Chasing WikiLeaks is A Dumb Strategy

Marc Thiessen is an idiot, and that’s being kind. Thiessen wants to assassinate Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, or have the US Government perform some sort of magical Denial of Service or something. Who knows.

Raffi Khatchadourian gives a bit of context:

Shutting WikiLeaks down—assuming that this is even possible—would only lead to copycat sites devised by innovators who would make their services even more difficult to curtail. A better approach for the Defense Department might be to consider WikiLeaks a competitor rather than a threat, and to recognize that the spirit of transparency that motivates Assange and his volunteers is shared by a far wider community of people who use the Internet. Currently, the government has its own versions of WikiLeaks: the Freedom of Information Act and the Mandatory Declassification Review. The problem is that both of these mechanisms can be grindingly slow and inconsistent, in part because the government appears to be overwhelmed by a vast amount of data that should never have been classified to begin with—a phenomenon known as “overclassification.”

Presidential Portal Stones

It’s worth recalling the first WikiLeaks project to garner major international attention: a video, shot from an Apache helicopter in 2007, in Iraq, that documented American soldiers killing up to eighteen people. For years, Reuters sought to obtain that video through FOIA because two of its staff members were among the victims. Had the military released this footage to the wire service, and made whatever minor redactions were necessary to protect its operations, there would never have been a film titled “Collateral Murder”—the name of WikiLeaks’s package for the video—because there would have been nothing to leak. Even after Assange had published the footage, and even though the events documented in it had been previously revealed in detail by a Washington Post reporter, the military (at least, as of July) has still not officially released it.

There is a simple lesson here: whatever the imperfections of WikiLeaks as a startup, its emergence points to a real shortcoming within our intelligence community. Secrets can be kept by deterrence—that is, by hunting down the people who leak them, as Thiessen proposes, and demonstrating that such behavior comes with real costs, such as prison time. But there are other methods: keep far fewer secrets, manage them better—and, perhaps, along the way, become a bit more like WikiLeaks. An official government Web site that would make the implementation of FOIA quicker and more uniform, comprehensive, and accessible, and that might even allow anonymous whistleblowers within federal agencies to post internal materials, after a process of review and redaction, could be a very good thing—for the public, and for the official keepers of secrets, too.

(click to continue reading News Desk: Chasing WikiLeaks : The New Yorker.)


Reading Around on October 4th

Some additional reading October 4th from 10:05 to 12:48: