Much ado about nothing...
After all the ballyhoo before the fact, the Wikileaks revelations thus far are pretty underwhelming. Although we’ve been seeing figures like 2.7 million and 251,287 for the number of documents released, so far there have been, er, 220 posted on the Wikileaks site.
Overall though, there is little to justify the screaming headlines of American foreign policy in crisis or being turned upside down. Instead, it’s a case of so far, so blah.
But you can see here the tantalising dates, subjects and places of origin of tens of thousands of other cables.
It seems to me that Assange is teasing Obama. Whereas the Afghanistan and Iraq war logs could be largely dismissed as Bush era material that didn’t really reflect on Obama, the State Department cables are different.
They go up to 28 February 2010, offering a potential window on Obama’s foreign policy which may well not show it in the sainted light he would prefer. It seems to me that Assange is teasing Obama, letting him know what WikiLeaks has and making him sweat.
Today was round one and the action was pretty tame. But there are plenty more rounds to come and Obama is on the back foot.
What action did the Obama administration take to prevent the impending release of such volatile information? State Department legal adviser Harold Koh sent a strongly worded letter urging WikiLeaks to cease publishing classified materials. I'm sure that made Assange think twice.
Is the Obama administration going to do anything - anything at all - to stop these serial disclosures of our nation's most closely guarded secrets? Just this past week, the federal government took decisive action to shut down more than 70 Web sites that were disseminating pirated music and movies. Hollywood is safe, but WikiLeaks is free to disseminate classified documents without consequence.
With this latest release, Assange may now have illegally disclosed more classified information than anyone in American history. He is in likely violation of the Espionage Act and arguably is providing material support for terrorism. But unlike leakers who came before him, Assange has done more than release information; he has created a virtual system for the ongoing collection and dissemination of America's secrets. The very existence of WikiLeaks is a threat to national security. Unless something is done, WikiLeaks will only grow more brazen - and our unwillingness to stop it will embolden others to reveal classified information using the unlawful medium Assange has built.
WikiLeaks' first disclosures caught the Obama administration by surprise. But how does the administration explain its inaction in the face of WikiLeaks' two subsequent, and increasingly dangerous, releases? In both cases, it had fair warning: Assange announced what kinds of documents he possessed, and he made clear his intention to release them.
The Obama administration has the ability to bring Assange to justice and to put WikiLeaks out of business. The new U.S. Cyber Command could shut down WilkiLeaks' servers and prevent them from releasing more classified information on President Obama's orders. But, as The Post reported this month, the Obama administration has been paralyzed by infighting over how, and when, it might use these new offensive capabilities in cyberspace. One objection: "The State Department is concerned about diplomatic backlash" from any offensive actions in cyberspace, The Post reported. Well, now the State Department can deal with the "diplomatic backlash" that comes from standing by helplessly, while WikiLeaks releases hundreds of thousands of its most sensitive diplomatic cables.
Because of its failure to act, responsibility for the damage done by these most recent disclosures now rests with the Obama administration. Perhaps this latest release crosses a line that will finally spur the administration to action. After all, the previous disclosures harmed only our war efforts. But this latest disclosure is a blow to a cause Democrats really care about - our diplomatic efforts. Maybe now, finally, the gloves will come off. Or is posting mournful tweets about the damage done to our national security the best this administration can do?
Plus, Spiegel Online International has a cool interactive global map that shows the quantities of dispatches being generated from U.S. embassies around the world with respect to time frames, here.