The release of State Department cables by Julian Assange at WikiLeaks has continued to have an impact at home and abroad. I am still not sure how it is this man has not been charged with espionage, or Pfc Bradley Manning with treason for providing classified information to a foreign national, but that is just me. That Assange is still free after not one, not two, but three massive data dumps of sensitive, classified information, is beyond me.
Recently, Philip Shenon of The Daily Beast had this article highlighting some of the effects of these leaks, After the Leaks, the Shakeup. This is disturbing, to put it mildly:
The Obama administration is planning a major reshuffling of diplomats, military officers, and intelligence operatives at U.S. embassies around the world out of concern that WikiLeaks has made it impossible—if not dangerous—for many of the Americans to remain in their current posts.
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 shakeups are most likely at embassies where U.S. diplomats and other officials wrote classified cables—made public by WikiLeaks over the last week, or soon to be made public, with the Americans identified by name and title—in which they were harshly critical of corrupt or incompetent local government leaders.
I find this so troubling on a number of levels, not the least of which is that Assange has put lives at risk as a result of his personal vendetta against the United States. Additionally, he has ruined the work of some of our diplomats who will have to be reassigned:
[snip] “We’re going to have to pull out some of our best people,” said a senior U.S. national-security official, “because they dared to report back the truth about the nations in which they serve.”
"That's another part of the tragedy of this," said a senior U.S. national-security official. "We're going to have to pull out some of our best people—the diplomats who best represented the United States and were the most thoughtful in their analysis—because they dared to report back the truth about the nations in which they serve."
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. [snip]
Former President Bill Clinton also stated that these leaks were going to cost lives. In addition to that most chilling thought, the State Department has to withdraw diplomats who have laid groundwork to establish diplomatic relations, thus ending all of their carefully orchestrated work. All because of this one man who stole our classified cables.
Tell me again why we have not levied espionage charges against this man?
There is a great deal to this article, and I urge you to read the entire piece, but there was a component of this that was particularly troubling:
[snip] In an interview with The Daily Beast, Edelman, now teaching at the School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, would not discuss the contents of the cables, because they are officially still classified. But he said their public release was one small part of the "absolute catastrophe to American statecraft" that would be created by the WikiLeaks dump.
"There's every prospect of people getting killed over this," he said, noting that State Department cables often identify local intelligence contacts who might now be targeted for violence. "Certainly you're going to have to be very careful what you say to an American diplomat, if you say anything at all."
Administration officials say it is impossible to predict how many American diplomats and other embassy officials may have to be moved out of their posts, and from which embassies and consulates, because it is still unclear exactly what more WikiLeaks intends to make public. [snip]
Indeed, Assange has threatened to release a tremendous amount of information regarding Gitmo and BP, which is being held by approximately 100,000 individuals should anything happen to the site, and to him, presumably. This is in addition to the promised dump of information regarding the banking industry, including Bank of America. In other words, he is holding the United States hostage.
Again, he has been charged with no crimes by our government.
Here is something else that I find to be very disturbing:
[snip] The Obama administration appears to have given up all hope of stopping the release of the cables since Assange is believed to have shared the full library with some of his deputies within WikiLeaks.
State Department officials insisted there was no panic within the department over the release of the cables by WikiLeaks, especially since Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her aides have anticipated the release of the cables for more than six months.
Um, what? They knew this was coming (again - for the third time), and their response was what, exactly? To try and hack into WikiLeaks, plant a virus to disrupt the flow of this classified information that might endanger lives? No, not exactly:
[snip]A White House official tells The Daily Beast that "there have been no heart attacks" and that the State Department has been working for months to try to identify the U.S. diplomats and their local intelligence sources whose work—and safety—might be compromised in the cables released by WikiLeaks.
"We've known about this for some time," Assistant Secretary of State P.J. Crowley, the department chief spokesman, told reporters last week. "The compromise happened months ago. And we have been working diligently with other agencies of government to assess the impact, understand what might have been downloaded and provided outside of the government. We've been prepared for this day for some time."
Philip Shenon is an investigative reporter based in Washington D.C. Almost all of his career was spent at The New York Times, where he was a reporter from 1981 until 2008. He is the bestselling author of The Commission: The Uncensored History of the 9/11 Investigation. He has reported from several warzones and was one of two reporters from The Times embedded with American ground troops during the invasion of Iraq in the 1991 Gulf War.
Ah, yes - to prepare for the release by identifying agents and diplomats. Well, that is important, I'll grant you. But if we are supposed to be the most powerful nation on EARTH, how is it that this one man, Julian Assange, aided by some lowly private, is able to put lives at risk without the US impeding him? Why has he not been arrested? Why was he allowed to release such sensitive information?
I am no computer guru by a long shot, but I do know that people are able to plant viruses all the time. Most of us have had to deal with the fallout of a Trojan Horse getting into our computers. Is it really possible that the United States does not have hackers capable of doing that to shut down this site and corrupting the files? For real? I just find that to be incredulous - aren't we supposed to have the best of the best, the brightest of the brightest working for our government to protect our national security and classified information?
I still do not understand how this private was able to gather all of this information. Who hasn't seen spy shows in which the security of information is critical, and any attempt to swipe it sets off alarms all over the place? Do we not have that capability? Apparently, that is only in the movies...
Evidently not. So, PJ Crowley's response to all of this is that they had been prepared for this day for some time? How about not allowing that day to happen at all? How about interrupting the flow of our classified information to the rest of the world? How about tracking down this asshole and ARRESTING him?
Am I missing something here? Because I am just at a loss as to why our government would not find a way to stop Assange. Again, that could just be me...
UPDATE: Julian Assange has been arrested in London on the Swedish sex crime charges.
In response to my queries, a reader at NQ provided this article from the Washington Post, "Why Prosecuting WikiLeaks' Julian Assange Won't Be Easy," which states this:
[snip] What law did Assange violate? It will surprise many that there is no statute making it illegal to reveal classified information. There are statutes that criminalize the disclosure of very specific types of classified information, such as the identity of a covert operative (think Valerie Plame) or "codes, ciphers or cryptographic systems." But there is no catch-all law that simply says, "Thou shalt not disclose classified information."
Indeed, when Congress tried to enact such a statute, President Bill Clinton sensibly vetoed it. His reason: The government suffers from such an overclassification problem - some intelligence agencies classify even newspaper articles - that a law of this sort would end up criminalizing the disclosure of innocuous information. And even that vetoed statute would have applied only to government officials, not to private individuals or journalists.
It IS a surprise, but that explains why "news" outlets like the NY Times could reprint the classified information.
But there is also this, which is why people like Sen. Diane Feinstein want to charge Assange with espionage:
Instead, prosecutors in the Assange case, like the prosecutors in the AIPAC case I handled (author Baruch Weiss), would resort to the Espionage Act of 1917, an archaic, World War I-era statute that prohibits "willfully" disclosing "information relating to the national defense." According to Judge T.S. Ellis in the AIPAC case, this means that the prosecution must prove, among other things, that a defendant knew that the information he was disclosing was potentially damaging to national security and that he was violating the law. [snip] (Click HERE to read the rest.)
How could Assange NOT think it would damage the United States? Indeed, isn't that his point? Moreover, iff Assange commissioned the theft of this information, that seems like espionage to me. He obtained it somehow. And I still do not understand how this private was able to get away with this information, which raises some other questions...