We so far are non-plussed by the latest round of WikiLeaks materials. If this is their crown jewels we see no real justification to support the release. So far we get mostly embarrassing relationship gossip. Standard cable traffic fare (secret down to unclassified). In fact, it’s almost like a bad Bob Woodward book’s early draft, but from a Bizzaro universe. There, on a Spirit Walk with Joe Wilson above Santa Fe on peyote, Woodward envisions eating Tom Friedman’s brain and just dictates stream of consciousness the Wonder of it All into his digital recorder. ‘Putin looked at Medvedev and declared, to the Bat Cave, Dmitri!’.
There’s no larger revelation of large scale U.S. duplicity like Vietnam or 2002-2003 Iraq. So the U.S. (and everyone else) spies on the U.N. Hello, McFly?
No power can be long effective if run-of-the-mill, mid-level classified material is routinely disclosed. First, anyone meeting an American from now on will wonder how soon the American’s characterization of the meeting (in which the Americans naturally always look good) is leaked. Second, American reporting from the field and information fusion will likely suffer drastically in the name of security. Candid assessments will be self-edited. More importantly, the SIPDIS multi-agency intra-net mechanism and siblings should be supported, not abandoned in favor of security over-reactions, information silos and fracturing.
Earlier disclosures from Wikileaks we felt had marginal rationale despite real downsides. It’s true enemies gained insights into American operational practices. Most of our enemies already knew it from fighting or indirectly buying that information. In a way, that battlespace disclosure had a silver lining. We have to assume our enemies went to school on us via Wikileaks and the field. Circumstances force us to innovate and re-think anew. That’s not Pollyanna typing. An external galvanizing event like the info dump may have been the impetus needed to get turgid institutions to wake up.
We also grant a risk to those cooperating with the U.S. potentially could be increased. Those WikiLeaks initial releases at least did what drop by journalists failed to do – illuminated the slow unravelling of the U.S. military ethos down to the tactical level. For future historians the confirmation of what and how the U.S. military perceived its environment will be significant.
By contrast, we fail to see what benefit will come from this latest gesture. Disclosure for the sake of it. We are shown merely what diplomacy is, day in and day out. Nothing there — aside from the gossip — is notable for structural insights or opens new systemic understanding. It’s like a Facebook hack. WikiLeaks is tediously clinging to attention like SNL. They claim more ‘good stuff’ is to come. Just like the next new host will be really funny, for sure. If this release is any sample, Assange, you’ve had your 15 minutes and get a show on Bravo.
Back in the 1990s, we argued in public writings against NSA and FBI efforts to impost export controls on encryption at absurdly ineffective levels (they didn’t even want DES). Our point was that once information became digitized, control becomes largely notional if not wholly illusory, and technology wouldn’t wait for the Federal Register. We get no satisfaction seeing the scenario play itself out in reverse here.
We can anticipate a counterproductive clampdown in response. What we got in exchange for that? Meh.