Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Which is worse?

Some of y'all no doubt think what Julian Assange and his crew at Wikileaks are doing is a crime, or, is at least detrimental to the interests of this country. On that issue we may have to agree to disagree.

Let's just keep in mind that Mr. Assange published documents provided to him from a third party about events that have already happened.

As Gregg Easterbrook, author of The Progress Paradox and Sonic Boom (two books I highly recommend), a fellow at the Brookings Institute and the man behind Tuesday Morning Quarterback, writes in his most recent TMQ:
Is the WikiLeaks disclosure of Pentagon and State Department internal documents dangerous, by reducing U.S. military and diplomatic effectiveness? Or good, by pulling down the veil of secrecy around government? Obviously there are arguments on both sides. Here's what struck me. Last week this New York Times page-one story reported the Obama administration "plans to further step up attacks on al-Qaeda and Taliban insurgents in the tribal areas of Pakistan."
Maybe that's a good idea; maybe it's not. But as an item of information, the Times story is far more explosive than anything in WikiLeaks disclosures so far, most of which contain trivia and statements of the obvious. The Times story tells al-Qaeda and Taliban factions in tribal Pakistan that raids and air strikes will increase. The story is a warning of something about to happen, rather than a retrospective on prior events. And the story is sourced to unnamed "administration officials." That is -- the information was leaked by the White House or Pentagon.
Perhaps the purpose of the leak was to make the president sound tough at a time when his poll numbers are fluttering. Perhaps the purpose was to make the U.S. military sound powerful at a time when a $725 billion Pentagon budget request was awaiting approval in Congress. The purpose cannot have been to help American soldiers and air crew in the field. Their chances would be best if U.S. forces struck al-Qaeda and Taliban targets without warning, with nothing said by the White House or Pentagon until after the operation was over.
I don't question the Times' decision to run the story. What I question is White House and Defense Department officials denouncing Julian Assange when he publishes leaks that embarrass the powerful -- then merrily using leaks themselves when they think the powerful will benefit. If revealing government information is, on its face, an offense, White House and Pentagon officials who leak to reporters should be chased across the world and prosecuted just as vigorously as Assange.
Maybe the WikiLeaks idea is indeed wrong. But compared to White House and Pentagon officials who leak to the press when it suits them, isn't Assange -- who uses his name rather than hide behind anonymity -- the honest one?

Here is a link to the New York Times story referenced by Mr. Easterbrook.

Mr. Easterbrook makes a very powerful argument that while Mr. Assange's releases might embarrass the United States government, the people who leaked information about upcoming battle plans in the Middle East are placing the lives of American men and women in danger.

C'mon, Mr. Holder, if you're trying to find a way to charge Mr. Assange for a criminal offense for publishing the cables, you also need to pursue the source of the leaks regarding military strategy in the Middle East. Or is it okay to risk the lives of our servicemen for political gain?

And why am I even asking that question? We all know the answer.

No comments: