More on Wikileaks 4

One of our readers, Fernando Montenegro, disagrees with the (conjectural) conclusion to our post Thanks to Wikileaks? immediately below, and usefully points out:

– [as CEM, another commenter mentions], the context around the information is valuable as well [as the information itself].  [CEM writes that we do not understand the seriousness of the Wikileaks release of classified documents and information. “There does not have to be a direct leaking of names to expose agents and sources. And often, the information alone can be innocuous. However, the content and context of the data alone can provide clues to counter agents and governments as to the identities of agents and sources that can place them in grave danger.”]

– it is IMPOSSIBLE for an organization (a family unit, a company, a government) to formulate positions for any negotiation with another party without some measure of privacy. What WikiLeaks did is steal that privacy.

– Sure, government must be accountable, but that is why there is a Senate Intelligence committee, secret FISA courts, etc… WikiLeaks can’t be the judge, jury and executioner of determining what gets released.

– The “misguided foreign policies” are the responsibility of the political leadership, but there’s no hope that any leader can craft good policies without accurate information. One consequence of the leak is that not only foreign services will be more careful in their discussion with the US, but that individuals will be more guarded in what they write.

– While I think that Palin/Huckabee/… need to tone down a LOT, I think all those involved in the theft and illegal disclosure of sensitive information should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

We are grateful for this. We hoped that readers would give their opinions. We accept the good sense of the arguments, and make only two points in reply:

Suppliers of information to foreign powers must assess the risk for themselves.

When it comes to families and companies, we agree with Fernando. We see governments, however, as a different kettle of fish. We can best explain our view by discussing what others are saying about the WikiLeaks operation.

Caroline Glick starts off her column on the subject, here at Townhall, by strongly condemning the leak:

Make no mistake about it, the ongoing WikiLeaks operation against the US is an act of war. It is not merely a criminal offense to publish hundreds of thousands of classified US government documents with malice aforethought. It is an act of sabotage.

And she deplores “the impotent US response to it”.

Yet this is what the documents tell her:

The leaked documents themselves expose a profound irony. To wit: The US is unwilling to lift a finger to defend itself against an act of information warfare which exposed to the world that the US is unwilling to lift a finger to protect itself and its allies from the most profound military threats endangering international security today.

In spite of the unanimity of the US’s closest Arab allies that Iran’s nuclear installations must be destroyed militarily – a unanimity confirmed by the documents revealed by WikiLeaks – the US has refused to take action. Instead it clings to a dual strategy of sanctions and engagement that everyone recognizes has failed repeatedly and has no chance of future success.

In spite of proof that North Korea is transferring advanced ballistic missiles to Iran through China, again confirmed by the illegally released documents, the US continues to push a policy of engagement based on a belief that there is value to China’s vote for sanctions against Iran in the UN Security Council. It continues to push a policy predicated on its unfounded faith that China is interested in restraining North Korea.

In spite of the fact that US leaders including Gates recognize that Turkey is not a credible ally and that its leaders are radical Islamists, as documented in the classified documents, the US has agreed to sell Turkey a hundred F-35s. The US continues to support Turkish membership in the EU and of course embraces Turkey as a major NATO ally.

The publication of the US’s true feelings about Turkey has not made a dent in its leaders’ unwillingness to contend with reality. …

The documents show … that China is breaching … sanctions against Iran

And at the same time as asking: “Why is [the US ] allowing WikiLeaks to destroy its international reputation, credibility and ability to conduct international relations and military operations?”, she also asks: “And why has it refused to contend with the dangers it faces from the likes of Iran and North Korea, Turkey, Venezuela and the rest of the members of the axis of evil that even State Department officers recognize are colluding to undermine and destroy US superpower status?”

In these instances, it is extremely important information that has been leaked, both the new and the confirmatory; information that Americans should know. In sum, Glick’s article provides good arguments for the document leak rather than against it.

Charles Krauthammer, in the Washington Post here, also deplores the leaking of the documents and the weakness of the US government’s response to it. He wants the leakers to be severely punished. “Throw the WikiBook at  them” his column is titled.

He gives these reasons:

First, quite specific damage to our war-fighting capacity. Take just one revelation among hundreds: The Yemeni president and deputy prime minister are quoted as saying that they’re letting the United States bomb al-Qaeda in their country, while claiming that the bombing is the government’s doing. Well, that cover is pretty well blown. And given the unpopularity of the Sanaa government’s tenuous cooperation with us in the war against al-Qaeda, this will undoubtedly limit our freedom of action against its Yemeni branch, identified by the CIA as the most urgent terrorist threat to U.S. security.

That’s one lesson that could be drawn from the revelation about the lie. We draw another. Why should the Yemeni government be allowed to lie about the bombing? Why shouldn’t the US pursue al-Qaeda wherever they’re hiding?*

Second, we’ve suffered a major blow to our ability to collect information. Talking candidly to a U.S. diplomat can now earn you headlines around the world, reprisals at home, or worse. Success in the war on terror depends on being trusted with other countries’ secrets. Who’s going to trust us now?

This seems to us an empty argument. If other countries want the US to know something, they will impart that information. Nations never did and never will trust each other. They’d be ill-advised to do so. When they have common interests they co-operate. The occasional leaking of documents will make no difference to that.

Third, this makes us look bad, very bad.

If he means the leaking itself makes the US look bad, it’s an irrelevant judgment because it wasn’t by its own will that it happened. (Though it should guard its secrets better, and no one should ever expect internet secrecy.) If he means what the documents reveal, that they make American diplomats, the State Department, the Obama administration look bad, it’s because they are bad, and it’s good for the American public to have the proof of it.

Whether or not foreign governments trust the US matters far less than how far US citizens trust their own government. They should be able to trust it, of course, yet it would be naive of them to do so. In the same issue with Krauthammer’s column, the Washington Post reports on a release by  the government itself of documents about its illegal spying on US citizens. We are no fans of the ACLU, and we think that likely terrorists (who they are we’ll leave to our reader’s suspicions) should be constantly surveyed, but we quote this as a reminder that governments can and do abuse their powers, sometimes with justification, sometimes without:

The federal government has repeatedly violated legal limits governing the surveillance of U.S. citizens, according to previously secret internal documents obtained through a court battle by the American Civil Liberties Union.

In releasing 900 pages of documents, U.S. government agencies refused to say how many Americans’ telephone, e-mail or other communications have been intercepted under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act – or FISA – Amendments Act of 2008, or to discuss any specific abuses, the ACLU said. Most of the documents were heavily redacted.

We think that state secrecy is justifiable when it is concerned with preserving the country’s power and protecting its citizens. (Whatever goes on in a war should be kept as secret as possible. Mrs Thatcher knew this when she made war on Argentina over the Falklands. She allowed only one daily report, a brief boring bulletin delivered in lugubrious tones by a spokesman who earned the name Mogadon Man. No embedding of journalists. No press photographers. No announcing a date when the forces would start withdrawing. She fought the war to win it, and she did.)

What emerges from the WikiLeaks documents, as Caroline Glick makes plain, is that the Obama government is not intent on preserving the power of the US and protecting its citizens.

That is what is shameful. If only the law extended to punishing those guilty of this betrayal. Their inaction against America’s enemies, their covert connivance with them – these are acts of sabotage deserving condign punishment.

*

Footnote:

*Furthermore, there is something deeply immoral, as well as counter-productive, in the persistent policy of the West to allow Arabs to lie. It has become a bad habit. The British have done it for a hundred years. When the Australians liberated Damascus from the Turks in 1918, the British ordered them to withdraw and allow their own pet Arab army (the con-man T.E.Lawrence’s well-bribed little outfit) to march in and claim the victory as their own. That distortion was one of many that wove so tangled a web of deceit and pretense that it still keeps Middle East policy in knots from which Britain cannot extricate itself even if it wanted to – which it doesn’t. The US State Department – its policy towards the Arabs always too affected by the nefarious British Foreign Office – is imitating this indulgence and will achieve no better results.

The meaning of patriotism 0

It seems that many if not quite all of the Dictator’s appointees to jobs in his administration are left-radical sympathizers with America’s enemies. But few are in a position actively to aid them. The attorney general is in the best position to do so if he chooses. He could, for instance, staff the Department of Justice with lawyers who have a record of defending terrorists – and not just defending them but working hard for their acquittal even outside the limits of the law; persons who have shown themselves to be passionately on the other side.

But surely he wouldn’t do such a thing, would he?  The Attorney General of the United States cannot be against America and for its enemies, can he?  Okay, it’s true he has in fact brought such persons into his Justice Department, but they must be as patriotic as he is – wouldn’t you assume?

“Does helping jihadists lie, plot, and identify CIA agents demonstrate patriotism — or material support to terrorism?” – Andrew McCarthy asks. And he answers his own question in this illuminating article at the National Review Online which we quote in part:

Bravely entering the lion’s den — delivering a speech in praise of left-wing, “pro bono” lawyering to a group of left-wing, pro bono lawyers — Attorney General Eric Holder recently declared that “lawyers who provide counsel for the unpopular are, and should be, treated as what they are: patriots.”

Sure they are. After all, Holder explained, they “reaffirm our nation’s most essential and enduring values” — like the value we place on coming to the aid of our enemies in wartime. And let’s not forget the value we place on advocating for the release of those enemies who, as night follows day, then return to the business of killing Americans. Sure, the nation somehow missed these essential and enduring values in the two-plus centuries between the Revolutionary War and the War on Terror, but hey, who’s counting?

The attorney general’s encomium was prompted by critics who had embarrassed him, finally, into disclosing at least some of the names of former Gitmo Bar members he recruited for policymaking jobs at DOJ. They “do not deserve to have their own values questioned,” he said of these lawyers. Just like many attorneys at Covington & Burling, Holder’s former firm (which made representing enemy combatants its biggest “pro bono” project), they answered the call of “our values” because, you know, the detainees are so very “unpopular” among the American legal profession.

Truth be told, what’s most unpopular in our elite legal circles is the Bush administration. Bush’s lawyers approved, and Bush’s executive agencies carried out, aggressive counterterrorism policies on interrogation, detention, and surveillance after some of the Gitmo Bar’s clients killed nearly 3,000 Americans. What about those unpopular lawyers and agents? For some reason, Covington & Burling and the other barrister battalions did not volunteer to represent them. And Holder wasn’t content merely to question their “values”; he accused them of war crimes. …

The attorney general’s pep rally occurred just as the public was getting its first glimpse of the peculiar notions of “representation” shared by several Gitmo Bar veterans.. We now know a good deal about several of these volunteer lawyers. To take just a few examples, they provided al-Qaeda detainees with a brochure that instructed them on how to claim falsely that they had been tortured; fomented a detainee hunger strike that disrupted security and precipitated fabricated reports that prisoners had been tortured and force-fed; provided the detainees with other virulently anti-American propaganda (for example, informing them about the Abu Ghraib scandal, comparing U.S. military physicians to Josef Mengele, and labeling DOJ lawyers “desk torturers”); gave the enemy-combatant terrorists a hand-drawn map of Gitmo’s layout, including guard towers; helped the enemy combatants communicate messages to the outside world; informed the detainees of the identities of other detainees in U.S. custody; and posted photos of Guantanamo security badges on the Internet in a transparent effort to identify U.S. security personnel.

And that’s not the worst of it — [there is] the Gitmo Bar’s shocking effort to identify CIA interrogators. The lawyers — from the ACLU and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, perversely calling themselves “the John Adams Project” — actually had investigators stalk U.S. intelligence officers, surveilling them near their homes and photographing them … The photos were then smuggled into Gitmo and shown to top terrorists to determine whether they recognized which intelligence agents had questioned them.

