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What does the Pentagon have in common with North Korea, China, Zimbabwe, and a number of private Swiss banks? They all feel threatened by WikiLeaks, the Internet service that offers whistleblowers an opportunity to publish documents that expose corruption and wrongdoing by state and private actors. This week, WikiLeaks published a 32-page secret Defense Department counterintelligence study of WikiLeaks, which suggests that the American military was preparing to (or perhaps even did) attempt to hack into and shut down the site:
(S//NF) The obscurification technology used by Wikileaks.org has exploitable vulnerabilities. Organizations with properly trained cyber technicians, the proper equipment, and the proper technical software could most likely conduct computer network exploitation (CNE) operations or use cyber tradecraft to obtain access to Wikileaks.org’s Web site, information systems, or networks that may assist in identifying those persons supplying the data and the means by which they transmitted the data to Wikileaks.org.
The report expressly cites China, Israel, North Korea, Russia, Vietnam, and Zimbabwe as nations that have taken steps against WikiLeaks, and it suggests other actions that could be taken by the United States. Noting that WikiLeaks relies upon “trust as a center of gravity by protecting the anonymity and identity of the insiders, leakers or whisteblowers,” it proposes that
The identification, exposure, termination of employment, criminal prosecution, legal action against current or former insiders, leakers, or whistleblowers could potentially damage or destroy this center of gravity and deter others considering similar actions from using the Wikileaks.org Web site.
What has the Pentagon so riled up? WikiLeaks published documents about U.S. equipment deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, materials on the use of certain gas agents in Iraq, and the Standard Operating Procedures for Guantánamo (SOP), which established in the minds of many critics (and legal authorities around the world) that the Bush Administration had in fact embraced practices designed to abuse or mistreat prisoners there and conceal the details of their treatment from the public and from the Red Cross. Cross-referencing the SOP against conduct reported in the NCIS investigation into the three alleged “suicides” of June 9, 2006, was, for instance, a principal tool used by researchers at Seton Hall Law School to discredit the NCIS conclusions. If those conclusions were accurate, then prison guards were engaged in systematic violation of fundamental provisions of the SOP with no disciplinary consequences.
Each of these disclosures was intensely embarrassing to the United States, leading to press coverage that tended to show that the United States was acting in conscious disregard of its legal obligations. But the Pentagon study turns this around:
Wikileaks.org is knowingly encouraging criminal activities such as the theft of data, documents, proprietary information, and intellectual property, possible violation of national security laws regarding sedition and espionage, and possible violation of civil laws. Within the United States and foreign countries the alleged ?whistleblowers? are, in effect, wittingly violating laws and conditions of employment and thus may not qualify as ?whistleblowers protected from disciplinary action or retaliation for reporting wrongdoing in countries that have such laws. Also, the encouragement and receipt of stolen information or data is not considered to be an ethical journalistic practice.
By this reasoning, every time a newspaper encourages a whistleblower to recount his experiences or to share a document that confirms them, the journalists are engaging in a criminal act. This suggests that the Pentagon’s copy of the U.S. Constitution is missing the First Amendment, or perhaps that the Defense Department has secured another one of those dodgy OLC memos stating that the First Amendment no longer applies to it.
The Pentagon study, which is classified “secret/noforn” is also revealing of the current Pentagon practice of classifying documents as “secret” because they would be embarrassing if published. The report draws entirely on public documents and public source materials, so nothing contained in it is in fact “secret.” In an ironic twist, the memo itself helps provide a justification for the existence of websites like WikiLeaks.
In 1960, a congressional committee, recognizing the need to rein in the extravagant claims of secrecy that were thriving in the Department of Defense and intelligence community, observed that
Secrecy—the first refuge of incompetents—must be at a bare minimum in a democratic society, for a fully informed public is the basis of self-government. Those elected or appointed to positions of executive authority must recognize that government, in a democracy, cannot be wiser than the people.
A young congressman from Illinois who supported the legislation put it just as sharply, saying that the forced disclosure of government information
will make it considerably more difficult for secrecy-minded bureaucrats to decide arbitrarily that people should be denied access to information on the conduct of government or to how a …. government official is handling his job. Public records, which are the evidence of official government action, are public property, and there should be a positive obligation to disclose this information upon request.
His name was Donald Rumsfeld.
More from Scott Horton:
Conversation — March 30, 2016, 3:44 pm
Joseph Hickman discusses his new book, The Burn Pits, which tells the story of thousands of U.S. soldiers who, after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, have developed rare cancers and respiratory diseases.
i. stand with israel
I listen to a lot of conservative talk radio. Confident masculine voices telling me the enemy is everywhere and victory is near — I often find it affirming: there’s a reason I don’t think that way. Last spring, many right-wing commentators made much of a Bloomberg poll that asked Americans, “Are you more sympathetic to Netanyahu or Obama?” Republicans picked the Israeli prime minister over their own president, 67 to 16 percent. There was a lot of affected shock that things had come to this. Rush Limbaugh said of Netanyahu that he wished “we had this kind of forceful moral, ethical clarity leading our own country”; Mark Levin described him as “the leader of the free world.” For a few days there I yelled quite a bit in my car.
The one conservative radio show I do find myself enjoying is hosted by Dennis Prager. At the Thanksgiving dinner of American radio personalities (Limbaugh is your jittery brother-in-law, Michael Savage is your racist uncle, Hugh Hewitt is Hugh Hewitt) Dennis Prager is the turkey-carving patriarch trying to keep the conversation moderately high-minded. While Prager obviously doesn’t like liberals — “The gaps between the left and right on almost every issue that matters are in fact unbridgeable,” he has said — he often invites them onto his show for debate, which is rare among right-wing hosts. Yet his gently exasperated take on the Obama–Netanyahu matchup was among the least charitable: “Those who do not confront evil resent those who do.”
Pairs of moose-dung earrings sold each year at Grizzly’s Gifts in Anchorage, Alaska:
An Alaskan brown bear was reported to have scratched its face with barnacled rocks, making it the first bear seen using tools since 1972, when a Svalbardian polar bear is alleged to have clubbed a seal in the head with a block of ice.
A former prison in Philadelphia that has served as a horror-movie set was being prepared as a detention center for protesters arrested at the upcoming Democratic National Convention, and presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump fired his campaign manager.
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“Matt was happy enough to sustain himself on the detritus of a world he saw as careening toward self-destruction, and equally happy to scam a government he despised. 'I’m glad everyone’s so wasteful,' he told me. 'It supports my lifestyle.'”