Diplomatic catastrophe

Wikileaks is releasing to the public a quarter of a million classified documents.  This latest batch isn’t so much about atrocities in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.  It mainly consists of confidential reports by diplomats that contain unflattering and sometimes snarky comments about world leaders, including important allies.  The reports lack “diplomacy.”  As a result, we have a diplomatic catastrophe on our hands.

For a sampling of what they contain, here is a list of breathless headlines from the Drudge Report.  Go there for links to the articles:

USA RACES TO LIMIT WIKILEAKS DAMAGE…

250,000 State Dept. cables cover Iran, NKorea, Putin… MORE

Reveal: Iran ‘smuggled arms’ to Hezbollah on ambulances…

Reveal: Hillary Clinton ordered diplomats to spy on UN leaders…

Reveal: Iran obtained missiles from NKorea…

What America REALLY thinks of world leaders…

MOST EMBARRASSING, DAMAGING DISCLOSURE IN DECADES…

Clinton Calls Leaks A Global ‘Attack’…

AWKWARD: Clinton heads abroad, will meet world leaders dissed in cables…

Reveal: Saudis repeatedly urge US attack on Iran…

SENATORS: PROSECUTE THE LEAKERS!

NYT EXPLAINS: DECISION TO PUBLISH…

Now Australian police investigate Assange…

France: Leaks threaten democracy…

Rep King: Website leaks are terrorism…

Holder orders criminal investigation…

PALIN: Obama admin’s handling ‘incompetent’…

via DRUDGE REPORT 2011®.

One could make a case for leaking documents that cover up misdeeds.  But it’s hard to imagine what good it would do to leak documents that just embarrass people needlessly.  Diplomats do need to be able to give their superiors candid assessments without worrying that they will show up on the internet and in the world’s newspapers.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Jerry

    The question is now that our politicians have been embarrassed what happens next? How should Americans hold their leaders accountable for not telling the full story?

  • Jerry

    The question is now that our politicians have been embarrassed what happens next? How should Americans hold their leaders accountable for not telling the full story?

  • Carl Vehse
  • Carl Vehse
  • Cincinnatus

    Two comments and already a reference to impeachment? I’ll grab my popcorn and sit back for this one…

  • Cincinnatus

    Two comments and already a reference to impeachment? I’ll grab my popcorn and sit back for this one…

  • Carl Vehse

    In a Slate column, “WikiLeaks, Hillary Clinton, and the Smoking Gun,” Jack Shafer writes:

    No matter what sort of noises Clinton makes about how the disclosures are “an attack on America” and “the international community,” as she did today, she’s become the issue. She’ll never be an effective negotiator with diplomats who refuse to forgive her exuberances, and even foreign diplomats who do forgive her will still regard her as the symbol of an overreaching United States. Diplomacy is about face, and the only way for other nations to save face will be to give them Clinton’s scalp.

    I suspect one can pick up “Hillary in 2012″ bumperstickers now real cheap.

  • Carl Vehse

    In a Slate column, “WikiLeaks, Hillary Clinton, and the Smoking Gun,” Jack Shafer writes:

    No matter what sort of noises Clinton makes about how the disclosures are “an attack on America” and “the international community,” as she did today, she’s become the issue. She’ll never be an effective negotiator with diplomats who refuse to forgive her exuberances, and even foreign diplomats who do forgive her will still regard her as the symbol of an overreaching United States. Diplomacy is about face, and the only way for other nations to save face will be to give them Clinton’s scalp.

    I suspect one can pick up “Hillary in 2012″ bumperstickers now real cheap.

  • Kirk

    This is nothing new. State cables have always been like this, whether under Bush or Clinton or Obama. It’s the nature of diplomacy. Like Dr. Veith said, diplomats need to give candid impressions of world leaders to their superiors. It helps us know how to approach negotiations because it gives us an eye for what to expect. I can guarantee you that every nation has very, very similar documents saying slightly scandalous things about our leaders, as well.

    The fact that Assange thinks that these cables are big news means either that he knows nothing of diplomacy or that he doesn’t care about reality and just wants to poke America in the eye. It’s almost like celebrity gossip world leaders style

  • Kirk

    This is nothing new. State cables have always been like this, whether under Bush or Clinton or Obama. It’s the nature of diplomacy. Like Dr. Veith said, diplomats need to give candid impressions of world leaders to their superiors. It helps us know how to approach negotiations because it gives us an eye for what to expect. I can guarantee you that every nation has very, very similar documents saying slightly scandalous things about our leaders, as well.

    The fact that Assange thinks that these cables are big news means either that he knows nothing of diplomacy or that he doesn’t care about reality and just wants to poke America in the eye. It’s almost like celebrity gossip world leaders style

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    Kirk is probably right – and I think the media in general is making a bigger deal about this than necessary.

    Because face it, they all do it, and by all, I mean all governments. It is only a surprise for the starry-eyed idealists. International politics is a dirty business.

    That said, I did find it interesting to hear about the internal debates within the Chinese government regarding the status of North Korea. Shows you that Chinese politics is certainly not as monolithic as often portrayed, and for them, business and stability outweighs almost all other concerns.

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    Kirk is probably right – and I think the media in general is making a bigger deal about this than necessary.

    Because face it, they all do it, and by all, I mean all governments. It is only a surprise for the starry-eyed idealists. International politics is a dirty business.

    That said, I did find it interesting to hear about the internal debates within the Chinese government regarding the status of North Korea. Shows you that Chinese politics is certainly not as monolithic as often portrayed, and for them, business and stability outweighs almost all other concerns.

  • Jerry

    There’s a difference between everyone does it and getting caught. Doesn’t life usually require consequences for the latter, if only to discourage similar conduct in the future?

  • Jerry

    There’s a difference between everyone does it and getting caught. Doesn’t life usually require consequences for the latter, if only to discourage similar conduct in the future?

  • Porcell

    At the highest levels of government, diplomacy, and business, one needs to speak candidly to colleagues and sources with confidence that remarks will not be indiscriminately divulged. American diplomats will find it at best difficult to have frank discussions in the future. Candid discussion is the currency of diplomacy

    The earlier leaking of the names of Afghan and Iraqi intelligence sources has likely already caused deaths of some of these informants.

    PFC Manning is involved with very serious treason; this fellow Asange, who regards America as an evil nation, is involved in a concerted attack of American interests. Both of these men ought to be dealt with severely. In a better time these people would at this point be history.

  • Porcell

    At the highest levels of government, diplomacy, and business, one needs to speak candidly to colleagues and sources with confidence that remarks will not be indiscriminately divulged. American diplomats will find it at best difficult to have frank discussions in the future. Candid discussion is the currency of diplomacy

    The earlier leaking of the names of Afghan and Iraqi intelligence sources has likely already caused deaths of some of these informants.

    PFC Manning is involved with very serious treason; this fellow Asange, who regards America as an evil nation, is involved in a concerted attack of American interests. Both of these men ought to be dealt with severely. In a better time these people would at this point be history.

  • Kirk

    @Jerry

    Yes, there will be consequences, but more in the line of this being viewed as a diplomatic weakness that our allies can press as opposed to a relationship altering event. In near future, ambassadors and diplomats might feel a little contrite meeting with foreign diplomats that they insulted. But I don’t really see this fundamentally changing our diplomatic relationships, in the long run, simply because it’s recognized that everyone does this.

