Leviathan Leaking Bit By Bit Into Paralysis

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.


  1. Comment says

    Birther disdain for Romney and luv for non-birther Huckabee is an interesting snap shot into America’a New Orient sociology.

    Birthers sense Romney is Harvard/Biz Roundtable etc – As such they must suspect he does not get birthers organically – How the birthers are trying to carve out a place at the table for provincials using a conspiracy theory that less unacceptable than out and out racism.

  2. Comment says

    When BoA or any bank asks H+W to look into someone – it’s like Henry saying he wants someone to deal with Beckett.

  3. Dr Leo Strauss says

    re analysts not understanding what they are peddling/analyzing

    The disconnect is profound. Also shows the limits of link analysis.

    @ggreenwald trends upwards on Twitter talking about Wikileaks. His column liked on Facebook, cited by DailyKos, etc. A clueless person using uninformed link analysis will ’empirically’ prove that person a vital cog to the Wikileaks entity, etc.

    Hunton & Williams are the nexus. From what we’ve seen to date, the firm appeared to be on fishing expeditions to assemble a presentation to capture business from the Chamber or BoA. We wouldn’t be surprised if BoA or the Chamber really didn’t have an informed understanding what H&W were up to.

    Litigation discovery will be . . . interesting.

  4. Comment says

    It seems like Palantir is playing a class game by trying to wash hands and point to HB Gary + (Federal) as some sort of low rent freak show they accidentally got associated with.

    Poor classification of Greenwald as some sort of WaPo style careerist liberal shows limitations of intelligence analysis with people who don’t really understand what they are investigating.

  5. Dr Leo Strauss says

    This IRC chat log of the head of the now notorious HBGary and members of Anonymous wherein she pleads with them to stop penetrating her company and emails makes for wry reading. The head of the HBGary Federal gov’t subsidiary, Aaron Barr, did more than bring it on himself and the overall company. He literally poured the gasoline on himself and held out the match.


    Penny makes her entry at line 522.

  6. Tbilisi says

    @Dr Leo Strauss

    Re post-1945 partial mobilization:
    I’ve been thinking lately:
    – Western Modernity can be seen to basically have three manifestations: liberalism, utopianism, and corporatism, all of which are seductive in their own way, but only one of which (liberalism) is capable of sustaining an Enlightenment social and political order. FDR’s New Deal and European social democracy are exemplary of liberalism, Hitler and Lenin of utopianism, and Mussolini and Stalin of corporatism.
    – WWII thus was a defeat for utopianism, but a victory for not only liberalism but also corporatism.
    – The death of left wing movements and leftist language and thought in the United States follows directly from this defeat of utopianism.
    – In post-1945 America, corporatism – knocked down by the New Deal but victorious in WWII – found a foothold in a marginalized Republican party and a newly well off American public.
    – Corporatism used this foothold to first directly defeat American utopianism (in its Southern racist, industrial leftist, and other manifestations). Then it used co-option to trick liberals into adopting anti-liberal corporatist beliefs (e.g. about the supremacy of the meritocracy).
    – Having defeated both its opponents in Modern America, Coporatism (which unlike utopianism and liberalism has no core philosophy and is fundamentally nihilist) needed a philosophy to continue to survive, and thus adopted various half-baked radicalized belief systems (neoliberalism, neoconism, globalism, market fundamentalism, and a host of smaller issue-specific isms) which are often contradictory but all serve the same objective of empowering Hunter’s elite 30,000.

    So, to sum up, I’ve been thinking that maybe, despite Civil Rights, Women’s Rights, anti-War, et al, the 60’s (+/- 5 or so years) was in fact the decisive battle between modern American liberalism and radical corporatism, with the latter victorious. Which means that since then we are seeing simply consolidation of victory and routing of insurgent liberalists.

    Not sure what if anything this adds to the discussion, but I’ve been wanting to write it out. Thanks for the indulgence, good Doctor.

  7. Hunter says

    @Dr Leo Strauss
    I went into an abandoned flower shop that my neighbor bought and cleaned out recently… There had been some squatters who had painted the walls with such slogans as “RESIST NEOLIBERALISM”. But this is mere kvetching (and semi-private at that), certainly no challenge to the State. No one that I can see is, say, organizing.

  8. Dr Leo Strauss says

    re permanent ambient mobilization:

    This represents a shift for our country,” she [DHS Secretary Napalitano] told New York City police officers and firefighters on the eve of the 9/11 anniversary this fall. “In a sense, this harkens back to when we drew on the tradition of civil defense and preparedness that predated today’s concerns.


    Two points. One, we’ve been saying here for years that the Top-Down radicalization reached down into local city and county police. With all the implications noted above.

    And two, there seems to be a sense of general resignation to it all. Just like it’s obvious banks and Wall Street won’t be held accountable. No one bothers with pretense that laws are the same for income strata. Who challenges the State treating us as subjects?

  9. Comment says

    Die Welt – JA does come accross in his letters and old postings as someone a bit full of himself – He pretentiously cites literature that he knows his audience has not read – Things like that. He is obviously very bright – but his obtuse personality will cause him to reach his limits soon, if not already.

  10. Comment says

    Re Nomenklatura – This is what is annoying about insiders like Milbank and others – They don’t voice their real objection to Assange – Milbank, Ignatius, et al are part of the new Deep State – favored scribes and they are guarding turf. This is why the Plame thing blew up in their face – It was loss for the insider team and they see Assange as a far greater threat (to their relevance as leak guardians).

    So Milbank now says ignore JA – knowing that no one will. He does this to maintain some false credentials as an outsider –

  11. Dr Leo Strauss says

    From Die Welt Dec. 2010:

    Figures like Assange benefit from a widespread fantasy of power — the egocentric dream of a single person steering the world from a hotel room or a living room, without bothering to engage with a staff, a neighborhood, or any broader citizenship … The myth of a free-floating genius is at large in the world again.”

    “Max Weber observed a century ago that the rise in administrative costs and complexity in government and economics will lead to self-empowerment of the functionaries. The division of labor between politicians, who make decisions, and the public servants who put policies into play, will be ruptured. A vague class arises in the middle with no real power to lead but also no professional self-discipline. This class uses power and sometimes decorates it ‘with hopes of happiness,’ as Weber says. This class tends toward self-drama, but fails to recognize questions of fate for the entire nation.”

    “Julian Assange can send loads of data around the world and never evince the slightest concern for world security. The ‘revolution’ mentioned with relish by masters of the Internet is really a game of delay. They avoid the pressing questions of the world; everything is just held in place in the (data-)stream.

  12. Dr Leo Strauss says

    Have to cop to tuning out WikiLeaks a bit after finally digesting Hunter’s point. Hunter, in retrospect you were right. Didn’t fully get at first take what you explained so well.

    Chaining oneself to the WH, the whole circus seems just empty theater. Hope the professionals tune their response and disregard the invitation to overreact, per Hunter’s warning. Could be missing the point (and not for the first time – this week, even).

    Re Milbank, he has that effect doesn’t he? But then the WaPo is a weird mutation. Beyond the ideology or news versus opinion issues.

    People began to stop reading it years before digital editions/blogs/YouTube/social. They spent their whole lives and careers reading papers and professional literature and joke ‘yeah I finished the Post in five minutes’ (they weren’t the type to read sports or later go for online stuff). They just dropped it. Said they didn’t miss it much.

    Perhaps Milbank writing about Assange is describing his own brief. To get a reaction, any reaction. The fate he wishes for Assange what the WaPo itself dreads – being ignored.

    Substantively, we’d disagree with Milbank that the issue is over classification per se. Bureaucratic behavior since time immemorial remains of course. But we think the real concern should be a society in perpetual partial mobilization post-1945, especially post 9-11. We labeled the recent emergence of an American Nomenklatura partly in (Milbank-esque?) barbed snark, partly in real alarm. Beyond traditional Weberian bureaucratic practices, our current over classification is just a symptom.

    Until (if?) we can re-establish a new social equilibrium that ratches back perpetual ambient mobilization, going after symptoms is playing whack-a-mole. Treating a symptom could still be worth pursuing as long as its understood to be what it is.

    The global threat environment is real. Dropping our own snark, the mission and professionalism of those dedicated to dealing with it — particularly re the CI challenge — deserve support. We just believe that national security can be and should be maintained with a different calibration.

  13. Comment says

    Indeed Zuck was a good biz decision. It’s sort of funny though when someone smaller gives an award to someone bigger. The Noble committee does that too – just a bunch of Scandinavian pols sitting around wonder who they think is cool. Yet, the world plays along – But Time is still in Cafe Terminus having dessert.

  14. Comment says

    Interesting modern art would be a brain scan of Louis Gohmert when he shown images of things he fears like post dadt marine and arab terror babies and victory mosques along the rio grande being staffed by illegal mexican women who are muling drugs in their private parts at the behest of hollywood moguls working for Hillary and Obama. Hirchorn ideas

  15. Dr Leo Strauss says

    Zuck allows Time to insert its own brand into the FB 500 million subscriber ecosystem and leverage its ‘award’ for more likes, click throughs and brand enhancement. It also ties in with Golden Globe buzz about a movie (we’ve not seen it), etc. Solid brand strategy. Assange really brings little to the table.

  16. Comment says

    It would be a good leak to get the minutes of Time’s Person of the Year meetings and see how they try to figure out how not pick Assange but not make it look like they were worried about the collective right wing and msm freakout if they did. The old saw about Time’s recognition being morally neutral is long gone. The fact is that Time is worried that readers can not make the distinction. They fear tweets from Palin. They lucked out that Zuckerberg was plausible.

  17. Comment says

    Poor little Jonathan Alter looking sad on Dylan Ratigan as he tries and fails to do his grown up act and defend surrender on tax cuts as the obvious thing to do even though they are not needed and don’t work. This is the loser cycle. Alter just wrings his hands and says we cannot do anything.

  18. Comment says

    Johnson’s company website is as fatuous and empty seeming as he – So much bs offering anti terror advice to companies.
    re Fair Game – we have not seen the movie, but heard that the dialogue was awful. We’ll watch it On Demand.

  19. Dr Leo Strauss says

    It’s a puzze, isn’t it, what fits those parameters. In her case, her tragic assassination adds a layer to self-editing.

    By comparison, how much blather about the alleged Afghan traveling with $53 million. Compared to the the billions stolen or diverted from both Afghanistan and Iraq (Bremer’s lost $9 billion in cash just a fraction) by corrupt contractors and locals? That $53 million is a rounding error.

    His true sin probably was he didn’t steal enough – if reports are true. $53 million is something people think they can grok, relate to, and be scandalized. Billions, hundreds of millions and suddenly it sounds all so tedious, arcane and densely technical. Without an Erin Burnett hair flip, the story wouldn’t make it past the second segment on Morning Joe.

  20. Comment says

    Just flipped on the tube and abc is saying Benizar Bhutto is a woman’s rights hero. Too bad she stole billions from her poor countrymen. But abc cannot talk about anything outside certain bourgeois parameters.

  21. DrLeoStrauss says

    Damn Assange, because one just knows Friedman will mangle this tempest into a revised Foreward for his Flat nonsense. That may be Assange’s cruelest satisfaction of all.

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