Belmont Club

Just Us

The Daily Beast says Wikileaks is asking the Pentagon to review its next leak in order to avoid endangering Afghan informants, as it did in its previous release, for which it extends a slight regret.

His secretive WikiLeaks website tells The Daily Beast it is making an urgent request to the Defense Department for help in reviewing 15,000 still-secret American military reports to remove the names of Afghan civilians and others who might be endangered when the website makes the reports public. …

The request follows statements of regret from Assange and others at WikiLeaks that the site may have unintentionally endangered Afghan civilians with its first massive document dump—72,000 leaked classified American military reports from Afghanistan that revealed the names and home villages of hundreds of local informants who cooperated with American forces there. …

“I would certainly say that the invitation to talk to the Obama administration is open,” said Daniel Schmitt, a WikiLeaks spokesman in Germany. “It has been open before.” …

Asked why WikiLeaks did not review all of the Afghan war logs before releasing them last month to make sure that no Afghan informants or other innocent people were identified, Schmitt said that the volume of the material made it impossible.

Asking the Pentagon to pre-clear a leak of classified documents makes the victims of the theft accessory to the fact. It attempts to transfer the responsibility for the deaths Wikileaks has caused to the very party from which the secrets were stolen. Yet if the Pentagon refuses to vet the leaks, Wikileaks can then release the documents and still claim the US military bear responsibility for any persons subsequently killed or tortured by the Taliban. It’s a case of damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

This is blackmail plain and simple and the issues governing response are similar. Unless concessions are made to Wikileaks the Afghan informants will be endangered. If concessions are made there will be more blackmail. But even if the Pentagon does agree to review the documents, nothing physically prevents Wikileaks from the losing the data to a third party who may in turn lose it to the Taliban. This is similar to the situation where the kidnapper kills the victim after you pay the ransom. You can trust Assange, but why would you? In reality the entire stash of leaked documents is effectively compromised to the Taliban. Or can be at the pleasure of Assange. Dealing with him is a losing game. Any concessions to Assange should be viewed as ploys to buy time and warn informants. But they have no other use otherwise.

Wikileaks is hostile, if not legally then in objective fact. The real question is what policy should be applied to Wikileaks. What will be applied is easier to describe than what ‘should’. Going from its past track record, the administration will probably opt to deal with Wikileaks through ‘engagement’ or ‘diplomacy’. That is its attitude towards the government of Iran, an entity which has killed not only Iraqis, but Americans. That is its attitude to enemies of all stripes.  Engagement, diplomacy and legal action. Wikileaks is unlikely to fare worse than North Korea, which sank a warship and got a letter from the Security Council. It is safe to say that at the outside Wikileaks can expect at most legal action to be directed against it. And it will be shambolic. Any government lawsuit is likely to be ineffective and vulnerable to a political “fix”. Wikileaks has powerful friends among political factions in the West. As Congress has recently demonstrated, legal action against people with juice is an iffy proposition.

This would not necessarily be the case if the action were pursued by the possible victims of wrongful death. That would also change the political complexion of the debate. In the Pentagon versus Assange, Assange can play David to Goliath. But in Assange versus a collection of poor Afghans, he is condemned to the role of Goliath. That might actually make him a political liability. And making someone a political liability is the first step to removing his coating of leftist Teflon. In a conditions where political correctness has neutralized an effective public response the only remaining option may be to turn the PC rulebook on itself. There is no guarantee of success. But it is better than awaiting action against Wikileaks from the administration. That’s a dry hole. What hope remains lies in taking the initiative and seeing what happens. In the movie Zulu a private asked his color sergeant why, of all the units in the British Army, it had to be them to stand at Rorke’s Drift.

Pte. Thomas Cole: Why is it us? Why us?
Colour Sergeant Bourne: Because we’re here, lad. Nobody else. Just us.

Tip Jar or Subscribe for $5

Join the conversation as a VIP Member