  • Kirk

    @Jerry

    Yes, there will be consequences, but more in the line of this being viewed as a diplomatic weakness that our allies can press as opposed to a relationship altering event. In near future, ambassadors and diplomats might feel a little contrite meeting with foreign diplomats that they insulted. But I don’t really see this fundamentally changing our diplomatic relationships, in the long run, simply because it’s recognized that everyone does this.

  • Porcell

    Kirk, of course diplomats make hard assessments of players on the world stage and communicate them confidentially to their governments. Occasionally, there are leaks, though the disclosing of hundreds of thousands of diplomatic and intelligence documents is highly unusual.

    Your view that after a bit of contriteness diplomacy will return to normal is rather dubious. It will take a long time for the damage of these leaks to be repaired.

  • Porcell

    Kirk, of course diplomats make hard assessments of players on the world stage and communicate them confidentially to their governments. Occasionally, there are leaks, though the disclosing of hundreds of thousands of diplomatic and intelligence documents is highly unusual.

    Your view that after a bit of contriteness diplomacy will return to normal is rather dubious. It will take a long time for the damage of these leaks to be repaired.

  • DonS

    Here’s a curious thing. In this “Note to Readers”, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/29/world/29editornote.html?_r=1
    Executive Editor Bill Keller of the always “objective” New York Times notes that they have chosen to publish the Wikileaks material because of the public’s need to know this important information, and because it’s published elsewhere anyway.

    However, in the recent ClimateGate scandal, environmental reporter Andrew Revkin stated in his blog http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/11/20/private-climate-conversations-on-display/
    that that he would not be publishing the raw emails: “The documents appear to have been acquired illegally and contain all manner of private information and statements that were never intended for the public eye, so they won’t be posted here. But a quick sift of skeptics’ Web sites will point anyone to plenty of sources.”

    Hmmmm.

  • DonS

    Here’s a curious thing. In this “Note to Readers”, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/29/world/29editornote.html?_r=1
    Executive Editor Bill Keller of the always “objective” New York Times notes that they have chosen to publish the Wikileaks material because of the public’s need to know this important information, and because it’s published elsewhere anyway.

    However, in the recent ClimateGate scandal, environmental reporter Andrew Revkin stated in his blog http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/11/20/private-climate-conversations-on-display/
    that that he would not be publishing the raw emails: “The documents appear to have been acquired illegally and contain all manner of private information and statements that were never intended for the public eye, so they won’t be posted here. But a quick sift of skeptics’ Web sites will point anyone to plenty of sources.”

    Hmmmm.

  • Cincinnatus

    DonS: Yes, no one ever claimed that the conservatives at the New York Times are consistent.

    But I do think that it is fair, given your implied disapproval of the NYT’s refusal to publish the “Climategate” emails, to conclude that you have no problem with the WikiLeaks publication?

  • Cincinnatus

    DonS: Yes, no one ever claimed that the conservatives at the New York Times are consistent.

    But I do think that it is fair, given your implied disapproval of the NYT’s refusal to publish the “Climategate” emails, to conclude that you have no problem with the WikiLeaks publication?

  • Kirk

    @Porcell

    I guess time will tell, and I’ve certainly not read many of the leaked cables, but I do work in diplomacy, if that makes my claims any less dubious to you. The point I’m trying to get across is that there doesn’t seem to be anything terribly scurrilous in the cables leaked, thus far. It seems to be mostly general, albeit unflattering impressions that diplomats have of other diplomats. Granted, it would have been better if these cables hadn’t been released (they are classified for a reason) but I haven’t seen any relationship altering revelations coming from them. The odd world leader might have his pride hurt and now other countries will have a leg up knowing what we thinking about them, but calling the leak a “catastrophe” might be hyperbolic.

    I think that a lot of this “disaster/people will die” talk was designed to discourage the release of the cables, but wasn’t genuinely meant. Again, we’ll have to wait and see.

  • Kirk

    @Porcell

    I guess time will tell, and I’ve certainly not read many of the leaked cables, but I do work in diplomacy, if that makes my claims any less dubious to you. The point I’m trying to get across is that there doesn’t seem to be anything terribly scurrilous in the cables leaked, thus far. It seems to be mostly general, albeit unflattering impressions that diplomats have of other diplomats. Granted, it would have been better if these cables hadn’t been released (they are classified for a reason) but I haven’t seen any relationship altering revelations coming from them. The odd world leader might have his pride hurt and now other countries will have a leg up knowing what we thinking about them, but calling the leak a “catastrophe” might be hyperbolic.

    I think that a lot of this “disaster/people will die” talk was designed to discourage the release of the cables, but wasn’t genuinely meant. Again, we’ll have to wait and see.

  • DonS

    Cincinnatus @ 12: Well, my primary concern is about consistency. Agenda journalism by media institutions which insist on wearing the cloak of “objectivity” is a scourge on our society. I would be fine with the NYT policy if the paper determined that it could not publish the leaked government documents because they were “private” or damaged the nation’s security, but linked to other sites where they were published — that would be consistent. Similarly, I would be fine with the NYT publishing leaked documents that were also published elsewhere if it had similarly published the Climategate documents.

    Insofar as the NYT is concerned, Wikileaks is not the same as the Pentagon Papers, where it was the first publisher of damaging classified information. The information is out there already, in this case.

  • DonS

    Cincinnatus @ 12: Well, my primary concern is about consistency. Agenda journalism by media institutions which insist on wearing the cloak of “objectivity” is a scourge on our society. I would be fine with the NYT policy if the paper determined that it could not publish the leaked government documents because they were “private” or damaged the nation’s security, but linked to other sites where they were published — that would be consistent. Similarly, I would be fine with the NYT publishing leaked documents that were also published elsewhere if it had similarly published the Climategate documents.

    Insofar as the NYT is concerned, Wikileaks is not the same as the Pentagon Papers, where it was the first publisher of damaging classified information. The information is out there already, in this case.

  • Cincinnatus

    In the interests of disclosure, I generally agree with Kirk in my assessment of this “catastrophe.” I do not rejoice on this occasion, but, on the other hand, a) I don’t see anything disastrous or even particularly illegal in what WikiLeaks has done and b) I tend to be favorably inclined towards gadflies on the flesh of the empire.

    Meanwhile, Obummer haters should take note: this doesn’t look good for his administration.

  • Cincinnatus

    In the interests of disclosure, I generally agree with Kirk in my assessment of this “catastrophe.” I do not rejoice on this occasion, but, on the other hand, a) I don’t see anything disastrous or even particularly illegal in what WikiLeaks has done and b) I tend to be favorably inclined towards gadflies on the flesh of the empire.

    Meanwhile, Obummer haters should take note: this doesn’t look good for his administration.

  • Kirk

    @Cinn

    Well, to be fair, I’m fairly neutral on wikileaks. I’ve liked a lot of their leaks, but I don’t really see a point in this one. Exposing civilian killings and mishandling of a war is one thing. Posting silly dip cables of no real civic concern is another.

  • Kirk

    @Cinn

    Well, to be fair, I’m fairly neutral on wikileaks. I’ve liked a lot of their leaks, but I don’t really see a point in this one. Exposing civilian killings and mishandling of a war is one thing. Posting silly dip cables of no real civic concern is another.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    People arguing for strict “consistency” as a manner to, once again, beat up on the New York Times should probably make sure they cross all of their own Ts and dot their own Is first.

    Can such “conservative” media hawks really not tell the difference between documents that have been leaked and those that have (allegedly) been stolen? Really?

    And where is all the usual hue and cry about the “hard-left liberal” Times? Oh, that’s right, they printed a bunch of leaked documents that may have a deleterious effect on the Obama administration, even though they love love love Obama and would never do anything to hurt him because they love socialism and will only ever slander true-blooded Americans like Republicans and “conservatives”. Right.

    And DonS (@14), is it me, or did you not actually answer Cincinnatus’ (@12) question? Given that you were strongly in favor of the Times‘ publishing the “Climategate” documents, consistency — your primary concern — demands that you must also have been in favor of their printing these WikiLeaks documents. Yes?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    People arguing for strict “consistency” as a manner to, once again, beat up on the New York Times should probably make sure they cross all of their own Ts and dot their own Is first.

    Can such “conservative” media hawks really not tell the difference between documents that have been leaked and those that have (allegedly) been stolen? Really?

    And where is all the usual hue and cry about the “hard-left liberal” Times? Oh, that’s right, they printed a bunch of leaked documents that may have a deleterious effect on the Obama administration, even though they love love love Obama and would never do anything to hurt him because they love socialism and will only ever slander true-blooded Americans like Republicans and “conservatives”. Right.

    And DonS (@14), is it me, or did you not actually answer Cincinnatus’ (@12) question? Given that you were strongly in favor of the Times‘ publishing the “Climategate” documents, consistency — your primary concern — demands that you must also have been in favor of their printing these WikiLeaks documents. Yes?

  • Kirk

    Actually, the more I read these cables, the more I think that Assange is the most successful troll of all time.

  • Kirk

    Actually, the more I read these cables, the more I think that Assange is the most successful troll of all time.

  • DonS

    tODD @ 17: “Can such “conservative” media hawks really not tell the difference between documents that have been leaked and those that have (allegedly) been stolen? Really?”

    Question for you: How exactly, can the leaking of federally classified documents not be stealing? After all, last I checked, it was a federal felony, as well as treason. You’re the guy, after all, who generally believes we should always obey and submit to government authority, aren’t you? Speaking of consistency, after all.

    What would be inconsistent would be if we WERE celebrating this leak, merely because some of the documents might make the Obama administration look bad. I don’t like this disregard for the law and our nation’s security and diplomatic relations, no matter who does it or what their motivations are.

    I answered Cincinnatus’ question. Once the information was leaked, it doesn’t much matter whether or not the NYT piles on and publishes it. I distinguished the present circumstance from the circumstance of the Pentagon Papers, where the NYT functioned as the initial purveyor of the leaks. My point was that I didn’t understand why they published this information but refused to publish the earlier information. It seemed, strangely, like a double standard to me.

  • DonS

    tODD @ 17: “Can such “conservative” media hawks really not tell the difference between documents that have been leaked and those that have (allegedly) been stolen? Really?”

    Question for you: How exactly, can the leaking of federally classified documents not be stealing? After all, last I checked, it was a federal felony, as well as treason. You’re the guy, after all, who generally believes we should always obey and submit to government authority, aren’t you? Speaking of consistency, after all.

    What would be inconsistent would be if we WERE celebrating this leak, merely because some of the documents might make the Obama administration look bad. I don’t like this disregard for the law and our nation’s security and diplomatic relations, no matter who does it or what their motivations are.

    I answered Cincinnatus’ question. Once the information was leaked, it doesn’t much matter whether or not the NYT piles on and publishes it. I distinguished the present circumstance from the circumstance of the Pentagon Papers, where the NYT functioned as the initial purveyor of the leaks. My point was that I didn’t understand why they published this information but refused to publish the earlier information. It seemed, strangely, like a double standard to me.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    DonS (@19) asked, “How exactly, can the leaking of federally classified documents not be stealing?” Um, because the documents were obtained legally by the person distributing them? Leaking secret documents may be a federal felony (I’ll assume you’re right on that, though I’m gonna have to question your assertion about it being “treason”), but it’s not “stealing”.

    You are trying to frame the issue as inconsistent with respect to whether any laws were broken at all, but that doesn’t appear to be the way in which the Times has framed it, so I’m not sure your “inconsistency” charge works. Their lawyers apparently are more concerned with whether their sources legally obtained their documents than if laws were subsequently broken in passing them along to the Times. Again, I’m not actually sure what the laws are in this area, but it would appear to have something to do with whether the Times could be perceived as complicit in the crime in question. Their lawyers appear to have concluded that, in this case, the crime is entirely on the leaker’s head, but in the “Climategate” issue, that was not so. I couldn’t tell you if that’s reasonable from a legal standpoint, but if you want to argue for “inconsistency”, that’s where you should focus your argument.

    Anyhow, it is odd to see the discussion of how “liberal” the Times is just fly out the window. As it always does when they or any other MSM outlet does this sort of thing. I’m sure it’ll be back when they report something that seems bad for Republicans, though.

    And if you “answered Cincinnatus’ question”, I’m still unable to see it (all I’ve got is this non-answer: “it doesn’t much matter”). Are you, DonS, in favor of the publication of these diplomatic cables or not? That’s what I want an answer to.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    DonS (@19) asked, “How exactly, can the leaking of federally classified documents not be stealing?” Um, because the documents were obtained legally by the person distributing them? Leaking secret documents may be a federal felony (I’ll assume you’re right on that, though I’m gonna have to question your assertion about it being “treason”), but it’s not “stealing”.

    You are trying to frame the issue as inconsistent with respect to whether any laws were broken at all, but that doesn’t appear to be the way in which the Times has framed it, so I’m not sure your “inconsistency” charge works. Their lawyers apparently are more concerned with whether their sources legally obtained their documents than if laws were subsequently broken in passing them along to the Times. Again, I’m not actually sure what the laws are in this area, but it would appear to have something to do with whether the Times could be perceived as complicit in the crime in question. Their lawyers appear to have concluded that, in this case, the crime is entirely on the leaker’s head, but in the “Climategate” issue, that was not so. I couldn’t tell you if that’s reasonable from a legal standpoint, but if you want to argue for “inconsistency”, that’s where you should focus your argument.

    Anyhow, it is odd to see the discussion of how “liberal” the Times is just fly out the window. As it always does when they or any other MSM outlet does this sort of thing. I’m sure it’ll be back when they report something that seems bad for Republicans, though.

    And if you “answered Cincinnatus’ question”, I’m still unable to see it (all I’ve got is this non-answer: “it doesn’t much matter”). Are you, DonS, in favor of the publication of these diplomatic cables or not? That’s what I want an answer to.

  • DonS

    tODD @ 20: 1. This was Cincinnatus’ question: “But I do think that it is fair, given your implied disapproval of the NYT’s refusal to publish the “Climategate” emails, to conclude that you have no problem with the WikiLeaks publication?” My answer, essentially, was that I would have no problem with the NYT’s publication of the WikiLeaks documents IF it had applied an internal policy consistent with that it applied in the case of the ClimateGate emails. More broadly, I stated in post #19, responsive to your request for clarification, that I don’t have a problem with derivative publication of information that is already in the public domain. I contrasted the Wikileaks situation, where I believe the NYT has only republished already public information, with the case of the Pentagon Papers, where it published classified information for the first time. I do not approve of that. Now, how exactly have I not answered Cincinnatus’ question? Because I didn’t simply use the words “yes” or “no”, but actually explained my thinking?

