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The response to Wikileaks is even more revealing than the leaks themselves

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Very interesting what has been said. Glenn Greenwald has an excellent column in which he summarizes some of the responses to the leaks. You really should read the entire column. Here are a few snippets from it:

The WikiLeaks disclosure has revealed not only numerous government secrets, but also the driving mentality of major factions in our political and media class.  Simply put, there are few countries in the world with citizenries and especially media outlets more devoted to serving, protecting and venerating government authorities than the U.S.  Indeed, I don’t quite recall any entity producing as much bipartisan contempt across the American political spectrum as WikiLeaks has:  as usual, for authoritarian minds, those who expose secrets are far more hated than those in power who commit heinous acts using secrecy as their principal weapon.

First we have the group demanding that Julian Assange be murdered without any charges, trial or due process.  There was Sarah Palin on on Twitter illiterately accusing WikiLeaks — a stateless group run by an Australian citizen — of "treason"; she thereafter took to her Facebook page to object that Julian Assange was "not pursued with the same urgency we pursue al Qaeda and Taliban leaders" (she also lied by stating that he has "blood on his hands":  a claim which even the Pentagon admits is untrue).  Townhall’s John Hawkins has a column this morning entitled "5 Reasons The CIA Should Have Already Killed Julian Assange."  That Assange should be treated as a "traitor" and murdered with no due process has been strongly suggested if not outright urged by the likes of Marc Theissen, Seth Lipsky (with Jeffrey Goldberg posting Lipsky’s column and also illiterately accusing Assange of "treason"), Jonah Goldberg, Rep. Pete King, and, today, The Wall Street Journal.

The way in which so many political commentators so routinely and casually call for the eradication of human beings without a shred of due process is nothing short of demented.  Recall Palin/McCain adviser Michael Goldfarb’s recent complaint that the CIA failed to kill Ahmed Ghailani when he was in custody, or Glenn Reynolds’ morning demand — in between sips of coffee — that North Korea be destroyed with nuclear weapons ("I say nuke ‘em. And not with just a few bombs").  Without exception, all of these people cheered on the attack on Iraq, which resulted in the deaths of more than 100,000 innocent human beings, yet their thirst for slaughter is literally insatiable.  After a decade’s worth of American invasions, bombings, occupations, checkpoint shootings, drone attacks, assassinations and civilian slaughter, the notion that the U.S. Government can and should murder whomever it wants is more frequent and unrestrained than ever. . . 

And this:

. . . Then, with some exceptions, we have the group which — so very revealingly — is the angriest and most offended about the WikiLeaks disclosures:  the American media, Our Watchdogs over the Powerful and Crusaders for Transparency.  On CNN last night, Wolf Blitzer was beside himself with rage over the fact that the U.S. Government had failed to keep all these things secret from him:

Are they doing anything at all to make sure if some 23-year-old guy, allegedly, starts downloading hundreds of thousands of cables, hundreds of thousands of copies of sensitive information, that no one pays attention to that, no one in the security system of the United States government bothers to see someone is downloading all these millions — literally millions of documents? . . . at this point, you know, it — it’s amazing to me that the U.S. government security system is so lax that someone could allegedly do this kind of damage just by simply pretending to be listening to a Lady Gaga C.D. and at the same time downloading all these kinds of documents.

Then — like the Good Journalist he is — Blitzer demanded assurances that the Government has taken the necessary steps to prevent him, the media generally and the citizenry from finding out any more secrets:  "Do we know yet if they’ve [done] that fix? In other words, somebody right now who has top secret or secret security clerics can no longer download information onto a C.D. or a thumb drive? Has that been fixed already?"  The central concern of Blitzer — one of our nation’s most  honored "journalists" — is making sure that nobody learns what the U.S. Government is up to.

Then there’s the somewhat controversial claim that our major media stars are nothing more than Government spokespeople and major news outlets little more than glorified state-run media.  Blitzer’s CNN reporting provided the best illustration I’ve seen in awhile demonstrating how true that is.  Shortly before bringing on David Gergen to rail against WikiLeaks’ "contemptible behavior" (while, needless to say, not giving voice to any defenders of WikiLeaks), this is what was heard in the first several minutes of the CNN broadcast (video below): . . .

And this:

. . . Then we have The New York Times, which was denied access to the documents by WikiLeaks this time but received them from The Guardian.  That paper’s Executive Editor, Bill Keller, appeared in a rather amazing BBC segment yesterday with Carne Ross, former British Ambassador to the U.N., who mocked and derided Keller for being guided by the U.S. Government’s directions on what should and should not be published:

KELLER:  The charge the administration has made is directed at WikiLeaks: they’ve very carefully refrained from criticizing the press for the way we’ve handled this material . . . . We’ve redacted them to remove the names of confidential informants . . . and remove other material at the recommendation of the U.S. Government we were convinced could harm National Security . . .

HOST (incredulously):  Just to be clear, Bill Keller, are you saying that you sort of go to the Government in advance and say:  "What about this, that and the other, is it all right to do this and all right to do that, and you get clearance, then?

KELLER:  We are serially taking all of the cables we intend to post on our website to the administration, asking for their advice.  We haven’t agreed with everything they suggested to us, but some of their recommendations we have agreed to:  they convinced us that redacting certain information would be wise.

ROSS:  One thing that Bill Keller just said makes me think that one shouldn’t go to The New York Times for these telegrams — one should go straight to the WikiLeaks site.  It’s extraordinary that the New York Times is clearing what it says about this with the U.S. Government, but that says a lot about the politics here, where Left and Right have lined up to attack WikiLeaks – some have called it a "terrorist organization."

It’s one thing for the Government to shield its conduct from public disclosure, but it’s another thing entirely for the U.S. media to be active participants in that concealment effort.  As The Guardian‘s Simon Jenkins put it in a superb column that I can’t recommend highly enough:  "The job of the media is not to protect power from embarrassment. . . . Clearly, it is for governments, not journalists, to protect public secrets."  But that’s just it:  the media does exactly what Jenkins says is not their job, which — along with envy over WikiLeaks’ superior access to confidential information — is what accounts for so much media hostility toward that group.  As the headline of John Kampfner’s column in The Independent put it:  "Wikileaks shows up our media for their docility at the feet of authority." . . .

And this:

. . . The Economist‘s Democracy in America blog has an equally excellent analysis:

The careerists scattered about the world in America’s intelligence agencies, military, and consular offices largely operate behind a veil of secrecy executing policy which is itself largely secret. American citizens mostly have no idea what they are doing, or whether what they are doing is working out well. The actually-existing structure and strategy of the American empire remains a near-total mystery to those who foot the bill and whose children fight its wars. And that is the way the elite of America’s unelected permanent state, perhaps the most powerful class of people on Earth, like it.

As Scott Shane, the New York Times‘ national security reporter, puts it: "American taxpayers, American citizens pay for all these diplomatic operations overseas and you know, it is not a bad thing when Americans actually have a better understanding of those negotiations".  Mr Shane goes on to suggest that "Perhaps if we had had more information on these secret internal deliberations of governments prior to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, we would have had a better understanding of the quality of the evidence that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction."

I’d say providing that information certainly would have been a socially worthy activity, even if it came as part of a more-or-less indiscriminate dump of illegally obtained documents. I’m glad to see that the quality of discussion over possible US efforts to stymie Iran’s nuclear ambitions has already become more sophisticated and, well, better-informed due to the information provided by WikiLeaks.

If secrecy is necessary for national security and effective diplomacy, it is also inevitable that the prerogative of secrecy will be used to hide the misdeeds of the permanent state and its privileged agents. I suspect that there is no scheme of government oversight that will not eventually come under the indirect control of the generals, spies, and foreign-service officers it is meant to oversee. Organisations such as WikiLeaks, which are philosophically opposed to state secrecy and which operate as much as is possible outside the global nation-state system, may be the best we can hope for in the way of promoting the climate of transparency and accountability necessary for authentically liberal democracy.

The central goal of WikiLeaks is to prevent the world’s most powerful factions — including the sprawling, imperial U.S. Government — from continuing to operate in the dark and without restraints.  Most of the institutions which are supposed to perform that function — beginning with the U.S. Congress and the American media — not only fail to do so, but are active participants in maintaining the veil of secrecy.  WikiLeaks, for whatever its flaws, is one of the very few entities shining a vitally needed light on all of this.  It’s hardly surprising, then, that those factions — and their hordes of spokespeople, followers and enablers — see WikiLeaks as a force for evil.  That’s evidence of how much good they are doing. . .

There’s much more—it’s a long column that makes a strong case (in my mind) for what Wikileaks is doing. (He does include some specific criticisms of what he views as mistakes Wikileaks has made.)

Written by LeisureGuy

30 November 2010 at 9:35 am

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