The world’s new infant terrible, WikiLeaks head Julian Assange, is the water cooler topic this week for dropping 250,000 secret State Dept. documents on an unsuspecting populace. There’s no dearth of analysis of the documents. There are numerous pieces citing the most damaging documents and lots of embarrassing sniping like thinking Hamid Karzai is an incompetent pootiehead – a “revelation” that could hardly be called a secret.
Opinions about whether the leak was a good thing or bad thing depend largely on where you stand. Journalists don’t necessarily say Assange was right, they mostly just concentrate on mining the information for interesting bits for reportage. Politicians and diplomats are foursquare against it since the cables are embarrassing and potentially dangerous. As usual, the public is schizophrenic.
Unless you’re a complete pollyana that believes all governments are intrinsically good and that speaking publically and directly between countries is always the right strategy, you miss the point that there are bad guys out there – sometimes even including the US. To deal with the bad guys, a certain amount of secrecy, spying, and circumspect diplomacy is required.
But not all secrets are created equal.
Not All Secrets are Created Equal
The government frequently classifies information more tightly than is probably warranted. After all, classifying secrets is a subjective task. I’m sure the leaks reveal some of these over-protected facts, but that’s not necessarily a reason to release them. Some are things the public has a right to know, others are better kept quiet. In other words, The Big Dick™ keeping his appointment calendars secret surely carries less weight – some would say no weight at all – than a memo revealing nuclear launch codes, but that’s “above our pay grade”.
Once the leaks are in the open, journalists are faced with their own dilemma – report on them thereby expanding their dissemination or keep mum even though the information represents a horse that has already escaped the barn. There are points to both positions.
The public is of both minds, although both minds probably read the leaks with interest and sometimes amusement – even the folks who are against the release. They’re like people who go to NASCAR races and swear they aren’t there to see the crashes.
Then in our present rancorosity, charges, counter-charges, rumor, and fact congeal into a dirty mess. Sarah Plain leads this camp. Big surprise here, she thinks Obama is an incompetent boob who let it happen. She trumpets that the administration should be pursuing Assange like Osama Bin Laden. She also thinks Assange is a traitor, apparently unaware that he is Australian so if there is any treason, it’s between him and the Land Down Under.
In fact, Obama is ultimately responsible because it happened on his watch, but that doesn’t mean his response is any more incompetent than Sarah’s would be in the unlikely event she was in Obama’s shoes.
Spying and leaks are notoriously difficult to detect beforehand. Normally, the culprit either needs to be the incompetent one or the information has to leave the building before you even know there’s a problem. To one degree or another, this has happened to every administration. The Obaminites already have Army Specialist Bradley Manning in custody and is conducting additional investigations to catch any new culprits and tighten security.
Hunting down Assange like the second coming of the Cave Dweller might sound all mavericky, but it isn’t necessary. Sweden has a detention order out for him and his lawyer has regular contact with him. Finding him using the investigative power of the entire western world shouldn’t be that hard. Heck, we could even send The Big Dick™ or his sock puppet George out to waterboard the lawyer to find Assasnge.
Legal Remidies are Never Quick
The administration isn’t letting the legal issue go away. AG Eric Holder is conducting an “active, ongoing criminal investigation” into the leak. However, it’s not clear exactly what the US can do legally to apprehend and prosecute an Australian who may be in Sweden and is already in legal hot water there not to mention the other countries looking for his crapulent hide. Legal remedies are never quick, especially with multiple countries involved.
As for freezing funds, the US can’t freeze funds elsewhere or as is likely in this case protected or hidden, without the legal help of those countries. Besides, I’m not sure anyone knows how much WikiLeaks or Assange has.
Does the Obama adminsitration deserve criticism for what has happened? Yes, it happened on their watch, just like 9/11 happened to the last administration’s. Do things need to be changed? Yes, there always are when something happens and you find holes in what you’re doing. Has the administration been slow on the uptake? Yes, but probably not any more so than similar problems happening in earlier administrations.
Assange says his next docudump is on a large US bank (rumored to be Bank of America). Once this one comes around will Obama again be at fault or accused of some nefarious plan to intentionally cause the leaks as some have charged this time? I suspect so, but we’ll see. Miracles do happen, but there are some who believe Obama is some sort of Machiavellian schemer who “hates America”, which would seem to be at direct odds with the same people who think he’s too incompetent to tie his shoes.
The truth is none of us know what he’s doing or will do or how fast he will do it. At this point, it’s a secret.
You know, that thing he is supposed to be unable to keep.
Cross posted at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks!