Should America tolerate Wikileaks or destroy it like any other national security threat?

Should America tolerate Wikileaks or destroy it like any other national security threat?

Summary: Our own Jason Perlow sent me a link to a Washington Post editorial entitled WikiLeaks must be stopped.It's written by Marc A.

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TOPICS: CXO
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Our own Jason Perlow sent me a link to a Washington Post editorial entitled WikiLeaks must be stopped.

It's written by Marc A. Thiessen, a Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative policy institute. Whether or not you normally agree with AEI's rather right-wing views, Thiessen has a point.

He basically argues what I've talked about before: that Wikileaks is distributing classified information and putting America, American troops, and world diplomacy at risk.

I did an interview on Miami's WFTL last week where I discussed many of these issues and, to a degree, say pretty much what Thiessen is saying. You can listen to the interview here (you'll need to scroll down until you find a slightly misspelled version of my name on July 29).

So, should Wikileaks be stopped?

Wikileaks is a particularly modern phenomenon. It takes advantage of a Web site's ability to operate below the radar and yet have a global reach.

On one hand, Wikileaks is just a modern version of age-old media. After all, mainstream media publications have been reporting on juicy, if secret stories for as long as they could get their hands on them. Watergate and the Washington Post itself make for a prime example.

On the other hand, Wikileaks may be engaging in a form of public espionage. In the old days, if someone wanted to pass secrets from one nation to another, they often used a form of spycraft called a dead drop, where information would be left by one spy for another to pick up.

In those days, the stolen information was only viewed by the opposing nation. In Wikileaks' case, that information is (generally) available publicly. There is a curious exception. Wikileaks is currently hosting a large, highly encrypted file entitled simply "insurance". Since we can clearly see the file is there, we must assume that Julian Assange is making some sort of implied threat -- to someone.

Governments often do bad things and they often like to hide those bad things from public view. One of the very best ways to make sure our leaders stay on the straight and narrow is bringing those bad behaviors into the full light of public view.

This is what Assange, Wikileaks' curious leader, claims Wikileaks is trying to do. Personally, I don't think that's the case. I think Assange is in it for the publicity and is turning Wikileaks into his own notoriety engine. I think Wikileaks isn't on the side of the angels.

I think Wikileaks is trying to generate chaos for the sake of generating chaos.

Here's why.

If Wikileaks really wanted to expose wrong-doing, like Woodward and Bernstein did in 1972, they would have boiled down those 90,000 documents into a few pages that constituted some sort of smoking gun.

It would have been possible to expose wrongdoing without putting our troops, national security, confidential informers, and diplomatic efforts at risk. That's how real investigative journalism is done.

Instead, Assange did deals with major newspapers, shopped his story, dumped documents stolen by a love-starved intelligence analyst into the public pool, sat back, and waited to see how it would all turn out.

That's not exposing wrong-doing. That's fomenting chaos.

It's a shame, really, because the concept of what a Wikileaks could be is both fascinating and important. But there is a line between leaking anything, and leaking confidential national security information that can get people killed.

In that, I have to agree with Thiessen. If Wikileaks can't manage itself and can't control whether it's releasing dangerous information, then it needs to be controlled. In any instance where our national security is at risk, America needs to take action.

Practically, that's easier said than done. At the speed with which it's possible to mirror data (Can you say rsync? Sure, I knew you could!), it might be hard to chase down all the various mirrors and recover stolen information.

For that's what it is. Information was stolen and needs to be recovered. America's national interests need to be protected. If that means capturing Assange and effectively destroying Wikileaks, so be it.

Honestly, though, I wish this weren't the case. I wish Wikileaks had taken a slightly higher road and worked within the bounds of journalistic ethics. But since they're apparently willing to sacrifice the lives of American troops and the people who protect them, I agree with Thiessen.

I believe Wikileaks has gone too far. It's time to take the site down. If that requires the full might and power of the United States, so be it.

See also: I hate stupid hate Revisiting Wikileaks/Lamo and why antiwar fascists suck Adrian Lamo, Wikileaks, and what it means to be a patriot

When I post articles like this, where I take America's side, we have some readers living outside the U.S. who tend to disagree. To them, I say this: you're willing to disagree, but if you do, please post your nation of origin. It'd be nice to know where you're coming from. Thanks.

Topic: CXO

About

David Gewirtz, Distinguished Lecturer at CBS Interactive, is an author, U.S. policy advisor, and computer scientist. He is featured in the History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets and is a member of the National Press Club.

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371 comments
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  • RE: Should America tolerate Wikileaks or destroy it like any other national security threat?

    Hard to say, because you have freedom of speech/press in the United States. The site is not bound to the UCMJ. They really aren't doing anything illegal in the sense that they never agreed to keep documents confidential. The confidential documents just landed on their digital doorstep. Same thing with the press in printed newspapers when they break a story and do investigations. My take, I don't think the site necessarily needs to come down but they could be a little more strict with what they post. Another idea is only documents 10 years or older be posted, problem is trying to enforce such a rule. I'm in the good ol U.S.A.
    Loverock Davidson
    • RE: Should America tolerate Wikileaks or destroy it like any other national security threat?

      @Loverock Davidson are you interested in 10 year old news?
      Al_nyc
      • RE: Should America tolerate Wikileaks or destroy it like any other national security threat?

        @Al_nyc I myself do not have enough information
        alex6500@...
      • RE: Should America tolerate Wikileaks or destroy it like any other national security threat?

        @Al_nyc
        Sometimes I am. I'd like to hear about the bombers flying over Panama or what happened in the first gulf war, stuff the news wasn't allowed to see but now that its in the past it would be safe to let that information go.
        Loverock Davidson
      • RE: Should America tolerate Wikileaks or destroy it like any other national security threat?

        @Al_nyc
        Loverock loves 10 year old news. Microsoft was on top back then ;-)
        shis-ka-bob
      • RE: Should America tolerate Wikileaks or destroy it like any other national security threat?

        @Al_nyc Lots of people like 10 year old (or older) news. If not, then the History Channel on cable would not be as popular.
        swattz101
    • Actually...

      @Loverock Davidson
      This is illegal in at least two ways:
      1) Possesion of stolen property
      2) Possesion of classified information

      I guess I'm just disappointed that the majority of the posts here are in favor of our troops being slaughtered just to spite the American Security policies.
      I don't remember "Spite" being one of the seven deadly sins, but I sure think it should be (I don't believe in deadly sins, but I do believe in right and wrong).
      The proper response to Government mis-behaving, should be laws that prohibit the bad deeds that our Govt. does, not to punish Americans.
      We, the American people need to have visibility of our Govt's actions, that visibility should not be available the world. We need to be more involved in setting policy, not some elected representative or some security director, who has a personal agenda. The people need to have oversight and approval authority. We, through our actions, are responsible for our Govt. and it's actions.
      Steve@...
      • Re: Actually

        @Steve@... Under which case or statute was information deemed "stolen property" for the purpose of a "Possession of Stolen Propery" charge? I can't find any.

        I believe that disseminating classified information that serves no purpose but to expose secrets and not wrongdoing is reprehensible, pathetic and indefensible. If the release was reckless and people or property get hurt in the process the releaser of such information cannot hide behind the US constitution to shield against civil liability. However, the framers of the constitution were explicit and thoughtful of the advantages and pitfalls of an unrestricted press, and I find their 250 year old arguments far more compelling than any I see here as to why it is of paramount importance to allow such stupidity. Those injured can still do some flogging in court after the fact.
        GabeFree
      • RE: Should America tolerate Wikileaks or destroy it like any other national security threat?

        @Steve@...
        1) If it was emailed to them without them asking then I don't think it would hold up well.
        2) The site never agreed to keep the information classified. They aren't subjected to UCMJ rules. They never really agreed with any parties saying information is classified.

        No one is in favor of slaughtering troops nor did anyone suggest that. In fact I said have tighter restrictions on the information being released, but there is no way to enforce that and hope the wikileaks people are moral/ethical.
        Loverock Davidson
      • RE: Should America tolerate Wikileaks or destroy it like any other national security threat?

        @Steve@... But that implies watergate was illegal, surely tapes were classified and declared a nation secret an did not belong to the person who gave them to the Washington Post. I also suspect that some in the media are jealous of Wikileaks success recently.
        Also is not there a public interest elelminate declaring stolen propert illegal.
        Knowles2
      • RE:Actually...

        @Steve@... I guess I'm just disappointed that the majority of the posts here are in favor of our troops being slaughtered just to spite the American Security policies...

        Wow, that is quite a reach. Where did you get that idea? Can anyone point to any real damage to our nations security or document a single injury or death related to Wikileaks? If Wikileaks is taken down it will just be the latest in a long line of voices silenced in the name of 'national security'.
        richdave
      • Really Steve..

        @Steve@...
        Troops being slaughtered? How many innocent people did the United States slaughter in Japan during WWII? I'm not saying I hope our men and women die, however karma is a bitch.
        zeb112000@...
      • Quantify that please

        @Steve@...

        I'd love for you to explain that claim, that troops are being slaughtered because of the WikiLeaks documents. I only ask because I know you can't. If anything, the documents show that American troops will continue to be "slaughtered" as a matter of policy and leaking them will likely *save* lives going forward.

        Stratfor did a wonderful piece of analysis on the situation if you care to read it: http://www.stratfor.com/weekly/20100726_wikileaks_and_afghan_war
        ianarmstrong
      • RE: Should America tolerate Wikileaks or destroy it like any other national security threat?

        @Steve@... Our troops are being slaughtered because anyone who tries to get the truth out for everyone to see is prosecuted by people with minds unable to understand the big picture. These documents exposed many reasons for this "slaughter" that is being unlawfully kept from us by people in our government trying to cover up their own actions.
        RedVeg
      • Illegal is the point

        @Steve@... Your first point of illegality is right on. However, we cannot try to punish organizations (govt, internet or whatever). It is the misbehavior of individuals that must be dealt with. The Army Private could arguably charged with Treason in time of War. As to the poster upon Wikileaks there are at least charges of receiving/possessing stolen documents.
        Sagax-
      • Illegal where? and 2 other points (from Australia)

        @Steve@...
        Assange is either Icelandic or Australian (like me) depending on who he has annoyed recently. Your rules about classified and the like would probably apply to me if I was living in the US but if I'm in Australia, I don't care what you stamp on your bit of paper unless the Australian Government decides it's restricted.

        Mr Gertwiz is a bit concerned that no smoking gun has been synthesized from the raw data. I like my data raw thanks. Crisp and fresh like my home grown apples. No waxy spin added for your political view point and gain. Just the facts mam. Some folks like their information pureed like baby food, with corn syrup, flavor and enhancements added. Not me, I'm a slow food fan, if I want adulterations, reduction or concentration, I'll do my own.

        In Australia 100's of 1000's marched to try to stop the then Howard government from sending troops to Iraq. The government ignored them, and has been lying about the state of affairs since. "We're doing good"- torture
        "We're fighting for a stable and prosperous Iraq"- that went well I see
        "There are weapons of Mass destruction in the hands of a lunatic"- yes but he's not called Saddam
        "We're having success"- 17 dead in our fairly small contribution

        If Assange had hacked US servers I'd understand the angst, feel sympathy. Instead someone the US can punish gave them to him. So punish away. Prove how tolerant, free and civilized you are. Show how you value freedom of speech, set an example to the fledgling government of Hamid Karzai, a role-model you'll be proud for him to follow.
        The world is certainly watching.
        kostchtchy@...
      • RE: Should America tolerate Wikileaks or destroy it like any other national security threat?

        @Steve@... Extremely well put !!! You don't have to like what WikiLeaks did to recognize that it is the UNPOPULAR uses of freedom of speech that are most in need of their constitutional protections. While I would not have done what WikiLeaks did, I recognize their right to make that choice.
        TecKnight
      • Nihilism vs Government Abuse of Power

        @Steve@... The danger is that people in power can claim just about anything that threatens their power as a "threat to the troops". This gets the general public behind them even if the threat to the troops is negligible. War is, in and of itself, a threat to the safety of our troops. And the war we're fighting is an unusual one where the opposition does not have an intel apparatus or massive infrastructure like we do. Al Qaeda and the Taliban's goals appear to be to create chaos and then take advantage of the power vacuum that results--something that doesn't require a whole lot of intelligence (in both senses of the word) to accomplish.

        This does not mean I support the reckless or nihilistic release of information that does nothing to hold power in check. If anything the behavior of Wikileaks (as I understand it through the lens of the popular media) will do more to damage free speech and freedom of information flow than it might do to undermine abuse of power.

        The problem with creating laws that prevent the government from misbehaving is that the government enforces the laws. There are probably already laws against what the government does covertly in our name, but if no body knows what they do, then how can the laws be enforced if they could be?
        technology@...
      • Actually

        @Steve@...
        Where is the evidence that troops are being slaughtered? Stick to the facts and not emotional scare campaigns based on thoughtless assumptions like Bush and his cowboys did. Sometimes a country as complacent in its ego as the USA is and has a recent history of murdering 10s of thousands of innocent people in many countries where it has corporate interests (even sponsoring dictators to keep those countries in line - yes the rest of the world knows even if you don't) needs to have its self shaken and woken up by a bit of 'chaos'. A lot of US foreign policy is deadly to others and its crimes need airing. So a bit of exposure of its dark dealings is not so bad. The image of US security is quite funny - Men in Black style, you know, dark glasses, dark cars, dark suits, plus dark minds, lots of bloated self importance. No harm in having a bit of truth now and then. The only US deaths that might happen are due to US incompetence and over confidence in the field. Your governement has already said it isn't particularly dangerous info anyway so please don't get hysterical.
        bsit@...
      • RE: Should America tolerate Wikileaks or destroy it like any other national security threat?

        @Gabefree

        Gabe, the fact is that a government having secrets AT ALL for longer than a week is 'wrongdoing'. There is no need for our government to keep secrets for YEARS before they release all the information.

        To be blunt, the only reason to do that is because they know the United States citizenry would NOT like what they were doing when they found out all that they were doing and heads would roll.... sometimes literally!
        Lerianis10