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The dog that didn’t bark

Reflecting on the Wikileaks issue – see Perry’s post on Samizdata on Saturday – it occurs to me that one group of folk who must be a bit miffed by the leaks are parts of the anti-war side, especially those of a conspiracy theory cast of mind. For example, where is the leaked memo that “proves” there was some evil Jewish/neo-con/international banker/armsdealer/insert villain of choice conspiracy to blow up the WTC and then blame it on bin Laden? And I note that one of the leaked cables suggests that the Saudis are very alarmed by the geo-political ambitions of Iran, and want the West to contain it. Well, that surely fits with what a lot of those supposedly bloodthirsty neocons around George W Bush had been saying. And so on.

The leaks have done damage, no doubt about it, and unlike Perry, I am not so sangine about the overall impact of Wikileaks as far as rolling back the state is concerned. This is one of those things I find hard to be able to prove conclusively one way or the other; generally speaking, the more openness, the better, and the fewer hiding places for governments, the better. I also think, however, that leaks of secrets that may harm self defence efforts of genuinely liberal states against terrorist groups, if they occur, are enough to send such leakers to jail on the grounds of being reckless in offering, however unintentionally, aid to such groups.

But it is, nonetheless interesting that none of the dottier conspiracies swirling around 9/11 have yet to appear. The reason is that such conspiracy theories are bunk.

79 comments to The dog that didn’t bark

  • But it is, nonetheless interesting that none of the dottier conspiracies swirling around 9/11 have yet to appear.

    But Johnathan, don’t you understand? There are no leaks. This is all part of the disinformation conspiracy to hide the truth.

  • and unlike Perry, I am not so sangine about the overall impact of Wikileaks as far as rolling back the state is concerned.

    Wikileaks will make states less effective rather than roll them back in absolute terms… still not a bad objective.

  • TDK

    I was in Saudi Arabia last week. The wikileak story is that Saudi was pressing the US to deal with Iran. In the English language paper they described this as misinformation, which goes along with CountingCats point.

  • Rob

    I thought the most interesting “leak” was confirmation of the Saudi funding of nearly all the islamist terrorist actvity.

    Unless the “conspiracy” was to make the Saudi’s look sensible on Iran (justifying invasion) while at the same time look like extremist funders of Islamist terrorism (justifying war on terror).

  • Ian F4

    Wikileaks will make states less effective rather than roll them back in absolute terms… still not a bad objective.

    Do you include Saudi Arabia, the world’s terrorist financier, amongst such “states” affected by this ?

  • As you may know, for the Left in S America, anything nasty that happens, even the smallest mosquito bite, is always a CIA plot (for a crude exposition of this theory, read E. Galeano). Which is why one Wikileak was particularly welcome and timely: a cable in which the US ambassador in Honduras discusses the legality of the way Zelaya was removed, in a balanced and fair minded tone, concluding that the coup was “illegal and illegitimate”. Those (almost the entire Latin American left) who insisted that the coup was entirely orchestrated from Washington have gone very quiet all of a sudden.

  • Jane

    The Saudi’s want the US to deal with Iran. The US is always asked to do everyone’s dirty work while the ones asking for the favor remain quiet. Then the world turns on the US for sticking its nose into places it shouldn’t. The country asking for the favor joins in with the criticism or at best remains silent. We sacrifice our men’s lives and our resources and then everyone can jump on the bandwagon to hate the US.

    Real diplomacy is the US stepping up to the plate, doing the dirty work and taking the criticism and hatred while our men serve honorably. God bless our troops.

  • What Jane said – which is another point in Assange’s favor.

  • Dom

    Jonathan, I think you’re making an excellent point here, and one, btw, that I tried to make in many other threads. Some other documents that don’t exist: The plan to hide explosives in the twin towers on September 10, the need for a pipeline in Afghanistan, the blueprints for a military base in Iraq to control Gulf oil. All dogs that didn’t bark. My guess is that most of the left won’t drop these arguments, however.

    It is interesting to compare the fallout of the WL documents with the aftermath (if there was one) of the Venona Project.

  • Dom

    Alisa — Jane did indeed sum it up brilliantly, but it is only a point in Assange’s favor if people recognize it as such. So far, no one does. The BBC continues to act as though these documents are embarrasing to the US, not to Saudi Arabia. And no one in the mass media has ever made Jonathan’s original point here — that is, no one has pointed out that all of the conspiracy theories need to be abandoned.

  • Jane

    My comment was not for Assange’s favor. Although, this one tidbit helps the US, much of it is far more damaging. It is also damaging for the Saudi’s which in turn makes dealing with them more diffiult and makes the job of our military harder. As a military spouse I’m very much against the leakage of information that stokes worldwide anger not only against our country but against our troops who are putting their lives on the line. I’m against the leakage of information that creates world chaos by making governments distrust each other and turns people of one country against people of another country, that turns people against governments and military and creates a distrust amongst all, leading to chaos and a breakdown of allied forces. By leaking comments, Brits no longer trust Americans, Americans no longer trust Brits, it pits allies against each other which I believe is the goal.

  • Dom: indeed, but who said that we still have to rely on mass media to do its job?

  • Jane: I know you didn’t, I simply used your point to make my own – hope you don’t mind. As to the rest of your comment, I agree with some things in it, but not with others. My main problem with it is that you seem to conflate ‘government’ (any government) with ‘people’ – but they are not the same thing. It may be useful to review your comment with that point in mind – it will clarify a lot re Assange, as well as other, broader issues.

  • I know you didn’t

    should read ‘I know it wasn’t [in Assange's favor]‘ – sorry about that.

  • Rob

    It seems these leaks dispell all the conspiracy theories in one go.

    I’m no conspiracy theorist but something so convenient sends my radar going. That and the total banality of the leaks.

    Bearing in mind the information that must have been available, what we have heard is chicken feed. Amazing how such a big leak can lead to so little damage.

    All I need now to fully convert to high level Conspiracy bug is a leak detailing that there really were WMD in Iraq but the saintly US authorities kept it quiet for operational reasons.

  • Dom

    “Bearing in mind the information that must have been available, what we have heard is chicken feed.”

    We have to remember that not all the documents are out there yet, and Assange has said he has kept an “insurance file” or particularly damaging information. There’s a lot to say about that, especially as it reflects on Assange’s character.

    I’m going to put myself on the line here. I think Assange is full of hot air. I think there is no insurance file. I think he has already published the worse of it, and it is just supermarket tabloid gossip. I might be wrong, but I’ve eaten crow before, and Assange is such an egotistical crank that I’m willing to go the distance.

  • “Wikileaks will make states less effective rather than roll them back in absolute terms…”

    This is the more important conjecture, not the debunking of 9/11 conspiracy theories. It does however, presuppose that the public, in whose ‘interests’ the information is purportedly leaked, be such that they not only give a damn but are in some sort of position to do something about it. Whether leaked cables pertain to a given State’s foreign relations with other States, or instead concern internal communications within a given State is especially relevant to any such action. But whatever the information is, the task now is to consider possibilities for capitalizing on it; the only ‘optimism’ I can see for the electoral mechanism is in whether something like State nullification of Federal powers in the U.S. might work as a starting point…

  • Do you include Saudi Arabia, the world’s terrorist financier, amongst such “states” affected by this ?

    Very much so. Indeed making every bit of intel about the stinking Wahhabi State public would greatly improve a great many things… knowing how to judge what is going on there is far too important to trust to the judgement of the State Department.

  • Jane

    Alisa,

    I said what I meant. When I used the word government I meant government. When I used the word people I meant people as in the citizenry of a country.

    The leak regarding Saudi now means that our government and the Saudi government have lost trust with each other. People turning against people refers to the anti-American sentiment that seems to be prevalent in many countries, like Britain for example. I have read many comments on blogs which are now quite harsh regarding the American government and military, some justified others not. One commentor even stated that since the US administration thinks so little of the British military and the PM then we should not support the US in war anymore. Another stated that Americans are torturers. Those comments did not sit well with the Americans on the board, myself included. I’m not really happy with my politicians right now but I don’t take too kindly to an anti-American sentiment either. This is the chaos. People do not know who to trust. Wikileaks discredits governments and more importantly discredits the US. The one thing that stands in the way of a one world power is the US. Therefore the US government, military and people must be discredited. The tea party was very badly portrayed in your media. The British government is fearful that British citizens may try to replicate the movement and therefore they need to paint the average US citizen as a freak or right wing nut.

    Leaked comments turn people against people, governments against governments. Who do people trust? The government? Assange? each other? Clearly no one trusts any of those choices which leads to chaos and panic as people realize there is no leadership to count on and everyone distrusts and hates each other.

    The US is the peacekeeper of the world. We are the only ones as of now who can project military power anywhere. If Wikileaks discredits the government, military, American people and stokes worldwide hatred and anger, who will save the day and restore order and chaos?

  • Tedd

    It does however, presuppose that the public, in whose ‘interests’ the information is purportedly leaked, be such that they not only give a damn but are in some sort of position to do something about it.

    On a related note, can anyone suggest an efficient way to learn what’s actually in the leaks? I don’t know much more about the content of the leaks than what I’ve read here on Samizdata since Perry’s post a few days ago.

  • Tedd, it’s not greatly efficient, but Wikileaks themselves provide limited search functions for the State Dept cables (date, origin, and classification) as well as several brief overviews for information relating to specific states or areas, e.g. the UK or Latin America.

  • Scooby

    The highest classification level of the leaked material (at least that which has been publicly revealed) is SECRET. I would think that documents implicating the Queen, the Vatican, the Rothchilds, the Gettys, and the Colonel (before he went tits up) are probably TOP SECRET, if not TOP SECRET/SCI.

    The leaker just doesn’t have the clearance to get the real story.

  • RAB

    I’m a simple soul me, and I have been saying this for years,

    We invaded the wrong country. We should have taken out Saudi Arabia first, not Iraq.

    It would have been quicker, cheaper and a hell of a shock to the Princes, they would never have seen it coming. And yes I know we sold them all that state of the art military equipment, but fortunately they are best at polishing it, not using it.

    I would have cut 90% of Terrorist funding and supply, and what could Bin Laden say about it? He’s been calling for the destruction of the House of Saud for donkey’s years ;-)

    As to the Wikileaks, well great new angle JP, the stuff that isn’t there, yes very revealing, as contrasted with the stuff that is there, which isn’t. Most of us, I feel sure, knew these things already, or was of no consequence at all, merely tittle tattle.

    The biggest shock I got from the leaks was that Prince Andrew had an Opinion!

    Well fuck me sideways with the Severn Bridge, Roll over Buggerlugs and tell Prince Edward the news!

    As to the leaks in general, well I think if a Govt wants to keep secrets it had better try a bit harder than this, otherwise tough!

    So I tend to agree with Perry on this point, the degree of internal ajustment and red tape needed for 100% secrecy will paralyze any Govt Dept rendering it completely disfunctional. So yes, definately a plus.

  • Tedd

    The highest classification level of the leaked material (at least that which has been publicly revealed) is SECRET.

    If true, that is significant. “Secret” is a pretty low level of classification. It also suggests that nothing of the importance of “invade Normandy tomorrow” is going to come out. But if the objective is to disrupt the trust and assumption of privacy of the bulk of the bureaucrats in the system, as I think Perry suggested, then it can still do its job. (Subject to the limitations I mentioned in a previous post on another thread.)

  • Dishman

    RAB wrote:

    We invaded the wrong country. We should have taken out Saudi Arabia first, not Iraq.

    The problem with the Saudis is that it’s not just the princes, but a large section of the general population as well. Too many heads would have to roll. Genocide is bad. We would end up looking like the bad guys.

    There are initiatives under way to address the issue. One of them is by the US Navy.

  • Peter Melia

    Curious, isn’t it, that the Swedes seen intent on a persecution of Assange?
    What are they so worried about that might come back to haunt them?
    Olaf Palme?

  • Jaded Libertarian

    leaks of secrets that may harm self defence efforts of genuinely liberal states

    Name one.

    The only ones I can think of that even come close to actual classical liberalism are the USA and Costa Rica.

    And they don’t really come that close…..

  • MlR

    What Jane said – which is another point in Assange’s favor.

    Posted by Alisa at December 14, 2010 01:51 PM

    Indeed.

    We’ve been the saps for way too long. It’s no longer about defending the American people, let alone protecting the Constitution, individual liberty, or the average citizen’s personal wealth.

  • Johanthah Pearce

    JadedLibertarian, you are avoiding the issue, I think. Of course, hardly any regime on the planet, or in history, comes close to an ideal, but there are shades of grey. It occurs to me that a lot of those libertarians making excuses for Wikileaks’ publication of all this vast collection of stuff are trying to pretend that it will not be a problem for the sort of states they favour if such secrets are published.

  • Jaded Libertarian

    Jonathan:

    I think what I raised is the issue, I’m not avoiding it.

    If Wikileaks harms the good guys (or slightly less bad off-grey guys), it only does so in a marvellously selective way. Because the only things they keep secret are the things they shouldn’t be doing anyway. Fear of being exposed might just conceivably entice states to do these sorts of things a bit less. Making the grey guys ever so slightly less grey. That probably wont happen, but a genuine fear of being found out might be the biggest incentive towards more moral governments in my lifetime.

    State secrets invariably revolve around petty political infighting, smears, lies, contempt for the electorate and a feeling of absolute entitlement on the part of the political class. Rarely are they of the “invading Normandy Tuesday week” type oft mentioned in the last Wikileaks thread.

    Even if intel was published that could risk British or American troops’ lives, all that has to be done to save them is to bring them home.

    Of course, most likely this whole argle bargle will be used as an excuse to stifle free speech. But even if that were the case it will have alerted a great many previously passive citizens that the government, in fact, is not your friend.

    I call that a win.

  • Rob

    I know there is a lot of tongue in cheek here but I’m slightly dismayed at the degree of neo-con hawkism here.

    Foreign wars are a disaster. Achieve little or no purpose, justify all sorts of illiberal measures, takes the focus away from the genuine demographic issues at home and cost lots of money.

    Rather than joining in with the “World Police” we would be better off bringing our boys home, actually guarding our borders properly, sorting out the demographic problems, pointing every nuke we have at either Russia, Europe or Mecca and telling eveyone else to get stuffed but feel free to trade with us.

  • A me-too comment to Jaded. Very well put.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    If Wikileaks harms the good guys (or slightly less bad off-grey guys), it only does so in a marvellously selective way. Because the only things they keep secret are the things they shouldn’t be doing anyway.

    If life were that simple. I was talking about, say, the kind of secrets a state might need to keep as part of its self defence. Self defence is permitted even if you happen to be some wild-eyed Rothbardian. Self defence, for example, means not giving the attacker all kinds of information about your defences, important assets, etc.

    So even if you forswear foreign intervention and adhere to a strictly isolationist stance, the idea that such states can never have secrets, or things like rules on the keeping of classified documents for specified periods of time, is unwarranted.

    And if it is legitimate for a state to act in self defence, and to destroy those organisations mounting such attacks, or sheltering them (like the Taliban), then said states might indeed have to send troops to foreign lands, as in Afghanistan or wherever.

    To repeat: even minarchist states might need to protect certain types of information. I see it as willfull blindess that some libertarians cannot grasp this.

    Of course, one practical effect of Assange will be that states put out far less data in leakable form. Well done!

  • Jaded Libertarian

    even minarchist states might need to protect certain types of information. I see it as willfull blindess that some libertarians cannot grasp this.

    Imagine a country with no military (it’s easy if you try wink wink) but a citizen militia force instead ala Switzerland or pre-civil war America.

    Aside from possibly arguing for operational security during an actual invasion, I see no need for “secrets” of any sort at all.

    I would also take issue with your statement “it is legitimate for states to act in self defence”. I don’t believe it is. It is legitimate for individuals to act in self defence, and they may do so in groups if they wish. But for the “state” to toss individual citizens into the thresher of war in the name of its own defence is perverse.

    Things don’t get any more moral as you scale them up from the individual to the collective, usually the opposite.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Imagine a country with no military (it’s easy if you try wink wink) but a citizen militia force instead ala Switzerland or pre-civil war America.

    The idea that a country the size and influence of the UK or US would not, for example, have a navy, or an Air Force to protect its skies, etc, is laughable. Even if it is run by reservists and Swiss-type volunteers, would such forces want all their weapons systems, tactics, or whatever, leaked?

    In fact, it is possible to argue that a small, citizen army of defenders might still need to have certain routines kept under wraps to foil enemies.

  • John B

    This comment thread is covering the same ground as the one on Saturday.
    So if I may I will repeat a portion of Paul Marks self-evident comment here:

    The details of what has been leaked are not of primary importance.

    What is important is that chaos has been spread (everyone has been led to fear that diplomatic conversations will be leaked to the entire planet) – leading to demands that the government “do something” to “stop the chaos”.

    Anyone who has studied the left can see what this is.

    “Bottom up” – disruption and chaos from below (often by “rebels” who, oddly enough, have links to powerful people and groups) leading to demands from ordinary people (including conservatives) that the government “do something” to “stop the chaos”.

    The government then turns out to have a detailed plan (which can not possibly have been worked out since the crises hit – but can have only have been worked out some time BEFORE) to indeed “do something” – in this case to hit internet dissent (but NOT just the internet). The “top comes down” on civil society.

    “But Paul – we will always be able to get round government measures”.

    “We” are not 51% of the voters – and that is what matters. If it becomes difficult for most ordinary people to hear dissent (real dissent not “Obama is not active enough” fake “dissent”) then we lose and they win – civil society (or what is left of it) gets destroyed, gets turned “inside out”.

    I repeat:

    Bottom up – chaos from below (even if not really “from below”).

    Top down – the government comes in to “do something” to “stop the chaos” (in this case to stop private conversations being told to the whole planet).

    And INSIDE OUT – the transformation of society (the death of civil society – and the victory of creeping totalitarianism).

    Bottom up, top down, inside out – standard leftist operating procedure (and has been for very many decades).”

  • I’m not at all sure that Paul Marks has got this right. It isn’t at all clear to me that the U.S. government actually can regulate the internet effectively without systematically crippling itself.

    On whether operational military secrets ought to be kept by a State, even a minimum one, I find it slightly ironic that on a thread about Wikileaks and its (possibly exaggerated, but at any rate still conjectural) implications for political economy, Jaded Libertarian removes the assumption of a State, but not also that of a ‘country’! Yet isn’t the very idea of a modern state bound up with that of a ‘nation’ – both logically (the one presupposes the other) and historically? Without a State, with its territorial monopoly, what sort of sense does it make to talk of an ‘invasion’ of a country?

  • Tedd

    Jaded:

    Aside from possibly arguing for operational security during an actual invasion, I see no need for “secrets” of any sort at all.

    I appreciate the sentiment behind this, but it’s a really bad idea. Employing this strategy would create an enormous “preparedness gap” between the country employing the strategy and its opponents, leading to an enormous first-strike advantage for the opponents. The slightest tension would very quickly escalate to invasion, a situation that would be even worse if both countries employed a complete-transparency strategy.

    I’ll explain using one small example. Modern militaries use frequency-shifting technology in a wide range of applications, such as frequency-division multiplexing for communication, or agile-frequency radar. Under your proposal, the frequencies and algorithms used in these systems would have to be publicly available up to the moment of invasion. At the moment of invasion the entire military would have to change over to new algorithms, which would involve creating the algorithms, disseminating the information, and reprogramming the communication and weapon systems.

    And that’s just one example of information that’s controlled during peace time. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of similar examples. The need to change all of those technologies at the moment of invasion would completely paralyze the military (whether volunteer militia or not) and lead to certain defeat. But the main problem for anyone interested in peace isn’t the certainty of defeat of any one military, but rather the inherent instability created by such an enormous first-strike advantage. Like it or not, control of military information is critical to keeping the peace.

  • Jane

    Yes, John B. I agree, and it is causing chaos.

    People hate their governments and other governments even more now and ordinary people of different countries begin to hate each other. Leaders from countries that were once allies begin to distrust and hate each other. That is the purpose of all this, create chaos and confusion.

    Turn whats right wrong. Confuse the people so they do not even know a basic right from wrong. Truth, don’t we all love and want truth? Of course, then Bradley Manning and Julian Assange are the good guys right? And the sheeple believe.

    Since when is treason right? Don’t get confused. Treason is wrong, everyone should know that and yet some are so sure Manning and Assange are heros.

  • Jaded Libertarian

    Like it or not, control of military information is critical to keeping the peace.

    I disagree. Military information is for the most part, very well controlled. And yet we have micro-wars every 3-4 years. That does not seem to be very effective at keeping the peace.

    I would suggest instead that the best approach to keeping the peace, is to make the lack of peace more trouble than it can possibly be worth.

    No one is suggestion that the tiny Swiss Army and the citizen militia could ever go toe-to-toe with a serious military power. But in their militia, the Swiss have the capacity to call up one of the largest fighting forces in Europe at 48 hours notice. Even without tanks, planes and a navy, Switzerland has made itself safe even from military superpowers.

    They did this not by being an actual threat, but by making themselves ungovernable. If anyone were ever foolish enough to invade Switzerland, they might take a few of the towns and hold them. But they would be tied up in a guerilla war in the high passes of the Alps for the rest of time.

    It is quite simply less troublesome to live at peace with the Swiss. And they gained this security without needing to drop bombs on any other countries, and without sophisticated electronic killing machines.

    They did however invest a lot in their militia issue rifle, it is apparently the bee’s knees. You don’t need a military to secure your country. You just need a population with a love for freedom and access to firearms – and maybe a little militia training wouldn’t hurt either.

  • Tedd

    Jaded:

    I disagree. Military information is for the most part, very well controlled. And yet we have micro-wars every 3-4 years.

    The fact that control of military information doesn’t completely prevent wars in no way contradicts the idea that it’s critical to preventing them, so your disagreement is moot.

    It is quite simply less troublesome to live at peace with the Swiss. And they gained this security without needing to drop bombs on any other countries, and without sophisticated electronic killing machines.

    But not without information security. Switzerland’s military employs the same information security techniques as every other modern military. Why? Because occupation followed by resistance is a less-good outcome than peace.

    Also, you might want to inform yourself a bit more about Switzerland’s air force. Or do the F/A-18 jet and the ADS-95 drone not qualify as sophisticated electronic killing machines in your books?

    I agree that a dispersed, volunteer militia is a good way to defend a country. But it still needs information security every bit as much as it needs rifles. (It’s also somewhat relevant that Switzerland’s militia is compulsory, not voluntary.)

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Tedd, very good points. I recall from another thread that you have a military background, so you speak with experience.

    Jaded:

    Military information is for the most part, very well controlled. And yet we have micro-wars every 3-4 years. That does not seem to be very effective at keeping the peace.

    Military secrets are, however, effective in winning wars if or when they break out. The greatest example of the lot, of course, being the Enigma code-breaking success.

    I would suggest instead that the best approach to keeping the peace, is to make the lack of peace more trouble than it can possibly be worth.

    And leaking the secrets of a state that might harm its ability to defend itself will do that?

    One thing for libertarians to understand is that if, by the grace of God, we managed to actually bring about a minarchist state, then some other states would, with reason, deeply resent the enormous success and wealth of said, and seek to invade and steal it. That means wars, or the threat of them.

    The Swiss gained their independence for many reasons: strong forces (conscription of young people), mountains. It was also able to play different sides in various wars, which suited those sides (like those wonderfully secretive banks). But had, say, Nazi Germany wanted to conquer Switzerland – which is not a fanciful idea, then that would have been that.

  • Tedd

    Johnathan:

    Thanks for your comments.

    One thing for libertarians to understand is that if, by the grace of God, we managed to actually bring about a minarchist state, then some other states would, with reason, deeply resent the enormous success and wealth of said, and seek to invade and steal it. That means wars, or the threat of them.

    I don’t think we need to invoke the consequentialist argument that libertarianism or minarchism would result in more material wealth. A libertarian or minarchist state would be vulnurable even if it were relatively poor, unless it could defend itself.

    This is a very important issue for libertarianism, when libertarianism is conceived of as operating within the nation-state paradigm. While I agree with Jaded that a dispersed militia is a very effective defensive force, I’m not convinced that modern threats can be effectively defended against without a professional military, too. So long as both are formed by voluntary service and voluntary funding they don’t contradict libertarian principles. Even a tax-funded military wouldn’t violate minarchist principles, for some. (I assume, though, that all forms of libertarianism are opposed to conscription. That’s a given, isn’t it?)

  • Tedd

    Sorry, I’m taking the debate off-topic. I hate when people do that!

    The relevant point is that, while I’m a big supporter of the principle of transparent government, information security is critical to the success of any modern military, regardless of how it’s structured. And the continued existence of transparent government depends on effective military defense. Therefore, the control of military information is a necessary evil, like cutting off a gangrenous finger to save a hand.

    That’s not a defense of any one nation’s specific practices. I’m sure there’s information that’s classified at a higher level than it needs to be in every country’s military. But the question of what, specifically, needs to be controlled, and how, is entirely separate from the question of whether information needs to be controlled at all.

  • Jane:

    “Since when is treason right? Don’t get confused. Treason is wrong, everyone should know that”

    I’m curious. Could you imagine yourself for a moment as a native, say, of Iran or North Korea, who happened to be entrusted with information about a forthcoming act of aggression planned by your government, against, say, Israel or S Korea? While imagining this, would you still hold that betraying your country is always and under all circumstances wrong?

  • “Bottom up, top down, inside out – standard leftist operating procedure (and has been for very many decades).”

    Cogently put. I don’t know if this is germane, but here in the Republic of Armpitonia, the socialist govt have managed to bring about an impressive increase in the crime rate, such that “ordinary people”, deprived of arms and surrounded by thieves on all sides, are now clamouring for an abolition of the weak version of habeas corpus currently enshrined in law: whereas now, if you’ve been arrested and held for six months without a trial you can go free, over 90% in recent polls want people to be detained indefinitely while the judges decide when, if ever, to hold a trial. This strikes me as an ideal way of dealing with political opposition. You don’t even need corrupt judges (though we have plenty of those): all you need is an insufficient number of them, so that the chances of someone’s case being heard within a year or two of arrest are logistically barren. Oddly, the latest news is that the judiciary are astonished at how little money they’ve been allotted in the latest budget. Hmmm.

  • Jane

    @Endivio

    Yes betraying your country is wrong. If a North Korean had information about an upcoming invasion and felt that it was very wrong then he could flip to the other side. That person would not be treasonous to the other side. Yes, that person was treasonous to their birth country but not to the side they flipped to. Benedict Arnold comes to mind. He was treasonous to the US but not to Britain. I do understand your reasoning though. Was it treasonous for some Germans to try to kill Hitler? To the German government, yes, to the rest of the world they were heros. However, we can not run an effective military if we allow each individual soldier to decide for themselves what is wrong and what is right and taking it upon themselves to release information to the world. The military is built upon loyalty and carrying out orders from a chain of command. To allow what Manning did would undermine the military and the chain of command. It would fall apart, but then again that is part of the plan.

    I also believe that people have a responsibility to oversee their own government. It is their job to make sure the government doesn’t have too much power and doesn’t take their rights away. When people do not accept their responsibility in this they become ruled and lose their rights and freedom. At that point, well, they’re just screwed.

    That is what the tea party movement is about. Many Americans see that their rights and freedoms are under assault. The time to stop this is NOW while we still can. The midterm elections were helpful but the job needs to be finished at the next Presidential election. That will decide which path we will be on. If Americans do not wake up to the fact that we have a President and an administration that wants to “fundamentally change America” in Obama’s exact words, then that apathy will allow for our loss of freedoms and rights. I guess we deserve it then. We will live under the rule of the elites unless we fight for our freedom back. Hopefully it won’t come to that and we can change things in the next election.

    Freedom is never free. There will always be some dictator, regime or administration who will want to take power and control. It is the duty of the citizenry to be watchful of that and protect their way of life when they can or there will come a day when they will have to fight to get it back.

  • “…we can change things in the next election…”

    No you can’t.

  • Jane

    “…we can change things in the next election…”

    No you can’t”

    Care to elaborate?

    Next election we can take out Obama and many of the Dem Senators as well as some rinos. We still have a chance to get off this socialist path and go back to our ideals of less government, state’s rights and personal and property rights. We can undo alot of damage but the next election is critical.

  • Jane:

    I too thought Jack Nicholson was great in A Few Good Men, but otherwise I disagree with you.

    It might be relevant to mention that I am a man without a country. I have a UK passport but I have lived most of my life in Spain and now I am in Ecuador, where my son was also born. And my Spanish is better than my English. What country should I be theoretically loyal to? Buggered if I know. Oddly I don’t feel the need to be loyal to any. Countries to me seem like artificial constructs. Their only use as far as I can see is to make it harder for Ernst Stavros Blofeld types to try to take over the world. (And they’re not even doing a very good job of that, of late).

    Your argument seems to be

    Treason is wrong.
    However, if we commit treason, we can always justify it to ourselves by saying we’ve gone over to the other side, in which case it’s not wrong any more, to us.

    That’s a comfy position. Blunt and Burgess would’ ve been chuffed.

    Mine is that we always know what we shouldn’t betray. It may be a country, but doesn’t have to be. It may be a family, a way of life, or an ideal. That’s for each person to decide.

    I am aware that part of being a soldier is that you’re not supposed to enjoy the luxury of making moral judgments. That., for me, is an adequate reason not to be a soldier.

    I also don’t believe in “we”, as in “if we vote for Obama again, we deserve what we get”. To my mind, only the people who actually vote for the git deserve what they get. Not the rest of yous.

  • Nice thread. I’m going to put in a thought that the people leaking information that their country was going on an unwarranted hunting trip would be systematically abused,. Words like ‘Treason’, torture and more would crop up with stunning rapidity…as they have done from Propaganda Group GOP already for non citizen Assange.
    Gordon Duff had an article about Wikileaks being a Mossad/India disinformation coup ! You might like this article better Cass Sunstein, Wikileaks and The Public Right to Know http://www.veteranstoday.com/2010/12/14/cass-sunstein-wikileaks-and-the-public-right-to-know/

    But for those who wonder at disenchantment with the Yanks. Where were you when it was announced in the House that they would take whomsoever they wanted from wherever they wanted and none were exempt ? This was some time ago…but was evaluated justly.

  • Tedd

    However, we can not run an effective military if we allow each individual soldier to decide for themselves what is wrong and what is right and taking it upon themselves to release information to the world.

    I am aware that part of being a soldier is that you’re not supposed to enjoy the luxury of making moral judgments.

    While these two ideas are commonly held, and partly correct, they’re also partly a misconception. There’s a subtlety to the life of a modern soldier that’s not generally well understood. Soldiers in a modern military are required to do the following things.

    1. Obey any lawful order.
    2. Resist any unlawful order.
    3. Correctly judge which orders are lawful and which are not.

    So it’s misleading to say that they don’t decide for themselves what’s right or wrong, or make moral choices. When a soldier contemplates disobeying an order because he or she believes it to be unlawful they are faced with a moral choice. A similar (and often overlooked) aspect of a soldier’s moral life is that soldiers create orders as well as follow them, and the creation of lawful orders can also be a difficult moral exercise.

    But it’s true that the soldier’s moral sphere is limited to those things he or she has direct control over. The wider moral question of the entire war, for example, is something the soldier has to be prepared to forgo passing judgement on.

  • “We still have a chance to get off this socialist path…”

    Perhaps, but not by voting – that was what got you onto this socialist path in the first place: inviting everyone else to see if they can get a piece of you and yours via the electoral mechanism. To vote is to pretend to confront the problem while trying to avoid thinking about the long-term.

  • John B

    mike.
    This socialist (controlist) path was got onto by voting, yes, but it was a deluded public that was voting. Right now a lot of people have woken up and thus the Tea Party movement. But in the human way of things, they could go to sleep again quite quickly, especially if they are pounded into a slumber by MSM.
    As Paul points out, the controlists only have to win 51 per cent of the vote, or even less to continue with their agenda.
    And the possible restrictions and controls that may came into being regarding the internet as a result of perceived chaos caused by actions such as the Wikileaks puffery could well be a very significant factor in the propaganda war.
    The controlist (socialist) propagandists are very good and subtly capable at making whatever case they wish to make.

    Regarding the US crippling themselves by restricting the internet. I imagine it would be a situation of regulating ISPs, which would not hinder US interests?
    But, it would not necessarily be the US doing this. It would be people. Confluences of interest.
    As it is, lots of people working within the US, and many other countries, often do not seem to me to be working in the interests of the countries.
    I think one has to get away from thinking in terms of collectives if one wants to get hold of the truth.
    One has to look at people. Sometimes they work together and establish collective identities (that in reality are only entities that exist in the mind, or on paper) but they are still people.

  • “I imagine it would be a situation of regulating ISPs, which would not hinder US interests?”

    Well how are they going to do that? Let’s say they try, and Wikileaks is eventually shut down. What’s to stop other people leaking information onto the internet in ways other than the Wikileaks model? The regulation would have to be so vague and wide that it would become meaningless and either ignored (or possibly nullified) or else the Feds would have to move all-in on what would be little more than a clumsy bluff – of course they might just be stupid enough to go for that, but I doubt it.

    “..but it was a deluded public that was voting..”

    What was the delusion and why did it come about?

  • Jane

    Endivio,

    I would answer your question by saying that if you hold a UK passport then your loyalty would be to the UK. Since you do not feel loyal to the UK then I would ask why you don’t turn your passport in and become a citizen of Equador? I would also ask you how you woulf feel if the UK fell and became ruled by another power. Would you care?

    Most Americans believe that God is the ultimate authority and that we get our inalienable rights from God, not from government or a king, queen or any other ruler. Therefore no one can take away our inalienable rights. Our Constitution reflects this and our government’s job is to provide an environment for opportunity by protecting our rights and freedoms.

    Our forefathers knew there was a natural tendency for government to get bigger and stronger usurping individual rights. That is why they created a framework to divide power equally among the 3 branches.

    Franklin was asked by a person on the street, “What kind of government did you give us?”

    His response, “We gave you a republic, if you can keep it.”

    It is the job and responsibility of the American people to keep it.

    You say you do not think the “we” in we deserve what we get if Obama wins an election is justified. I think it is the responsibility of the populace to warn and educate the others about what is happening. Again, the reason for the tea party. My job is to do everything possible to help keep the republic. That is why I’m on message boards, at local meetings, being trained as a citizen lobbyist, why I became a state delegate, why I attend tea party rallies and why I attend local school board and city council meetings so that I can help to keep our local politicans honest and accountable and to help spread the word to other Americans that they need to wake up and get involved.

  • Midwesterner

    Jane:

    Yes betraying your country is wrong. If a North Korean had information about an upcoming invasion and felt that it was very wrong then he could flip to the other side. That person would not be treasonous to the other side. Yes, that person was treasonous to their birth country but not to the side they flipped to. Benedict Arnold comes to mind. He was treasonous to the US but not to Britain.

    US Officer’s Oath:

    I, [name], do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.[1]

    Enlisted personnel oath:

    “I, [Name], do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”

    It can be wrong to betray your country or it can be wrong to betray your oath to the Constitution. When an officer believes they are being ordered to violate their oath to the Constitution, which ‘side’ do they defect to?

    At least enlisted personnel can ignore the opening phrase of their oath, that pesky part about “all enemies, foreign and domestic” and then claim to be ‘just following orders’, officers are not given that option.

    You should reconsider the idea that a loyal soldier is defending real estate and understand that in the US, a loyal soldier is defending the Constitution and the principles it is founded on.

  • John B

    mike:
    Regulating the internet – I am sure that whatever way it happens it will definitely seem like “the right thing to do”.
    Assange could be just one more brick in the wall.
    Perhaps public patience will be worn down until there is a demand for greater regulation – a ‘backlash from right wing extremists’?

    The delusion was that socialism and more recently, Obamaism, could bring in Camelot. When it was really more designed to bring in the USSA.
    It was part of the ongoing socialist subjugation effort, that took a knock in the late 1970s through to the mid 1990s, but has been gaining in strength ever since then.
    It has taken a knock again with the Tea Parties, but is probably better prepared this time around.

  • Jane

    @Midwesterner,

    Disobeying an order one believes to be unlawful is not treasonous. Giving up secret plans to an upcoming invasion to the enemy as in the scenario Endivio gave, is. If one feels the need to commit an act of treason then they better leave their country and defect or face the punishment. All countries consider treason to be a severely punishable offense.

    In the example of Manning if he had a problem then he needed to take it up the chain of command, then to the IG for investigation, then to his representatives. If he couldn’t stomach the military then he could leave, but you do not release classfied information to the world on your own doing.

    There could be serious unintended consequences from this that a young 22 year old doesn’t have the knowledge and experience to foresee.

  • Jane:

    thank you for a thoughtful answer. In answer to your question, only a drooling moron would voluntarily become a citizen of Ecuador. You’ll just have to take my word on that. When it comes to choosing a nationality, insofar as one is able to, I think one needs to be pragmatic. For anyone who values freedom, the best passport is the one that comes with fewest strings attached.

    As for your second question about the UK being taken over by another power, that’s already happened. And yes, I do care that the country I was born in is now being run by a mostly unelected cabal of Eurotossers and Cohn-bandits. However, it strikes me there’s precious little I can do about it. Most of my energies these days go into raging against the tyrants closer to (my current) home, where there’s a little more chance of making a difference.

    I disagree with most Americans. For me, God is not the ultimate authority, since a conspicuously non-existent being doesn’t really cut it for me as an authority. However, I agree that any “rights” that come from a ruler or government are really not worth having. And I sincerely admire your stated efforts to defend the rights of yourself and your fellow citizens.

    Going back to treason: yes to “if he couldn’t stomach the military then he could leave”. Of course, in certain countries that option doesn’t exist once has entered the secret-holding inner circle. Or rather, one leaves feet first and in a box.

  • John B

    Endivio.
    Perhaps we have blinded ourselves to the existence of God.
    One thing I have found is that if I pursue any materialist/scientific line of thought far enough I have yet to find a conclusion that does away with the need of “something that came before”.
    But that is just in reply to your comment. I don’t want to go (further) off topic!

    mike. Thinking a bit further on control of the internet.
    I have read that machine intelligence is set to surpass human intelligence by about 2035. Perhaps sooner. Thinking in that direction I would think it might be possible to release some form of bot/virus into the internet that recognises certain alogorithms and tracks and shuts down their originating point. Or takes whatever action they are programmed to do. Blows up the PC? Orders the owner to report for social-mutuality training?
    Plays soothing hypnotic music and causes any humans nearby to reeeelaaaax . . . .

    Sorting your rubbish into separate bins would have been ridiculous 20 years ago.

  • Midwesterner

    Jane, my point is one of meta-context. You got into a detailed discussion of how to define treason, going so far as to make examples including Benedict Arnold, etc.

    I am addressing your apparent belief of loyalty to ‘King and Country’ in the European style. Part of the genius of the USA was to be founded on principles, not principalities. Each soldier or other office holder bound by oath must decide for themselves how to “bear true faith and allegiance” to the Constitution. Nobody swears an oath of allegiance to the Supreme Court, yet by abandoning defense of the Constitution to the Court and the judiciary, isn’t that what they are doing?

    Treason is simple. For a soldier, it is violating his or her oath. That may mean that a soldier is convicted and perhaps even executed on a charge of treason because truly treasonous authorities are in control or even on honest difference of opinion.

    I am neither defending or attacking this particular person’s (Manning?) actions. It certainly does sound like his motives are highly suspect. A trial is called for. What I am challenging is your apparent belief that a soldier owes allegiance to anything higher than his or her individually held best understanding of the Constitution. It may be a little off topic for this thread but ‘meta-context’ is what we do here. Hopefully Johnathan will tolerate my digression. You should never have the slightest doubt in your mind of what the benchmark for ‘treason’ for a US soldier is. It is found in each oath takers own mind where they know their own motivations. They should only be required to show one thing in their own defense; that they were acting on their oath to the Constitution.

    You state “but you do not release classfied information to the world on your own doing” and talk about information of a pending invasion. How many officers of the Union Army violated their oaths to the Constitution when they unified the Constitutional federation into “One Nation Under God”?.

  • John B – I can’t tell if you’re taking the piss or not, but I honestly think that Western governments will more likely try to ignore leaks and either stare down public anger, or bow to it than try to control the internet. Even the Chinese cannot control the internet as effectively as they would like. The costs to a Western government would most likely put them off.

  • John B

    Sorry mike, I do mean it all, absolutely, but one has to laugh a bit at it as well.
    Regulation or control of the internet is going to have to come about if those who want to control things are going to be able to do so.
    So I seriously expect there to be all sorts of scenarios arising, all sorts of events and circumstances that will make it not only “reasonable and just” but probably even “necessary” for the greater good, that the internet should be regulated.
    I am not an expert but I believe Google was forced to capitulate by the Chinese ?
    (A consideration is that states are run by people. And those people can also be the same ones in the corporations and companies. So they could all be on the same side in some situations in the future as they have been in the past.)

    I do see lots of freedom-loving people celebrating the Wikileaks but I fear in the longer term Assange will have been just another push, or used as part of a push, towards justifying such regulation.

  • Mike:

    The costs to a Western government would most likely put them off.

    What costs?

  • Laird

    Mike, the US government might not try to overtly “control the internet” (although clearly there are those, including the current head of the FCC, who would like to move much closer in that direction), but they won’t have to if the UN takes over that function. Let someone else take the heat.

  • The democratic costs of popular outrage* (all that public resentment about the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan will find expression in support of sites like Wikileaks – hence the primary targeting of Assange, and secondarily of his organization), in addition to being made to look stupid if and when the leakings are seen to continue. There may also be diplomatic costs as not all governments are in agreement about the “need” for internet regulation, for example Israel, and those governments that are in favour are the likes of China and Saudi Arabia.

    *The other thing, I think, which will drive public outrage over any attempt to control the internet is that I think the relative freedom of the internet has become ‘culturally permanentized’, in a way similar to how Ian B talks about the NHS and the BBC in Britain – i.e. that people simply cannot imagine life without it. Western governments may still be stupid enough to try it, but I think in doing so they’d be making a rod for their own backs.

  • Laird: the UN?! Might not that in itself show that the Feds aren’t taking this idea of internet regulation too seriously?

  • not all governments are in agreement about the “need” for internet regulation, for example Israel

    Bad example, and if others are like it, I’m unconvinced.

    people simply cannot imagine life without it

    Sure they can’t, but they do want it regulated – not all of them, but very many do (For The Children and so on).

  • Alisa,

    Regarding Israel: I see the security objection (I’d had in mind the Israeli take on the leaking of the Saudi cables re Iran), but surely the defence wing in Israel would find it easier than their counterparts in most other governments to revert to older technologies of communication?

    Some number of people may want internet regulation, but (a) they will not want the various costs that will come with it and (b) I doubt their strength in numbers – you say “many”, but I will say less than prior to Wikileaks; were not the supporters of “net-neutrality” more likely to be found on the U.S. left, railing against the conservative-dominated blogosphere? The recent exposure of Wikileaks will have surely cut a lot of that public support on the left for internet regulation.

  • Mike, I can only speak with any measure of confidence about what is going on around me: here in Israel there is a very strong public sentiment for some sort of regulation of the net – like I said, ForTheChildren. You may be right about elsewhere, and I hope you are.

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    USAF personnel have been forbidden to read the “Guardian”, which includes on their PC both at work and at home.
    Same applies to USAID Agencies. Stars and Stripes journalists (Pentagon) and graduate schools including Colombia also, although here it’s logging to Wikileaks, under the threat jeopardizing their career. A re-write of 1984? Not exactly, more like over-the-top censorship, going on totalitarianism. The US is rapidly making itself a laughing stock.

  • Laird

    “USAF personnel have been forbidden to read the “Guardian”, which includes on their PC both at work and at home.”

    Is that really true? If so, it’s astounding. Could you provide some sort of verification?

    But in any event you’re certainly right that the US is “making itself a laughing stock.” We’re becoming more and more a police state, as the Washington Post reports (here’s a summary of that article).

  • John B

    “As we have repeatedly observed of late, the FCC [Federal Communications Commission] is hurtling towards an Internet power grab that would, it appears, make even Chavez blush. At the very least, Hugo seems to think he should be more democratic about his Web takeover.

    Let us again highlight the fact that Chavez is proposing legislation. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has no time for such republican formalities.

    The chairman is ramming through an authoritarian, 85-page Web order in last-minute fashion — behind closed doors, unreviewed, without public comment, under cover of Christmas. So will he allow a Democrat Party-line December 21st vote by three unelected bureaucrats to serve as justification for a government appropriation of 1/6th of our economy, and the implementation of the terrible idea that is network neutrality.

    This despite the fact that the FCC has zero authority over anything, unless and until Congress writes a law giving them said authority — and Congress has never done that with broadband Internet. It’s a fact Chairman Genachowski knows and readily admits. This is to say nothing of the D.C. Circuit Court, which in April unanimously reminded him (and everyone else) that the FCC doesn’t have the juice.”

    http://pajamasmedia.com/blog/worse-for-web-freedom-hugo-chavez-or-the-fcc/?singlepage=true

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    Hardly a secret, but try this for Chapter and verse:

    http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2010/12/pentagon-bars-journalists-wiki/

    And you might want to check out the implications of a European Arrest Warrant. Specifically the part where the issuing country need provide no evidence.

  • John B

    I just mention it, Jack, because some commenters seem to think the internet cannot be touched by those who might want to control it.

  • GLV

    Are you actually saying that, because the unauthorized release of a bunch of diplomatic cables contains no revelations of conflicting intelligence surrounding the issue of the 9/11 attacks, any questions about the absolute legitimacy of the official story should be unequivocally considered to have been put to rest? Because that would be laughable—like expecting to be able go back through cables released prior to November of 1986 (pre-exposure) and expect to find open diplomatic discussion of the ongoing Iran-Contra conspiracy as though every diplomat in the U.S. Foreign Service knew all about it but was keeping his lips tight (and conspiracy is exactly what it was, no matter how you might prefer to semantically sugar-coat it). Look, why do you think nothing truly substantial or shocking has come out of these leaks? It’s precisely because they are merely diplomatic cables and collections of military field reports. Contrary to what you may want to believe, these document dumps are not the equivalent of someone having ‘pried the lid off of the so-called shadow government’ only to reveal that everything was ‘basically on the up-and-up after all.’ We’ve learned very little from them and probably will not learn much more because there’s really nothing in any of this that’s even sensitive enough to be classified above the very basic designation of ‘Secret.’ Cables and field reports are simply not the types of venues in which anything truly sensitive gets discussed, and diplomats and field officers are not the types of people who hold such discussions. The only real stories to have come out of this whole thing, accordingly, are the facts that, as you mentioned, the content of the cables bolsters the case for attacking Iran, and that the leaks, themselves, raise big questions surrounding the government’s so-called right to privacy and the public’s right to know what its government is up to.