Julian Assange will learn we have a right to protect our secrets.
Julian Assange, proprietor of the WikiLeaks website, on which he has already published about 76,000 classified documents relating to the Afghanistan war, says he will within weeks publish another 15,000. Assange hopes these disclosures will lead to war crimes trials to punish Americans.
The initial disclosure was comprised of raw battlefield reports and other materials classified at the “secret” level. Many of the documents reportedly contained the names and locations of Afghans who have aided U.S. and NATO troops. The Taliban took note and promised punishment of those people. Other damage done by the publication of these documents is still being assessed.
The second round of disclosures may be worse. The Obama administration seems content with chest-thumping threats of possible prosecutions of Assange. Which, even if they are brought successfully, seems a long shot given Assange’s life beyond U.S. courts’ jurisdiction and thus won’t prevent disclosure.
This isn’t another “Pentagon Papers” case. In that 1971 case, the Supreme Court denied the Nixon administration’s effort to restrain the New York Times from publishing secret papers on the Vietnam War. The court said, specifically, that although it ruled against that case, there were circumstances that a court would block publication.
And now, given Assange’s actions are based outside the U.S., in nations where Assange is safe from U.S. court action, another “Pentagon Papers” case or even an attempt at prosecution would be pointless. But we have a right to act to protect our secrets. And act we must. So what should be done to prevent Assange from publishing them?
A friend of mine, a more-or-less retired CIA paramilitary operative, sees the solution in characteristically simple terms. “We should go get him,” he said, speaking of Assange.
When my friend says “get him,” he isn’t thinking of lawsuits, but of suppressed pistols, car bombs and such. But as heart-warming as it is to envision Assange surveying his breakfast cereal with a Geiger counter, we shouldn’t deal with him and WikiLeaks that way.
At the risk of abusing the Bard, let’s “Cry havoc, and let slip the geeks of cyberwar.” We need to have a WikiLeaks fire sale.
A “fire sale” (as those who saw Die Hard 4 will remember) is a cyber attack aimed at disabling — even destroying — an adversary’s ability to function. Russia did this to Estonia in 2007 and Israel apparently did this to Syrian radar systems when it attacked the Syrian nuclear site later that year. The elegance of this is that if we can pull off a decisive cyber operation against WikiLeaks, it can and should be done entirely in secret.
Plausible deniability, anyone?
And it’s easier said than done. WikiLeaks functions, according to one expert I conferred with, through a network of computer servers in several countries. Moreover, Assange has a small army of “supporters” helping to hide and distribute information. The servers’ network is hidden behind a wall of anonymous communications links. That makes a cyber attack hard to do, but not impossible.
There are legal restrictions that could prevent our military cyberwarriors from holding the fire sale. Could, but perhaps — if interpreted aggressively — wouldn’t. This would be a good time to follow the military motto that it’s better to ask forgiveness than permission. However, STRATCOM (Strategic Command) hasn’t — according to one source — taken on any offensive missions yet. And the new CYBERCOM boss, Gen. Keith Alexander, hasn’t even set policy for how and when such offensive operations could or would be done.
Which brings us back to the spooks. They have the capability, but will they use it?
Probably not. The intelligence community is now ruled by the Department of Justice with the backing of the White House. Attorney General Eric Holder’s iron grip even overrides the legal obligation the IC has to advise congressional intelligence committees of its activities. One senior intelligence community source told me that no information goes to Congress unless and until Holder’s crew reviews and approves it.
As that source told me, Holder is interested in prosecuting terrorists, not gathering intelligence. It stretches credulity to believe that he — or Obama — would allow a fire sale attack on WikiLeaks.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?