Thursday, December 16, 2010

Wiki Not Only Source of Leaks

December 16, 2010, 9:00 a.m.

We Have Found the Enemy
(bought to you by*)

While embarrassed U.S. Government officials in the State Department and Department of Justice are busily trying to come up with some legal theory to persecute Julian Assange beyond what the Swedes have devised, it turns out that other officials have been busily leaking material more significant than any Wikileaks ever dreamed of revealing.

(See, Nicholas Johnson, "Wikileaks Random Thoughts & Comments," December 7, 2010; Nicholas Johnson, "Wikileaks In Its Own Words," December 3, 2010;
Charlie Savage, "U.S. Tries to Build Case for Conspiracy by WikiLeaks," New York Times, December 16, 2010, p. A1; Elisabeth Bumiller, "Intelligence Reports Offer Dim View of Afghan War," New York Times, December 15, 2010, p. A1.)

As the Times' Charlie Savage reports this morning, above,
Since WikiLeaks began making public large caches of classified United States government documents this year, Justice Department officials have been struggling to come up with a way to charge Mr. Assange with a crime . . . including the Espionage Act of 1917 and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1986.

But while prosecutors have used such laws to go after leakers and hackers, they have never successfully prosecuted recipients of leaked information for passing it on to others — an activity that can fall under the First Amendment’s strong protections of speech and press freedoms.
How ironic that on the same front page of the same newspaper the day before, Elisabeth Bumiller was passing along to Times' readers the leaks from highly classified government documents provided to her by U.S. government officials, above -- clearly not all (if, indeed, any) of whom had the legal authority to declassify them.

Bear in mind, these are not like a Wikileaks' State Department cable that might report a single diplomat's impressions of a given individual, event or situation. These are the joint product of our nation's 16 top intelligence agencies in what's called the National Intelligence Estimates. And they happen to deal with a debate currently ongoing within the Administration regarding the future of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan and Pakistan; a debate that pits the Department of Defense against the intelligence community. Bumiller reports these "two new classified intelligence reports [one on Afghanistan, the other on Pakistan] offer a . . . negative assessment and say there is a limited chance of success . . .."

And who are her unnamed sources? "[A] number of American officials," referred to simply as "officials" throughout the very revealing story.

Savage reports the Justice Department may have already convened a grand jury to consider possible charges against Assange -- who is probably a constitutionally protected distributor of often-inconsequential cables, not the original hacker or leaker.

Will there also be a DOJ grand jury to consider prosecution of the officials who clearly were the leakers of classified intelligence reports to The New York Times?

Will there be a prosecution of The New York Times and the other leading global newspapers that have also performed a much more consequential (in terms of size of audience) distribution of the cables than anything Wikileaks ever did?

To paraphrase Jesus' comment regarding the medical profession, "Politician, heal thyself." Luke 4:23.

Or, as cartoonist Walt Kelly once had his popular character, Pogo, observe, "We have met the enemy and he is us."

* Why do I put this blog ID at the top of the entry, when you know full well what blog you're reading? Because there are a number of Internet sites that, for whatever reason, simply take the blog entries of others and reproduce them as their own without crediting the source. I don't mind the flattering attention, but would appreciate acknowledgment as the source -- even if I have to embed it myself.
-- Nicholas Johnson
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Nick said...

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