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Wednesday, December 01, 2010

A Glimpse Inside the Fish Bowl.

Father John Trigilio has recently expressed outrage. The release of US internal diplomatic messages by Wikileaks is treasonous!


It can't be Assange who is treasonous since treason is an action taken against one's own legitimate government. The man who runs Wikileaks is Australian.
That rules him out.

We could lay the charge against whichever American released the documents to Wikileaks, of course, but therein lies the rub.

Can we assume everything our government does is legitimate?
In other words, are there occasions when government action should be brought to the attention of the world?

I am thinking of the numerous examples of US government sponsored testing of radioactive and biological agents on various sub-populations within US borders, the testing of these agents against American citizens. Would it have been treasonous to release that kind of information, even though that information release would destabilize a particular President or government party?

Or, try another question.
Was it treasonous to reveal who was behind the Watergate break-in?

You may argue that the President and his cohorts broke the laws, and therefore it was right to reveal their activities.
But now we are into a matter of judgement, for in order to make that assessment, we must, in some sense, be both trial judge and jury in order to determine what should be released and what should not. And isn't a citizen who acts as both trial judge and jury breaking the law, assuming guilt before a trial, etc.?

Notice, I'm not arguing against the idea that each of us must act as trial judge and jury in such a situation. I think that's a laudable thing for everyone to do.

Whenever a leak like this happens, it happens because someone feels the information being released should be more widely known in order to prevent some abuse. Whether that judgement is correct may be open to question, but that is generally the motive which drives the leak (it may also be the case that the person releasing the information is being paid to do so, which definitely would be treason, but let us assume the higher motives).

To Whom Was This News?

Now, as to the information leaked, to whom was this news?

Despite the protestations to the contrary, I would strongly wager that none of the principles named in the cables were entirely unaware of how others viewed them. The diplomatic community is not incredibly large, and they all know that everyone is spying on each other, most of them probably managing it with at least some success.

So, just as the diplomats routinely lie in their public utterances to the unwashed masses (read "you and me"), while privately informing their superiors of the real, publicly unstated problems, so these same diplomats are required to register public shock and concern about these public revelations, if only so as not to blow the cover on the people who had already revealed all of the cable contents to them moments after the relevant cables were sent.

In short, these public officials are shocked, shocked to find gambling going on at Rick's out what American diplomats really think.

They are just as shocked as American diplomats would be to hear the same from other countries.

The Wikileaks avalanche will "chill" international relations not one whit.

So, again, to whom is this news?
The only people who are really getting a new slant on the world is us, the unwashed masses.

We get the opportunity to see that our diplomats are not truly the raving loons and farcical idiots they publicly represent themselves to be. Much to our shock, we discover in some cases, they actually do have a grasp on reality, on some level they do recognize that Islam is a threat, certain world leaders are recognized as murderous maniacs, etc.

Even as we revel in the incompetence, the high school antics, of Barack's officials, it is comforting to know they aren't always the absolute bubble-heads they pretend to be.

The Threat

Does Wikileaks represent a threat?

To be sure, it does.

It threatens to make clear what is going on in the world - a highly dangerous thing to do, if you don't want that information out.

But in a democratic republic, shouldn't the people have some idea of what is going on?

To date, no one in State or anywhere else has said any of the released cables are fabrications. Everyone seems to agree they are the real thing.

So, all we are getting here is the truth - at least more truth than we previously had - and isn't it the truth that will set us free?

Now, some will argue that the release of this kind of information already has and certainly will, get people killed.

That's absolutely true.

For those of us who thought we were mostly at peace, the new realization that we have never been at peace, that we have always been combatants in a war, a war that generates real blood and real casualties, this realization may come as a shock.

Once you are finished being shocked, we can start the conversation again.

In normal battle situations, soldiers are put in harm's way and many of them get killed.
In information-gathering situations, soldiers are put in harm's way and many of them get killed.

In normal warfare, we do everything we can to limit casualties - armor, flak vests, etc.
In information warfare, we do everything to limit identification of the soldier. Anonymity is his armor, the release of information is the artillery fusillade that kills him.

In an avalanche of information, there may be some "collateral damage."
That's how normal warfare describes civilian casualties.
That's how information warfare describes the loss of soldiers who are agents.
Notice the difference between civilians and soldiers.

You may argue that the loss of the spy puts the civilians at risk.
That's true.
But the "collateral damage" of real warfare, by definition, means the civilians are already dead, and people seem to swallow that without blinking.

Why is the bloody reality easier to bear than the fear built into a barely outlined possibility?
Is it because we are no longer men?

Assange offered to let the US Government redact the documents to protect innocent lives.
The US Government refused to do so.
What does that say about the US Government's interest in the lives of their operatives?

And, in that light, if a breach is going to happen, isn't it better that Wikileaks get this material and make obvious to all involved that the government in question has a security problem? I doubt the Muslims, the Russians or sundry other countries would prefer to advertise the existence of this kind of security hole.

In that regard, Assange is pretty close to our best friend. He let's everyone know where the holes are. Not too many people looking for gain would be so kind.

The Bare Truth

Wikileaks has, so far, only released information from the United States, if only because the US is the least likely to execute someone for releasing state secrets, so US citizens who have access to such information are less concerned about leaking it to something like Wikileaks then would be their opposite numbers in more dictatorial governments.

But, as various spying missions bear fruit, we can be certain that embarrassing information about other governments and multinational corporations will also come to light through Wikileaks. When it is in certain nation's interests to reveal, when a certain corporation can benefit from the facts, then the information will come out.

Wikileaks will become just one more tool, one more player, in the diplomatic game, the first Internet state, as it were, dedicated to the embarrassment of other, more geographically bound states. The various spies and diplomats will adjust their tactics to take Wikileaks into account, even as Wikileaks attempts to circumvent those adjustments.

Wikileaks will be the international anonymizer, a useful weapon in any international arsenal. It will not be destroyed precisely because, although very dangerous to any particular government (who really wants the public to know what is going on? Where's the advantage in that?), it will prove to be too useful to every government.

And we will occasionally get a glimpse inside the fish bowl.


Patrick said...

I see both sides on this one. On the one side, we get to see the scandals of the government that we should know about. However, the supposed army private first class who released the private embassy papers, possibly a million pages to a known Internet activist, had little idea what was all in them and has placed literally thousands of lives at risk. Per the BBC, there apparently are some Vatican embassy communication here as well that could affect their relationships with other faiths. Due to the size of the leak, this appears more scandalous than helpful, especially considering all of the human lives and souls possibly put at risk.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Yes, the truth is scandalous.

And yes, the guy who did this was a sodomite and thus demonstrably not a bright bulb.

I even agree that the last people I would want redacting these things are the NYT, the UK papers and Assange.

But, to his credit, Assange asked the State Department to help him redact it.

They refused.

So, they can't very well go crying about lives lost. If anyone dies, State killed them in order to make Assange look bad.

And what does that say about our illustrious leaders?

It says Assange was right.

Wade St. Onge said...

You don't want this to happen? I have a solution: be more transparent in the first place.

I'm with Assange on this one. Can't stand cover ups - whether it's my State or my Church.

Patrick said...

Embassy communications is different than any other communications in government at any level. Per international law, it is all considered confidential and not releasable to the public in the first place. There are things that need to be disseminated without everyone in the world knowing about it, hence the law. I'm not saying the government should not have released the information by other channels as well, but that there are other privacy reasons involved here other than a simple people's right to know the latest gossip about world leaders.

Matheus F. Ticiani said...

From what I've been reading thus far, Wikileaks is just a bunch of scumbags.

Where are the "outside the box" leaks? I mean, US Government's "secrets"...? C'mon...

Of course, since Wikileaks is now making deals with big newspapers and seems to be, for all practical purposes, an extension of the mainstream media, leaking some politically incorrect stuff would certainly bastardize them forever.

As it is, it's very comfortable whth support from the liberal establishment, plus some libertarian-type schmucks...

Viator Catholicus said...

One does not always have a right to reveal a secret. To reveal secret sins is detraction.

The wikileaks are obviously secret information, some of which may reveal evil behavior. Others are bits of information that can lead to calumnous assumptions. Patrick is right in noting the scandal involved.

Meanwhile, the leak is not a matter of fraternal correction. The revealer has no moral authority and no moral right to reveal such things. His revelations do nothing to stop any similar sinful actions in the future.

The revelations do, however, upset international relations and, thus, endanger national and international security.

Tactful secrecy is not sinful when dealing with untrustworthy nations. Plotting sinful actions is.
What is the goal of wikileaks? To be transparent? Is this reasonable? How many people are totally transparent with their finances or home security? Why not? - There are bad people out there who want to take advantage, right? The same is true with nations.

The wikileaks were an attempt to attack the US and its allies. They are a grave sin of injustice against the common good.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Thanks Viator, but how do you know that these leaks:

a) upset international relations?

b) reveal sins?

c) constitute detraction?

Wikileaks does us the favor of revealing ENORMOUS security holes. Why is that good not counted in their favor?

Assange specifically asked for help from the US Government in redacting the files to be released. The government turned him down - where does THAT fit in your moral calculus?

docknoils said...

If Assange wanted to help the US, he should have done so. His actions prove he did not.
Revealing the secrets only creates international hostility toward the US. It gives Communist and tyrannical regimes the "upper hand" in scolding the US to some degree. It also causes distrust by allies.

St. Paul's inspired principle is that one may not do evil even for a good end. Even if Assange wanted to help the US by revealing the info, he had no right to the info in the first place. He had no right to reveal it.

If a thief broke into you home, stole your financial and family info, then gave it to me, do I have a right to it? If I brought it to you and said I needed your help in editing it so I could make it public and you said you would not talk with me, does that mean I have a right to make the info public in the way I want? The right thing for me to do is give back what belongs you and make no demands on you!
Assange is a criminal, good intentions or not.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Oh Docknoils/Viator, give it a rest.

Are you actually so naive that you really BELIEVE the content of any of these cables was news in the diplomatic community?

These guys all do the same thing for a living, they all meet the same people.

They all recognize that the person they are shaking hands with today and smiling at today is also spying, stabbing, lying to them TODAY.

Do you think they don't know what they think about each other?

The idea that this whole Wikileaks thing is anything other than amusing to a professional diplomat is absurd.

Sure, they'll yell about it publicly because it is politically necessary to do so, but the only people who might get taken in (as you have been) are the voters for whom these political games are played.

Jordanes said...

But, to his credit, Assange asked the State Department to help him redact it.

As Assange knew full well, it wasn't their responsibility to assist Assange with his theft-- quite the contrary. His show of asking them to help edit his stolen materials was just that: a farcical pose. I'm surprised you fell for it. It was his obligation not to accept the stolen property in the first place, but then, if he really was going to publish the documents, and if he is really the paragon of truth and ethics he pretends to be, he was obliged to make sure sensitive, life-endangering information was redacted. The fact that he refused to act responsibly tells you all you need to know about him, his operation, and his motives.

Patrick said...

Well, then following your belief that this was already known and not changing anything, it falls back to what he was doing was scandalous. Nothing more than gossip mongering among diplomats. If everyone knew and it changes nothing, than it falls into nothing more than idle gossip.

Steve Kellmeyer said...


I'm surprised you don't believe him. If he really is a cynical manipulator, then he has a vested interest in making sure names are redacted, if only to maintain his own reputation. I am quite sure his offer was genuine precisely because of this.

After all, if he wants future leaks, and he does, then he wants people to leak with a clean conscience. It encourages the practice. So, the fewer corpses generated by any particular leak, the more likely he is to get a future leak.

It's a simple, cynical calculation, and I'm sure he made the offer with that in mind.

There's no question the offer was genuine. The very fact that he's got his own staff and several newspapers doing the redaction right now proves it.


The ones who didn't know what was going on were us. Since this is supposed to be OUR government - we are the employers - I don't see any particular problem with the employers finding out what the employees are doing in the name of the employers.

Patrick said...

You can't put a guy in a white hat who is being hunted, even as I type, by Interpol. He obtained information that he knew was illegal to have and he spread the information with no method, or even attempt, to fact-check (which is why he can't fall under the news organization category). Even if it is innocent information as you believe, which I believe is false, to intentionally spread information that you do not know is true in a way that is intended to cause scandal or danger to others is immoral, even if they do work for you.

Steve Kellmeyer said...


Interpol should have an easy time of it. Everyone knows the man is in a house in England. They even know which house. The English haven't arrested him because no one has a valid arrest warrant for him.

He didn't need to fact check the stuff. It's real. He knew it was real. No one has said it is fake. No one has hinted it is fake. So what good is your charge that he had to "check facts"? It's a bunkum charge.

I'm not saying he's a white hat. But I also don't see why he would be a black hat. As the contents of the documents show, he's at least as honest as the government whose documents he released.

Why are you trying to smear him? Even if Interpol WERE looking for him, what does that prove?

His deeds need no embellishment, but they likewise need no smears. You may not like what he did - I'm not saying you have to.

I'm just pointing out that a lot of what is being said about him isn't really true.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Oh, just as an aside, since when do news organizations fact check?

Seems to me, if that criteria were applied to MSNBC, CNN, NYT, etc., they would all be forced out of business for false advertising.

And while you may not think Wikileaks is news, everyone else seems to think it is.

Matheus F. Ticiani said...

I've just read Pat Buchanan's insightful take on the issue.

(Arguably not a naive person...)

Steve Kellmeyer said...

But what does Buchanan actually say?
The Romanov leak happened at the END of WW I, not the beginning.