    2. ““How exactly, can the leaking of federally classified documents not be stealing?” Um, because the documents were obtained legally by the person distributing them? Leaking secret documents may be a federal felony (I’ll assume you’re right on that, though I’m gonna have to question your assertion about it being “treason”), but it’s not “stealing”.”

    OK, let me understand this argument. You are saying that, because the leaked information was originally obtained legitimately by someone cleared to receive the information, that person cannot possibly be accused of “stealing” that information if he or she later uses it for purposes not authorized by the provider of same. Similarly, I guess you would argue that if I lent you my car for the weekend, such that you “obtained” my car legally, then even if you took it back to Oregon, put it in your garage, and kept it forever, or sold or gave it to someone else, that wouldn’t be stealing. You know, because you originally obtained it legally. I don’t think so.

    Another point to ponder, under your unique definition of “stealing”, would be whether the ClimateGate emails were stolen. No one really knows how they got leaked. So, although I am sure that the NYT would try to spin something like you are doing to justify the fact that it wanted to publicize the Wikileaks stuff but didn’t want to publicize the ClimateGate stuff, I don’t see how it flies to justify what is flat out an inconsistent policy.

    3. OK, this is hilarious. This morning, @ post 11 I linked to an NYT blog by Andrew Revkin, originally published in November 2009, claiming that “The documents appear to have been acquired illegally and contain all manner of private information and statements that were never intended for the public eye, so they won’t be posted here. But a quick sift of skeptics’ Web sites will point anyone to plenty of sources. ” Well, since this morning a bunch of updates, variously dated from November 22 to November 29 of this year, have been inserted, in an effort to defend the NYT’s inconsistent policies against legitimate charges of bias. In these updates, he even admits that the above statement was incorrect, in that the information was not private — he amends it to the senders having an expectation of privacy (note — never assume anything you put in an email will remain private). And he makes some kind of reference to NYT lawyers cautioning him not to publish the emails. That doesn’t even pass the sniff test. The emails had already been published elsewhere. The NYT could easily have inserted the usual disclaimers and re-published them without risk. Good grief — what a lame, and convenient, excuse. Sullivant v. NYT, anyone? They’ll publish completely untrue garbage about John McCain’s alleged affairs, during an election season, but they’re claiming to have been afraid of legal liability for re-publishing these emails with all of the usual disclaimers? The same newspaper that published the Pentagon Papers, at the real risk of doing time? Give me a break.

  • DonS

    tODD @ 20: 1. This was Cincinnatus’ question: “But I do think that it is fair, given your implied disapproval of the NYT’s refusal to publish the “Climategate” emails, to conclude that you have no problem with the WikiLeaks publication?” My answer, essentially, was that I would have no problem with the NYT’s publication of the WikiLeaks documents IF it had applied an internal policy consistent with that it applied in the case of the ClimateGate emails. More broadly, I stated in post #19, responsive to your request for clarification, that I don’t have a problem with derivative publication of information that is already in the public domain. I contrasted the Wikileaks situation, where I believe the NYT has only republished already public information, with the case of the Pentagon Papers, where it published classified information for the first time. I do not approve of that. Now, how exactly have I not answered Cincinnatus’ question? Because I didn’t simply use the words “yes” or “no”, but actually explained my thinking?

    2. ““How exactly, can the leaking of federally classified documents not be stealing?” Um, because the documents were obtained legally by the person distributing them? Leaking secret documents may be a federal felony (I’ll assume you’re right on that, though I’m gonna have to question your assertion about it being “treason”), but it’s not “stealing”.”

    OK, let me understand this argument. You are saying that, because the leaked information was originally obtained legitimately by someone cleared to receive the information, that person cannot possibly be accused of “stealing” that information if he or she later uses it for purposes not authorized by the provider of same. Similarly, I guess you would argue that if I lent you my car for the weekend, such that you “obtained” my car legally, then even if you took it back to Oregon, put it in your garage, and kept it forever, or sold or gave it to someone else, that wouldn’t be stealing. You know, because you originally obtained it legally. I don’t think so.

    Another point to ponder, under your unique definition of “stealing”, would be whether the ClimateGate emails were stolen. No one really knows how they got leaked. So, although I am sure that the NYT would try to spin something like you are doing to justify the fact that it wanted to publicize the Wikileaks stuff but didn’t want to publicize the ClimateGate stuff, I don’t see how it flies to justify what is flat out an inconsistent policy.

    3. OK, this is hilarious. This morning, @ post 11 I linked to an NYT blog by Andrew Revkin, originally published in November 2009, claiming that “The documents appear to have been acquired illegally and contain all manner of private information and statements that were never intended for the public eye, so they won’t be posted here. But a quick sift of skeptics’ Web sites will point anyone to plenty of sources. ” Well, since this morning a bunch of updates, variously dated from November 22 to November 29 of this year, have been inserted, in an effort to defend the NYT’s inconsistent policies against legitimate charges of bias. In these updates, he even admits that the above statement was incorrect, in that the information was not private — he amends it to the senders having an expectation of privacy (note — never assume anything you put in an email will remain private). And he makes some kind of reference to NYT lawyers cautioning him not to publish the emails. That doesn’t even pass the sniff test. The emails had already been published elsewhere. The NYT could easily have inserted the usual disclaimers and re-published them without risk. Good grief — what a lame, and convenient, excuse. Sullivant v. NYT, anyone? They’ll publish completely untrue garbage about John McCain’s alleged affairs, during an election season, but they’re claiming to have been afraid of legal liability for re-publishing these emails with all of the usual disclaimers? The same newspaper that published the Pentagon Papers, at the real risk of doing time? Give me a break.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    DonS (@21), it seems that you have no issues with anything being published — secret or not, stolen or not — provided that is first placed in the “public domain”, and only then published in a newspaper. Is that correct? I find this odd, given that all anyone would have to do to meet this criterion would be to first leak documents to WikiLeaks and then they could write a story on it. Not much of a standard, as such. If only WikiLeaks had been around at the time of the Pentagon Papers, the Times could have avoided your disdain!

    No, your only concern here appears to be a “consistent internal policy”, not the legality of any particular actions. Okay, I guess.

    Anyhow, I’m not a lawyer, but you are, so I kind of expect you to understand what is and isn’t “stealing”. Just because something is illegal does not make it stealing. This seems obvious to me. Misusing something to which you are legally entitled access is not stealing, pretty much going by any definition you want. (Mmy best guess would be that any employee would be guilty of violating the terms of his employment, plus whatever “state secrets” laws are on the books, but how can you “steal” something you have legal access to and for which you’ve only given out copies, thereby depriving no one else with legal access of their content?). Your car example fails to match this case in several ways, which I hope are obvious enough that we don’t get bogged down debating the comparison.

    Anyhow, whether or not you agree with the Times‘ policy, it seems to be consistently applied. They are willing to publish information that was legally obtained, even if the transmission to them may itself break the law. They are not willing to publish information that may have been illegally obtained. I couldn’t tell you if that makes legal sense or not. But can you really not see how that rule has been consistently applied?

    And I do believe you’re getting a little excited now in accusing the Times of “this morning [inserting] a bunch of updates, variously dated from November 22 to November 29 of this year”. At least two of those updates are pretty clearly from November of last year, when the article came out (almost a year ago). The Times‘ updating system doesn’t appear to allow for years on the updates, apparently under the presumption that no one would update a blog post a year later, though they obviously have with the one you cite. I really do think you’re being careless in your zeal to smack down the Times, Don.

