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November 30, 2010

The Upside of WikiLeaks: Russia Next?

Actually, I believe Assange is a coward who only wishes to preen as a dangerous rebel with states that will not kill him (such as America), and thus capitalize on unearned status -- he likes to play the hunted revolutionary without having to actually be hunted.

When it comes to a state that will in fact kill him, he will fold like a cheap suit. (I realize that makes no sense.)

So I doubt that Captain Ed's belief that Assange is about to provoke the wrong enemy is correct.

I doubt it will happen, I can't help but wanting this dump to occur:

National security officials say that the National Security Agency, the U.S. government’s eavesdropping agency, has already picked up tell-tale electronic evidence that WikiLeaks is under close surveillance by the Russian FSB, that country’s domestic spy network, out of fear in Moscow that WikiLeaks is prepared to release damaging personal information about Kremlin leaders.

“We may not have been able to stop WikiLeaks so far, and it’s been frustrating,” a U.S. law-enforcement official tells The Daily Beast. “The Russians play by different rules.” He said that if WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange, follow through on threats to post highly embarrassing information about the Russian government and what is assumed to be massive corruption among its leaders, “the Russians will be ruthless in stopping WikiLeaks.”

Although these leaks have been damaging to foreign policy -- especially in Yemen, where a cooperate government was just outed as dishonestly claiming it wasn't cooperative -- there are some upsides.

Revelations about Iran and North Korea should not have been suppressed from the American public. We are entitled to know, roughly, what enemy nations are doing, and how great a danger they pose. In the case of Iran and North Korea, America's official word tends to strongly understate how much danger these states pose.

This is one of the greatest powers of the presidency -- the president may decide what is and what is not a foreign policy threat or crisis. If he wishes to take action against such a state, he outs the information about it (as we did in the case of Iraq).

On the other hand, if he doesn't wish to act, he also doesn't want the public clamoring for action he has no intention of carrying through on, so he simply suppresses information about how much of a threat a nation poses. This doesn't make the threat go away -- it only takes it off the front pages. It removes the threat only from the public debate.

George W. Bush suppressed information about how truly bad-behaving North Korea was, because he was not ready to kick that particular hornet's nest, and Obama has continued doing so.

In this case, WikiLeaks has outed information we should have known all along -- that North Korea is providing advanced missiles to Iran, for example. The reason to withhold this information had little to do with protecting America's foreign policy interest; it had instead to do protecting the current and past administrations' political interest.

No president wants it talked about in the press that there's a pressing foreign threat that he intends to studiously ignore, and that the nation's real policy regarding that threat is to cross fingers and hope for the best.

Assange is a rotten bastard who deserves a bad end. I'm not claiming he's the hero he preens as or anything close to it. He's a villain. But administrations do typically attempt to "manage foreign policy" not by actually managing it, but primarily by managing public opinion about their policy (or lack thereof), and they do so by hiding information from the public.

That's an improper use of the classification system. It's not letting Assange off the hook to say that Obama shouldn't be hiding evidence of Iran's and North Korea's bad behavior from the public just to keep us in the dark about it and keep his poll ratings from dropping another 3 or 4 points.

The ironic thing is that Assange has outed more information about the bad behavior of hostile foreign states than about his true enemy, America. But perhaps that's predictable, since America is a well-behaved state. Perhaps a little too well-behaved for its own good.

By the Way: A spy-type did write to me yesterday, to say that yes, intelligence agents already do prepare multiple versions of their reports in different levels of sensitivity.

The problem, this guy noted, is simply that this idiot private Manning was an intelligence analyst, which he never should have been (indeed, he shouldn't have been in the military at all), and thus had access to secret documents in raw form as part of his job.

Another problem that was noted is that we make too many things secret, which then has a bad effect: Because so many things are secret (or top secret, or above that), many people wind up not being able to do their jobs without secret (or better) clearance, so we grant them that clearance, and inadvertently wind up giving them access to stuff that's unnecessary to do their jobs as well as a lot more sensitive. His suggestion was to make fewer things secret (just make them classified) so that we can give the less-dangerous classified clearance to more people and the more-dangerous secret clearance to fewer people.

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posted by Ace at 02:17 PM

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