The obliteration of The Maine was not due to foreign espionage, but the unstable explosive stored on board. It is no secret that Hearst had intended to start a war regardless of what McKinley wanted, and the release of a foreign telegram had little to do with it.

It was an open secret well before Wikileaks happened that the Sunni Muslims, especially Saudi Arabia, wanted the US to attack Shia Iraq, and one can hardly think Hezbollah's assassination of a man's father (a Middle-Eastern man's father, no less) was going to win them points in Lebanon.

Buchanan's article is just meant to gin up disgust against Obama's incompetence. I agree with his aim, even if his examples are nonsense.

The thing we should all thank Assange for, is this pretty much stops Hillary from ever running for public office again. It happened on her watch, and she'll be thrown under the bus by Obama.

Patrick said...

Obviously, you can't smear with the truth. Interpol is searching for him for charges pertaining to breaking international laws and no one currently knows his whereabouts. Where's the smear?

No one has verified his facts, though they haven't dismissed them outright either. Simply ignoring where the MSM stories are coming from has been the mode that most of the countries are sticking with.

The "fact check" portion of my statement refers to how a news organization can legally release sensitive or questionable information if confirmed by non-sensitive outside sources and legally not be found culpable, much like Daniel Ellsberg in 1971. That is the difference between a news organization and the reporter being held legally accountable as an individual.

Just because gossip shows up in news media doesn't make it news, otherwise the comics would be considered news as well. If this information were released in the future after events it could be called historical research. Right now, it's simply scandal for scandal's sake that places lives in danger.

Steve Kellmeyer said...


Sure you can smear with the truth.
You just did.
You said Interpol was looking for him (true). You didn't say WHY Interpol was looking for him.

He's not charged with releasing information. He's charged with rape in Sweden. The charge popped up after the first dump of Afghan War documents, but the women making the charge dropped the charges shortly thereafter. He was in Sweden at the time and no one arrested him.

Now the charge has suddenly become "live" again, right after the diplomatic document dump starts. What a coincidence!

Either these documents are true or they are not. If they are not true, they can be shown to be fabricated and your charge of incredible damage to the US is shown up as balderdash, since the trove of documents is all fake.

But the only one making that allegation is you.

FYI, comics ARE considered news - the White House comic has just come under fire from the Catholic League, actually.

Viator Catholicus said...

I'm not a naive as you may wish to believe. But, apparently you have certain sympathies with Assange.
There is a craze to be "reveal" things these days. It is a perverse thing for Catholics to have such gossipy tongues.

I repeat again that eminently Catholic moral principle that one may not even do the smallest evil so that a great good may come of it. (American Catholics especially should reflect on this when we try to justify the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to end WWII.)

But, to put "to rest," as you would say, the idea that Assange only has the U.S.'s best interests at heart, try reading about his recent threat:

You have a right to defend him all you want. And you do so well as a consequentialist. But you cannot do so based on traditional Catholic moral principles.
That's my point.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Well, Viator, that thing about Catholic principles really hurts, coming from someone who won't even sign his real name.

What is it with pseudonyms and the Internet anyway? You want to voice your opinion but you want to do it without any consequences to your precious "reputations" or "employability."

Look, if you want to voice an opinion, at least have the gonads to stand behind it with your real name - let your "yes" mean "yes" and all that. Or is that too Catholic, too Scriptural, for you?

If you don't want people to know it's you that's talking, then shut up and keep your opinions to yourself.

Assange at least had the gonads to recognize that someone in his organization had to take the heat for the document release, and he stepped up to the plate.

He's closer to a Catholic man than any anonymous commentor. He's willing to be crucified for telling the truth. You aren't.

I know perfectly well about Assange's insurance file - I've known about it since before the first document dump. Given the snakes he's dealing with, it seems a wise move on his part.

FYI, Wikileaks has actually IMPROVED my view of the US government. I used to think they were all idiots are crypto-Muslims. Now I see they aren't idiots, they are just cowards. That is a step up, in my estimation.

Wade St. Onge said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Deuce said...

Wikileaks has, so far, only released information from the United States, if only because the US is the least likely to execute someone for releasing state secrets....

Actually, I think the more likely reason is that Julian Assange is a leftist who hates the United States. I'm becoming increasingly persuaded that he's inadvertently doing a service on behalf of the principles that the US was founded on, but that doesn't change the fact that his motivation is to stick it to America.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Yes, you could be right. That may very well be his motivation.

Fortunately, he's doing massive damage to Obama, he's massacring the Democrats, he has already destroyed Hillary, and he's made obvious a security hole that would otherwise have gone completely unnoticed.

He may be the best thing to happen to conservatives in a long time. Sort of the left's version of Timothy McVeigh.