    Finally, I have to wonder: Given that the Times‘ failure to publish the “Climategate” emails was heralded by you as evidence of their pro-AGW stance, what does the Times‘ release of these diplomatic cables say about their bias towards the Obama administration? (Answer: I’m betting on silence.)

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    DonS (@21), it seems that you have no issues with anything being published — secret or not, stolen or not — provided that is first placed in the “public domain”, and only then published in a newspaper. Is that correct? I find this odd, given that all anyone would have to do to meet this criterion would be to first leak documents to WikiLeaks and then they could write a story on it. Not much of a standard, as such. If only WikiLeaks had been around at the time of the Pentagon Papers, the Times could have avoided your disdain!

    No, your only concern here appears to be a “consistent internal policy”, not the legality of any particular actions. Okay, I guess.

    Anyhow, I’m not a lawyer, but you are, so I kind of expect you to understand what is and isn’t “stealing”. Just because something is illegal does not make it stealing. This seems obvious to me. Misusing something to which you are legally entitled access is not stealing, pretty much going by any definition you want. (Mmy best guess would be that any employee would be guilty of violating the terms of his employment, plus whatever “state secrets” laws are on the books, but how can you “steal” something you have legal access to and for which you’ve only given out copies, thereby depriving no one else with legal access of their content?). Your car example fails to match this case in several ways, which I hope are obvious enough that we don’t get bogged down debating the comparison.

    Anyhow, whether or not you agree with the Times‘ policy, it seems to be consistently applied. They are willing to publish information that was legally obtained, even if the transmission to them may itself break the law. They are not willing to publish information that may have been illegally obtained. I couldn’t tell you if that makes legal sense or not. But can you really not see how that rule has been consistently applied?

    And I do believe you’re getting a little excited now in accusing the Times of “this morning [inserting] a bunch of updates, variously dated from November 22 to November 29 of this year”. At least two of those updates are pretty clearly from November of last year, when the article came out (almost a year ago). The Times‘ updating system doesn’t appear to allow for years on the updates, apparently under the presumption that no one would update a blog post a year later, though they obviously have with the one you cite. I really do think you’re being careless in your zeal to smack down the Times, Don.

    Finally, I have to wonder: Given that the Times‘ failure to publish the “Climategate” emails was heralded by you as evidence of their pro-AGW stance, what does the Times‘ release of these diplomatic cables say about their bias towards the Obama administration? (Answer: I’m betting on silence.)

  • Porcell

    Jeffrey Smith, an Arnold Porter attorney and sometimes adviser to WAPO on issues of classified information, in a WAPO articleProsecute WikiLeaks, then reform our espionage laws writes:

    So, What should we do now?

    First, we should seek to prosecute Assange and WikiLeaks. There can be little doubt that his actions violate 18 USC 793 (e), which prohibits anyone with “unauthorized possession” of information relating to the national defense that could harm the United States or help an enemy from willfully communicating that information to someone not authorized to receive it or from willfully retaining the information after the U.S. government has demanded that it be returned. For years, lawyers have debated whether that language could be used to prosecute a newspaper that prints classified information. No legitimate journalist or newspaper has ever been prosecuted under this statute. But it is hard to argue, based on the available facts, that Assange deserves the same treatment as a responsible news organization that carefully considers the views of the government before deciding what, if any, classified information to publish. The Constitution protects the media, but it surely does not protect those who wantonly do great harm.

    The evidence so far suggests that PFC Manning is involved with treason and Asange with espionage under USC 793. Note that the WSJ had the good sense to not touch these documents and that the NYT arrogantly took upon itself to publish information seriously harmful to vital American interests. The usual suspects on this blog
    seem delighted that the country has been harmed by this episode.

  • Porcell

    Jeffrey Smith, an Arnold Porter attorney and sometimes adviser to WAPO on issues of classified information, in a WAPO articleProsecute WikiLeaks, then reform our espionage laws writes:

    So, What should we do now?

    First, we should seek to prosecute Assange and WikiLeaks. There can be little doubt that his actions violate 18 USC 793 (e), which prohibits anyone with “unauthorized possession” of information relating to the national defense that could harm the United States or help an enemy from willfully communicating that information to someone not authorized to receive it or from willfully retaining the information after the U.S. government has demanded that it be returned. For years, lawyers have debated whether that language could be used to prosecute a newspaper that prints classified information. No legitimate journalist or newspaper has ever been prosecuted under this statute. But it is hard to argue, based on the available facts, that Assange deserves the same treatment as a responsible news organization that carefully considers the views of the government before deciding what, if any, classified information to publish. The Constitution protects the media, but it surely does not protect those who wantonly do great harm.

    The evidence so far suggests that PFC Manning is involved with treason and Asange with espionage under USC 793. Note that the WSJ had the good sense to not touch these documents and that the NYT arrogantly took upon itself to publish information seriously harmful to vital American interests. The usual suspects on this blog
    seem delighted that the country has been harmed by this episode.

  • DonS

    tODD @ 23: No, I don’t think you have fairly stated my view. Let’s clarify something. There is no question whatsoever that the classified U.S. information released by Wikileaks was leaked illegally at some level. Whatever you want to call the illegality, it is illegal for someone having access to classified information to use it in an unauthorized way. Federal statutes are very clear on that. At one time I had a Secret clearance, and I know how detailed and specific the regulations regarding classified information are. For example, just because you have a particular clearance doesn’t mean you have access to any information classified at that level or below. You have to have a “need to know”, and then you are only authorized to do with that information what you need to do to perform your assigned tasks. Anything more is misappropriation (stealing). Plain and simple. So somebody misappropriated that information, which they had legitimate access to, by leaking it to those not entitled to it.

    On the other hand, we don’t know for sure that the ClimateGate emails were misappropriated (stolen). That was an allegation, but it depends upon the circumstances of the leak, and whether the leaker was entitled to the emails and whether that entitlement was contractually limited in some way.

    OK, the point of the above was to say that, if the NYT were concerned about re-publishing illegally disclosed information, that concern should have been more acute in the Wikileaks case than in the ClimateGate case. I’m calling the NYT on their bogus excuse that their lawyers prevented them from re-publishing the ClimateGate emails, especially since the excuse emerged after they got called for their inconsistency. That’s spin, pure and simple.

    Here is what I actually think. The damage is done in the first instance of publication, especially in the modern Internet world. After that disclosure, anyone with a burning interest in the disclosed material already knows about it. A newspaper’s job is to report the news. Wikileaks and ClimateGate were both news. Reporting on the disclosures, and including examples of the actual information disclosed, is a reasonable thing for news organizations to do.

    However, if a news organization doesn’t want to encourage illegal leaking, I can respect its decision to have a policy not to actually re-publish the leaked material, whether or not I agree with the policy. What I cannot respect is inconsistency in applying the policy, especially when that inconsistency falls in the direction of furthering what is already a pretty clear bias on behalf of the organization. And even more especially when that organization absurdly insists on its objectivity.

    I find this odd, given that all anyone would have to do to meet this criterion would be to first leak documents to WikiLeaks and then they could write a story on it

    OK, please. Where did I ever say or imply that it’s OK to illegally leak the material, just so you can ethically re-publish it? That’s kind of an absurd scenario is it not? And just how would the NYT initially gain legal access to the material, without a clearance?

    “Stealing” is seldom a term used in theft statutes. Usually, in the context of both emails and classified information, the term would be “misappropriation”. I can tell you that, legally, if you misappropriate classified information, by using or providing it in ways not authorized, you have stolen that information and will be charged accordingly, under the appropriate statutes. As for the allegedly stolen ClimateGate emails, whether they were actually legally stolen depends upon the applicable statutes. If the leaker obtained them legitimately, and then disclosed them, they could be liable either civilly under an agreement they might have received them under, or criminally if a criminal statute applied. If the leaker obtained them illegitimately, by hacking into a server, they might be deemed to have stolen them under different criminal statutes. Or not. It depends on the statutes and the circumstances.

    but how can you “steal” something you have legal access to and for which you’ve only given out copies, thereby depriving no one else with legal access of their content?).

    Easily. As I mentioned above, legal access to information is often limited to certain purposes. Just because you gave out unauthorized copies rather than the originals doesn’t mean you haven’t misappropriated the information. When you exceed the authorization, you have misappropriated. The car example actually holds up surprisingly well in this case.

  • DonS

    tODD @ 23: No, I don’t think you have fairly stated my view. Let’s clarify something. There is no question whatsoever that the classified U.S. information released by Wikileaks was leaked illegally at some level. Whatever you want to call the illegality, it is illegal for someone having access to classified information to use it in an unauthorized way. Federal statutes are very clear on that. At one time I had a Secret clearance, and I know how detailed and specific the regulations regarding classified information are. For example, just because you have a particular clearance doesn’t mean you have access to any information classified at that level or below. You have to have a “need to know”, and then you are only authorized to do with that information what you need to do to perform your assigned tasks. Anything more is misappropriation (stealing). Plain and simple. So somebody misappropriated that information, which they had legitimate access to, by leaking it to those not entitled to it.

    On the other hand, we don’t know for sure that the ClimateGate emails were misappropriated (stolen). That was an allegation, but it depends upon the circumstances of the leak, and whether the leaker was entitled to the emails and whether that entitlement was contractually limited in some way.

    OK, the point of the above was to say that, if the NYT were concerned about re-publishing illegally disclosed information, that concern should have been more acute in the Wikileaks case than in the ClimateGate case. I’m calling the NYT on their bogus excuse that their lawyers prevented them from re-publishing the ClimateGate emails, especially since the excuse emerged after they got called for their inconsistency. That’s spin, pure and simple.

    Here is what I actually think. The damage is done in the first instance of publication, especially in the modern Internet world. After that disclosure, anyone with a burning interest in the disclosed material already knows about it. A newspaper’s job is to report the news. Wikileaks and ClimateGate were both news. Reporting on the disclosures, and including examples of the actual information disclosed, is a reasonable thing for news organizations to do.

    However, if a news organization doesn’t want to encourage illegal leaking, I can respect its decision to have a policy not to actually re-publish the leaked material, whether or not I agree with the policy. What I cannot respect is inconsistency in applying the policy, especially when that inconsistency falls in the direction of furthering what is already a pretty clear bias on behalf of the organization. And even more especially when that organization absurdly insists on its objectivity.

    I find this odd, given that all anyone would have to do to meet this criterion would be to first leak documents to WikiLeaks and then they could write a story on it

    OK, please. Where did I ever say or imply that it’s OK to illegally leak the material, just so you can ethically re-publish it? That’s kind of an absurd scenario is it not? And just how would the NYT initially gain legal access to the material, without a clearance?

    “Stealing” is seldom a term used in theft statutes. Usually, in the context of both emails and classified information, the term would be “misappropriation”. I can tell you that, legally, if you misappropriate classified information, by using or providing it in ways not authorized, you have stolen that information and will be charged accordingly, under the appropriate statutes. As for the allegedly stolen ClimateGate emails, whether they were actually legally stolen depends upon the applicable statutes. If the leaker obtained them legitimately, and then disclosed them, they could be liable either civilly under an agreement they might have received them under, or criminally if a criminal statute applied. If the leaker obtained them illegitimately, by hacking into a server, they might be deemed to have stolen them under different criminal statutes. Or not. It depends on the statutes and the circumstances.

    but how can you “steal” something you have legal access to and for which you’ve only given out copies, thereby depriving no one else with legal access of their content?).

    Easily. As I mentioned above, legal access to information is often limited to certain purposes. Just because you gave out unauthorized copies rather than the originals doesn’t mean you haven’t misappropriated the information. When you exceed the authorization, you have misappropriated. The car example actually holds up surprisingly well in this case.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Um, Porcell (@24), “PFC Manning” has nothing to do with what we’re discussing here.

    It’s also not clear to me why or to what extent US law would apply to Assange, given that he’s an Australian citizen.

    “Note that the WSJ had the good sense to not touch these documents.” Um, the WSJ declined to sign a confidentiality agreement with WikiLeaks, but they certainly didn’t decline to report on the contents of the documents.

    Are you arguing for some sort of “security through obscurity” through which WikiLeaks’ publishing all those cables would have been fine if only those arrogant folks at the Times hadn’t told everyone?

    “The usual suspects on this blog seem delighted that the country has been harmed by this episode.” This statement is truly beneath you, Peter.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Um, Porcell (@24), “PFC Manning” has nothing to do with what we’re discussing here.

    It’s also not clear to me why or to what extent US law would apply to Assange, given that he’s an Australian citizen.

    “Note that the WSJ had the good sense to not touch these documents.” Um, the WSJ declined to sign a confidentiality agreement with WikiLeaks, but they certainly didn’t decline to report on the contents of the documents.

    Are you arguing for some sort of “security through obscurity” through which WikiLeaks’ publishing all those cables would have been fine if only those arrogant folks at the Times hadn’t told everyone?

    “The usual suspects on this blog seem delighted that the country has been harmed by this episode.” This statement is truly beneath you, Peter.

  • Porcell

    Todd, there’s a difference between the WSJ secondary reporting of the Wiki-Leaks documents and the Times acceptance of all the primary documents.

    As to Asange, USC 793 has to do with espionage that would allow prosecution of him, no matter his citizenship. This is one of Smith’s main points.

    As to Manning, you might not be discussing his treason, though in truth he is at the bottom of this whole episode.

    As to the suspects, one can’t help observing the evident sense of schadenfreude on the part of some on the thread.

  • Porcell

    Todd, there’s a difference between the WSJ secondary reporting of the Wiki-Leaks documents and the Times acceptance of all the primary documents.

    As to Asange, USC 793 has to do with espionage that would allow prosecution of him, no matter his citizenship. This is one of Smith’s main points.

    As to Manning, you might not be discussing his treason, though in truth he is at the bottom of this whole episode.

    As to the suspects, one can’t help observing the evident sense of schadenfreude on the part of some on the thread.

  • SAL

    The rapist who runs Wikileaks will be behind bars if the authorities can ever find him. I think we ought to use what means we have to strongly encourage Assange to face his rape and molestation charges.

    The American military personnel involved in this espionage should be tried for treason and executed.

  • SAL

    The rapist who runs Wikileaks will be behind bars if the authorities can ever find him. I think we ought to use what means we have to strongly encourage Assange to face his rape and molestation charges.

    The American military personnel involved in this espionage should be tried for treason and executed.

  • trotk

    I find interesting that the idea that our government should have secrets is so common. I understand the need for classified information, and I think that Assange is an ignoble person who is serving his own interests, but I would prefer a tiny and open government.

    I don’t like the imperial idea that no one gets to know what the government is doing or saying, and if you find out, you might be thrown in jail. In that scenario governments never fail to over prosecute and over classify. The citizenry ought not be in the dark, unless the issue really was for their own safety.

    The burden of protecting classified matters resides on those who deem it classified. The government needs to do a better job protecting the information that is vital to our security, and that necessarily means telling fewer people, which means that government needs to be smaller. People like Assange will always exist, and blaming the situation on him misses the fact that we are doing to much, classifying to much, and giving classified information to too many bureaucrats.

    If we did less, but did what we ought to do, we could be more candid with the stuff that shouldn’t be secret, because it stood up to reason and ethics, and yet more protective of real security information. As much as possible, I want our government working with the doors open.

    And as for candid assessments of other diplomats and leaders, let these be oral, delivered only to the superior who really needs to know.

  • trotk

    I find interesting that the idea that our government should have secrets is so common. I understand the need for classified information, and I think that Assange is an ignoble person who is serving his own interests, but I would prefer a tiny and open government.

    I don’t like the imperial idea that no one gets to know what the government is doing or saying, and if you find out, you might be thrown in jail. In that scenario governments never fail to over prosecute and over classify. The citizenry ought not be in the dark, unless the issue really was for their own safety.

    The burden of protecting classified matters resides on those who deem it classified. The government needs to do a better job protecting the information that is vital to our security, and that necessarily means telling fewer people, which means that government needs to be smaller. People like Assange will always exist, and blaming the situation on him misses the fact that we are doing to much, classifying to much, and giving classified information to too many bureaucrats.

    If we did less, but did what we ought to do, we could be more candid with the stuff that shouldn’t be secret, because it stood up to reason and ethics, and yet more protective of real security information. As much as possible, I want our government working with the doors open.

    And as for candid assessments of other diplomats and leaders, let these be oral, delivered only to the superior who really needs to know.

  • J

    @28
    The pro life view.

  • J

    @28
    The pro life view.

  • Cincinnatus

    trotk: Interesting that you should bring that point up. The idea of “State Secrets” was highly controversial at the time of the founding, and to this day, America has resisted implementing any kind of law that privileges such a thing as a “state secret.” This should come as no surprise considering the theoretical foundations of our government (i.e., if the people constitute the government, how can the people keep secrets from themselves? If this becomes the case, then our government has become alien to and “Other” from us; moreover, knowledge necessarily implies and engenders power; a government with privileged knowledge wields power that I, for one, am generally uncomfortable giving it). Even in Britain–that quasi-Orwellian paradise, which, famously, has a specific policy permitting “state secrets”–the concept is problematic.

    And ditto to the rest of your comment as well. If the government didn’t want “embarrassing” information to be released then it should either have protected that information better or not codified embarrassing information in the first place. Furthermore, isn’t the act of “exposure” something we Americans, steeped as we are in an (appropriately) rebellious history and Weltanschauung, generally do and probably should, within reason, applaud? America is now the empire. Conservatives should be concerned about the power and imperium that has accrued to its government, which in many realms operates in a shadowy, concealed, unaccountable fashion. Again, I think this particular leak is silly (nothing to be upset about), and WikiLeaks is behaving like a tool, but I have no principled objection to what has happened.

  • Cincinnatus

    trotk: Interesting that you should bring that point up. The idea of “State Secrets” was highly controversial at the time of the founding, and to this day, America has resisted implementing any kind of law that privileges such a thing as a “state secret.” This should come as no surprise considering the theoretical foundations of our government (i.e., if the people constitute the government, how can the people keep secrets from themselves? If this becomes the case, then our government has become alien to and “Other” from us; moreover, knowledge necessarily implies and engenders power; a government with privileged knowledge wields power that I, for one, am generally uncomfortable giving it). Even in Britain–that quasi-Orwellian paradise, which, famously, has a specific policy permitting “state secrets”–the concept is problematic.

    And ditto to the rest of your comment as well. If the government didn’t want “embarrassing” information to be released then it should either have protected that information better or not codified embarrassing information in the first place. Furthermore, isn’t the act of “exposure” something we Americans, steeped as we are in an (appropriately) rebellious history and Weltanschauung, generally do and probably should, within reason, applaud? America is now the empire. Conservatives should be concerned about the power and imperium that has accrued to its government, which in many realms operates in a shadowy, concealed, unaccountable fashion. Again, I think this particular leak is silly (nothing to be upset about), and WikiLeaks is behaving like a tool, but I have no principled objection to what has happened.

  • DonS

    trotk @ 29: I don’t disagree with you that the security apparatus has gotten too large and too powerful in this country. All too often it is used to conceal embarrassing, rather than truly sensitive, information.

    That being said, a lot of what was released this time were diplomatic cables. You can’t reasonably conduct diplomacy if all of your internal memorandums and such are public, can you? And some information truly is secret and needs to stay that way.

    There has to be a way to have more oversight in the process. At the risk of some compromise to security, classified information should be regularly reviewed by others outside of the classifying department to ensure that it is truly secret and that it is important it remain so.

  • DonS

    trotk @ 29: I don’t disagree with you that the security apparatus has gotten too large and too powerful in this country. All too often it is used to conceal embarrassing, rather than truly sensitive, information.

    That being said, a lot of what was released this time were diplomatic cables. You can’t reasonably conduct diplomacy if all of your internal memorandums and such are public, can you? And some information truly is secret and needs to stay that way.

    There has to be a way to have more oversight in the process. At the risk of some compromise to security, classified information should be regularly reviewed by others outside of the classifying department to ensure that it is truly secret and that it is important it remain so.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Porcell (@27) replied, “Todd, there’s a difference between the WSJ secondary reporting of the Wiki-Leaks documents and the Times acceptance of all the primary documents.” Porcell, be a dear and try to actually research the facts before you just say something. The Times didn’t get the documents firsthand, either. They were leaked to the Times by Britain’s Guardian. WikiLeaks didn’t even offer the documents to the Times at all — reserving that offer only for CNN and the WSJ in the US. You can also note the WSJ’s stated reasons for rejecting an agreement with WikiLeaks on the documents:

    A spokeswoman for the Journal, Ashley Huston, said her newspaper turned down WikiLeaks because “we didn’t want to agree to a set of pre-conditions . . . without even being given a broad understanding of what these documents contained.”

    Also note that any news outlet other than WikiLeaks itself would have been doing “secondary reporting”. Not that any of this maintains your WSJ=good/Times=bad dichotomy.

    “As to Asange, USC 793 has to do with espionage that would allow prosecution of him, no matter his citizenship.” Yes, but just because we have a law doesn’t mean we’re actually able to prosecute him. We could make it illegal according to federal law for anyone to be President of North Korea, but good luck getting a successful prosecution of that.

    “As to the suspects, one can’t help observing the evident sense of schadenfreude on the part of some on the thread.” Yes, and would you be so brave, dear Porcell, as to tell us to whom you’re actually referring, without all this pussyfooting about?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Porcell (@27) replied, “Todd, there’s a difference between the WSJ secondary reporting of the Wiki-Leaks documents and the Times acceptance of all the primary documents.” Porcell, be a dear and try to actually research the facts before you just say something. The Times didn’t get the documents firsthand, either. They were leaked to the Times by Britain’s Guardian. WikiLeaks didn’t even offer the documents to the Times at all — reserving that offer only for CNN and the WSJ in the US. You can also note the WSJ’s stated reasons for rejecting an agreement with WikiLeaks on the documents:

    A spokeswoman for the Journal, Ashley Huston, said her newspaper turned down WikiLeaks because “we didn’t want to agree to a set of pre-conditions . . . without even being given a broad understanding of what these documents contained.”

    Also note that any news outlet other than WikiLeaks itself would have been doing “secondary reporting”. Not that any of this maintains your WSJ=good/Times=bad dichotomy.

    “As to Asange, USC 793 has to do with espionage that would allow prosecution of him, no matter his citizenship.” Yes, but just because we have a law doesn’t mean we’re actually able to prosecute him. We could make it illegal according to federal law for anyone to be President of North Korea, but good luck getting a successful prosecution of that.

    “As to the suspects, one can’t help observing the evident sense of schadenfreude on the part of some on the thread.” Yes, and would you be so brave, dear Porcell, as to tell us to whom you’re actually referring, without all this pussyfooting about?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    SAL (@28), it was my understanding that Americans actually understood the concept of “innocent until proven guilty”. And that Lutherans maybe had a word or two to say about people’s reputations, as well. Referring to a man as a “rapist”, while simultaneously also referring to mere “charges” of rape and molestation, makes me wonder, though.

    One should also note that it doesn’t really appear to be an issue of “if the authorities can ever find him”, as the media seem to be having no such problems. It’s not like he runs around with a turban and a fake moustache on. He still appears in public. Just not in certain jurisdictions.

    I’m also curious as to how leaking these diplomatic cables constitutes “treason”, which people seem to enjoy shouting without actually giving any reasons.

    Also, I totally should have tried to make some money when I’d earlier written (@23) “I’m betting on silence.” Could’ve fattened up the Christmas fund with all the people helping me win that bet!

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    SAL (@28), it was my understanding that Americans actually understood the concept of “innocent until proven guilty”. And that Lutherans maybe had a word or two to say about people’s reputations, as well. Referring to a man as a “rapist”, while simultaneously also referring to mere “charges” of rape and molestation, makes me wonder, though.

    One should also note that it doesn’t really appear to be an issue of “if the authorities can ever find him”, as the media seem to be having no such problems. It’s not like he runs around with a turban and a fake moustache on. He still appears in public. Just not in certain jurisdictions.

    I’m also curious as to how leaking these diplomatic cables constitutes “treason”, which people seem to enjoy shouting without actually giving any reasons.

    Also, I totally should have tried to make some money when I’d earlier written (@23) “I’m betting on silence.” Could’ve fattened up the Christmas fund with all the people helping me win that bet!

  • DonS

    tODD @ 34:

    I said “treason”, somewhere up above. While the leaking of classified documents is betrayal at some level, it is almost certainly not treason, which according to Article III of the Constitution can only occur during wartime. So I stand corrected on that point, guilty of a bit of exaggeration.

  • DonS

    tODD @ 34:

    I said “treason”, somewhere up above. While the leaking of classified documents is betrayal at some level, it is almost certainly not treason, which according to Article III of the Constitution can only occur during wartime. So I stand corrected on that point, guilty of a bit of exaggeration.

  • Porcell

    For a cogent and sophisticated analysis of the Wiki-Leaks danger, read Elliot Cohen’s WSJ piece Dictators, Democracies and WikiLeaks including:

    So the WikiLeaks disclosures make interesting reading in London, Ottawa and Tokyo, but in the capitals of some weak and undemocratic American allies they are a very unpleasant surprise. We can easily denounce the gap between private and public discourse in such countries, and the lack of real public debate on key security issues. But when we consider the identities of some of the people they fear—the ayatollahs in Tehran, terrorists in Hamas and Hezbollah, al Qaeda itself—we see that the WikiLeaks disclosures are less likely to promote more open government than to give aid and comfort to the enemy.

    Don, we are involved in a congressionally authorized war, declared in 20o1 against the jihadis around the world. I should say that Manning’s leaks involved the treasonable act of aid and comfort to our jihadi enemies. In the case of Asange, he is involved in espionage.

  • Porcell

    For a cogent and sophisticated analysis of the Wiki-Leaks danger, read Elliot Cohen’s WSJ piece Dictators, Democracies and WikiLeaks including:

    So the WikiLeaks disclosures make interesting reading in London, Ottawa and Tokyo, but in the capitals of some weak and undemocratic American allies they are a very unpleasant surprise. We can easily denounce the gap between private and public discourse in such countries, and the lack of real public debate on key security issues. But when we consider the identities of some of the people they fear—the ayatollahs in Tehran, terrorists in Hamas and Hezbollah, al Qaeda itself—we see that the WikiLeaks disclosures are less likely to promote more open government than to give aid and comfort to the enemy.

    Don, we are involved in a congressionally authorized war, declared in 20o1 against the jihadis around the world. I should say that Manning’s leaks involved the treasonable act of aid and comfort to our jihadi enemies. In the case of Asange, he is involved in espionage.

  • SAL

    #34 Using a security clearance to pass information to restricted foreign sources intentionally is treason.

  • SAL

    #34 Using a security clearance to pass information to restricted foreign sources intentionally is treason.

  • Cincinnatus

    No it’s not. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treason#United_States

    Treason only adheres when one gives “aid and comfort” the an enemy of the United States. Strictly speaking, the United States has no technical enemies at the moment, as do not exist in a technical, Congressionally-declared state of War against any foreign entities at the moment (Porcell’s usage of “authorization of force” opens an entirely different Pandora’s box, but suffice to say that an AoF is not the same as a DoW). It is, at the moment, theoretically impossible for someone to commit treason, though there is precedent for considering “aid and comfort” to Al-Quaeda (as a definite, hostile, enemy entity) to be treasonous.

    Suffice to say that, while questionably legal (and probably illegal in the case of material that was actually designated classified), passing on a few embarrassing diplomatic memos is not high treason, and we conservatives should be especially loathe to consider it so (there is a reason why treason, a category so susceptible to abuse, is the only crime specified in the Constitution, after all). And even if those who, erm, “leaked” the information were in violation of law (or at least of the confidence appurtenant to their government positions), I see no reason why or, more importantly, how WikiLeaks and the NYT could be held “guilty” of anything here.

  • Cincinnatus

    No it’s not. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treason#United_States

    Treason only adheres when one gives “aid and comfort” the an enemy of the United States. Strictly speaking, the United States has no technical enemies at the moment, as do not exist in a technical, Congressionally-declared state of War against any foreign entities at the moment (Porcell’s usage of “authorization of force” opens an entirely different Pandora’s box, but suffice to say that an AoF is not the same as a DoW). It is, at the moment, theoretically impossible for someone to commit treason, though there is precedent for considering “aid and comfort” to Al-Quaeda (as a definite, hostile, enemy entity) to be treasonous.

    Suffice to say that, while questionably legal (and probably illegal in the case of material that was actually designated classified), passing on a few embarrassing diplomatic memos is not high treason, and we conservatives should be especially loathe to consider it so (there is a reason why treason, a category so susceptible to abuse, is the only crime specified in the Constitution, after all). And even if those who, erm, “leaked” the information were in violation of law (or at least of the confidence appurtenant to their government positions), I see no reason why or, more importantly, how WikiLeaks and the NYT could be held “guilty” of anything here.


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