FrontPage | 3.5.13
By Alan W. Dowd
Army Pfc. Bradley Manning has confessed to
providing military and diplomatic secrets to WikiLeaks, pleading guilty to 10
criminal counts for what he once braggingly—and erroneously—called “the largest data spillage in American history.” In
fact, what Manning perpetrated was the purposeful, premeditated and arguably
treasonous publication of stolen national-security secrets. This was not a leak
or a spill.
It pays to recall that this
poster-child hero of the anti-war left gave U.S. military and diplomatic
secrets to an anarchist group. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange openly admits
that he wants to “bring down many administrations that rely on concealing
reality—including the U.S. administration.”
Likewise, Manning once boastedabout “worldwide anarchy in CSV format,” a reference to the kind of files he
surrendered to Assange.
Over the years, Assange and
his anarchists have published operations manuals for the detention facility at
Guantanamo Bay; classified reports on the Battle of Fallujah; detailed
information on U.S. military equipment, by unit, in Iraq; gun-camera footage of
a U.S. helicopter attack in Baghdad; a U.S. Special Forces manual for
bolstering allied governments; CIA strategies to shore up public support among
allied populations for the war in Afghanistan; Social Security
numbers of U.S. military personnel; and private
In addition, as USAToday reports, WikiLeaks has exposed
U.S. efforts to remove nuclear materials from Pakistan, State Department plans
to use diplomatic personnel as spies, quid-pro-quos offered by the Obama
administration to persuade foreign governments to take on Gitmo detainees,
cover-ups of missile attacks in Yemen, and support among Arab leaders to strike
While serving in Iraq,
Manning downloaded classified videos, thousands of battlefield reports and
251,287 diplomatic cables. “I listened and lip-synched to Lady Gaga,” he
bragged in a text exchange,
“while exfiltrating possibly the largest data spillage in American history.”
Then-Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton called WikiLeaks’ publication of secret diplomatic cables “an
attack on America’s foreign policy interests” According to Clinton, Manning’s
WikiLeaks time bomb “puts people’s lives in danger, threatens our national
security and undermines our efforts to work with other countries to solve
Manning says he stole and transferred the data
to illustrate “how the world would be a better place if states would not make
secret deals with each other.”
What a silly, childish notion.
In fact, we all know from personal experience
that secrecy often serves an important purpose. For instance, if Assange and
Manning—both in serious legal trouble—really believed secrecy was so bad, why
wouldn’t they post their consultations with counsel on YouTube or share their
defense strategies with the world on WikiLeaks?
The answer is the very same reason why nation-states
keep some things secret. Indeed, it is often secrecy—not transparency—that
keeps the world from spinning out of control.
The Assanges and Mannings of the world will
never accept it, but shadows and secrets are necessary to conduct diplomacy and
carry out the sort of national-security strategy that deters and ends wars.
That’s one of the sad ironies
of Assange’s WikiLeaks. By exposing secret decisions and actions that relate to
foreign policy and national security, he thinks he is promoting peace. But in
truth, his handiwork is doing the very opposite: It has a chilling effect on
the very sorts of exchanges that avert war or limit its effects, thus
increasing isolation—and decreasing understanding—between governments.
History shows us the benefit
Working in the shadows, TR
prevented a war over Venezuela and ended a war between Russia and Japan.
The Allies used shadows to
orchestrate their deception before D Day.
Thanks to the shadow of
secrecy, FDR launched the Manhattan Project, and Truman used its fruits to end
World War II.
Quoting Gen. Stonewall
Jackson, Ike once advised, “Always surprise, mystify and mislead the enemy.” He
employed this formula to end the Korean War and prevent a war over Taiwan.
JFK and Khrushchev negotiated
a way around World War III, thanks to shadows and back-channel diplomacy.
Reagan won the Cold War by
waging an economic, intelligence, technological and propaganda war against the
Soviet state—largely in the shadows.
To be sure, we know about
these episodes today—and can learn from them—because secret records, cables and
diaries have been declassified. But if they had been revealed in real-time—or
if the principals thought what they were saying, doing and promising would be exposed
in short order—history would be very different.
In short, some things need
to be classified. And it’s not Bradley Manning’s or Julian Assange’s
responsibility or right to determine what to declassify.
Tellingly, this war on
secrecy waged by Manning, Assange and WikiLeaks is one-sided. They’ve aired the
military strategy, diplomatic planning and dirty laundry of America and its allies—but
not that of America’s enemies. There is no Iranian, North Korean, Taliban or al
Qaeda equivalent to WikiLeaks. And whereas much of the Western world tolerates
and some even applaud people like Assange and Manning, the Russian and Chinese
governments simply erase people who expose their secrets.
In other words, WikiLeaks,
whether unintentionally or purposely, puts the United States and its allies at
a disadvantage. Some will say this has always been true of democratic
governments vis-à-vis their dictatorial foes. But timing is everything. And
WikiLeaks is shrinking the amount of time between policy formation, policy
execution and public airing—and thus shrinking the shadows where American
foreign and defense policy can work.