here it is: http://bleditor.com/bledit.php?bleditID=15500

    Reply

  25. Paul Norheim says:

    ” I don’t think people should die to honor this serial
    dater-guy.”
    Me neither. Dying for serial-dater guys like Julian Assange or,
    say, Bill Clinton, would be wrong. But what about dying to
    honor non-serial-daters, gentlemen like Bush, Rumsfeld,
    Wolfowitz, Feith, Petreaus?
    How do you come up with such sentences, Drew? Why do so
    many conservatives in America abhor serial daters more than
    they abhor mass murderers – if their crimes are done in the
    name of “national security” or similar opaque concepts? This
    remains a mystery to me and many Europeans.

    Reply

  26. JohnH says:

    I’m mystified by Obama’s reaction–the US doesn’t give a damn about what people think. So why should they care about Wikileaks?
    To illustrate, Gates said yesterday that public opinion can’t let public opinion affect the [pointless] Afghan war effort!
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20101216/ap_on_go_pr_wh/us_afghanistan_public_opinion
    Secrecy is not the problem here. The real problem is that the Obama cannot explain what the US is up to, either because he is clueless or because his agenda is too nefarious for public exposure. Wikileaks tends to confirm the latter. Secrecy is the by-product.
    But, again, what does it matter, since the US government could really care less what its citizens think?
    The real problem here is the US government’s lack of any sense of accountability to its citizens.

    Reply

  27. drew says:

    I agree that Washington’s fetish for secrecy is due for rehab.
    Because anything can be secret now, any form of “intelligence”
    work is uncritically funded. Most of the intelligence apparatus
    offers the searing critical intelligence of a DMV. Realpolitik, if
    you are a Ron Paul, sort requires one to celebrate Assange.
    But I think, given current law, releasing this information is,
    patently, a form of espionage. It will, if it has not already, cause
    deaths. I don’t think people should die to honor this serial
    dater-guy.
    [Junk culture query: which Hollywood actress will now replace
    the unemployed students on Assange’s arm? It would do
    wonders, certainly, for Lohan’s career. Speaking of which, does
    Assange have an agent yet?]
    I’ll bet Assange’s poignant bravery and Mandela-in-chains
    public statements won’t ever be applied to state secrets from
    Russia or China. He’d be a dead man walking. I’m not so sure
    he’s ready now for the life of caution he’s just imposed on
    himself. Forget the CIA, they’re reading newspapers and writing
    memos in their cubicles. I don’t think all of the western world’s
    intelligence operations, however, are above gifting him with a
    prominent accidental death.

    Reply

  28. Paul Norheim says:

    This is of course also due to the way the leaks are presented:
    raw data, and no narrative. In the absence of a strong
    narrative, Julian Assange becomes the narrative.

    Reply

  29. Paul Norheim says:

    There is this old Chinese saying that ” When a finger points to
    the moon, the imbecile looks at the finger.”
    I suspect that in the coming months even smart people in
    Washington will do their best to direct our attention towards
    the finger.

    Reply

  30. Paul says:

    I think you put the issue very nicely, Steve. What strikes me about almost all of the documents I’ve read is that they shouldn’t have been classified in the first place — i.e. what is sensitive about them has nothing to do with national security but rather to protect officials from embarassment. If the only documents that got classified were documents whose secrecy were truly essential to national security, then I would be more sympathetic to prosecutions like this.

    Reply

  31. Thad Anderson says:

    I agree completely about it being the natural market reaction to the growth of the intelligence apparatus, and to secrecy in US foreign policy generally. It’s ridiculously hard to FOIA anything that touches on national security in any way, because of overly broad application of the national security exemption.
    Two American Presidents have now claimed “mission accomplished” in Iraq, and I’m still waiting for the DoD’s response to my requests for the powerpoint that the DoD’s Office of Special Plans gave Colin Powell to use as a backgrounder for his famous/infamous Feb. 2003 UN speech on WMD in Iraq. My similar request filed with the State Department ended in court, where State was able to demonstrate to the judge that its FOIA officers had conducted an adequate search and were unable to find any responsive documents (and I believe their FOIA officers – they looked and the docs weren’t there, presumably because someone took/destroyed them).
    So while I’m disturbed by Assange’s careless approach on documents that actually could harm national security, I would be lying if I said “he doesn’t have to do that, because there’s already an effective way to get foreign policy documents through our transparency laws.” If Wikileaks is a monster, the inefficacy of FOIA in the national security context is Dr. Frankenstein. The main problem is overly broad application of the national security exemption. Then there are problems like what happened my State Department case, where important documents like the research used to prepare arguably the most significant US foreign policy speech of the last decade have gone missing, without a trace.

    Reply

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