Gibbs to WikiLeaks: We Ain't Scared of You
As to the fear factor, consider: One disgruntled private with a rewritable CD or flash drive used a computer to download what was in essence the keys to the kingdom of U.S. foreign policy. He could have given them, or sold them, or used them in exchange for favors or whatever, with just about anyone. Just think how much the Chinese government would have liked to have had this docu-drop for their own private perusal. Or the Russians, or the Iranians, you name the world rival, and Manning could have named his price. We don't actually know that he didn't do this, either with these documents or others he may have had access to. We just don't know.
We also don't know how this compares to previous U.S. security breeches. We're all reacting to the headlines and blog bursts while probably 90% of this story is happening far away from the media glare. The unknown unknowns are just too many to count here. And we'll probably never be able to count them, at least until we know for sure how many others had the opportunity and ability to do what was done here. And the ability factor is quite low, if Manning turns out to be the sole source and the Lady Gaga explanation turns out to be the truth. And if there are multiple sources at work here? Then the ability factor is probably even lower.
The world we live in, the world of asymmetrical warfare, the world of the Army of Davids, is a world in which one man with a car bomb can fracture a government and trigger regional instability. In this world, a few men with box cutters and a plan can trigger war all over the globe. In this world, a well-placed nuclear scientist can hand over data that enables nuclear programs in one rogue state after another.
Or, one man with a grudge can download sensitive information and hand it over to everyone on the planet, harming the lone global superpower and creating chaos that will ripple on for years. This is the Joker, acting on a global scale, with no Dark Knight around to save the day.
The Obama White House, through Robert Gibbs, puts on a brave face and says it doesn't fear that. It should. And then it should take strong steps to make sure that it can't happen again.
Update: Amazon has booted WikiLeaks from its servers. But the signal isn't stopped, it's just hosted in Europe now.