Interestingly, the attorney general claimed that al-Qaeda’s volunteer lawyers deserve the public’s “respect” because they “accept our professional responsibility to protect the rule of law.” All of the above-described activities not only violated the law; they occurred in flagrant contravention of court-ordered conditions that were placed on the lawyers’ access to their “clients.” Evidently, violating statutes and contemptuously flouting court orders protects the rule of law in the same way that coming to the enemy’s aid exhibits patriotism. That’s “our values” for you. …

During the Valerie Plame controversy, we were treated to lectures from the American Left over the dire need to protect CIA agents. That, coupled with the fact that Patrick Fitzgerald, who ran the Plame investigation, is now leading a probe of the Gitmo lawyers, has brought renewed attention to the Covert Agent Identity Protection Act, the statute at the center of the Plame case….

Federal law prohibits providing material support to terrorists and terrorist organizations. Almost any assistance qualifies. The relevant statutes … exempt only “medicine and religious materials.” Though not stated in the statute, legitimate legal assistance must also be exempt — indicted terrorists are entitled to counsel. This was [Lynne] Stewart’s attempted [and failed] defense. [See here and here.] The jury, however, rejected the absurd contention that activities like helping the head of an international terrorist organization convey messages to his subordinates constituted “representation” by an attorney.

It would be interesting to know whether the attorney general thinks legitimate representation by counsel includes stalking the CIA, conspiring to identify covert agents and security personnel, inciting disruptions, providing terrorists with information in rampant violation of court orders, and the Gitmo Bar’s other outrages. Assuming Holder agrees that this is not the “rule of law” he had in mind, why would such activities not constitute material support to terrorists?

Moreover, the Espionage Act prohibits the obtaining of information respecting the national defense with the intent that it be used to the injury of the United States. Specifically included, among many other examples of conduct criminalized under the statute, is the taking of photographs of “anything connected with the national defense.” Doesn’t Mr. Holder think snapping photos of CIA interrogators involves photographing something connected with our national defense? Doesn’t the unauthorized display of such photos to mass murderers at war with our country bespeak an intention to harm the United States?

Certainly the CIA believes that what the Gitmo Bar pulled here was a serious threat to its agents and our country. Yet press reports indicate that the Justice Department didn’t think it was a big deal and resisted CIA demands that enforcement action be taken. Those of us who have pressed for disclosure of the identities and current responsibilities of former detainee lawyers now working at DOJ have argued that the public is entitled to know about potential conflicts of interest. This would certainly seem to be one. Have any former Gitmo lawyers been involved in the Justice Department’s consideration of misconduct by the detainees’ attorneys? …

While she was at Human Rights Watch (HRW), Jennifer Daskal brought to DOJ by Holder to work on detainee policy despite lacking any prosecutorial experience — played a central role in HRW’s investigation of the CIA. She was largely responsible for its exposure of covert CIA operations (specifically, identifying and publicizing airplanes used by the agency) and its disclosure that the CIA was secretly using prisons in Europe (and elsewhere) to hold top al-Qaeda captives. Daskal met with European Parliament officials and armed them with information that was used to pressure the Bush administration to shut down its detention and interrogation program.

Daskal, who called Bush the “torture president,” was a tireless critic of enhanced-interrogation tactics and other Bush counterterrorism policies. Moreover, in a 2006 memo, she asked the U.N. Human Rights Committee to investigate the United States for, among other things, using “the cloak of federalism” to avoid international governance [!!!-JB]; denying enemy combatants full access to the federal courts during what she described as the so-called ‘war on terror’”; purportedly violating international treaties by operating not only Gitmo but “supermax” civilian prisons; using secret prisons for War on Terror detainees; detaining terrorism suspects on material-witness warrants; employing military-commission procedures; imposing racially rigged enforcement of the death penalty; and denying illegal aliens the right to organize in labor unions.

That is to say, Daskal has been a harsh critic of the United States, a reliable advocate for terrorists, and a champion of compromising the CIA’s wartime activities. …

I’m betting most Americans would sense a chasm between their values and Ms. Daskal’s — and between their idea of patriotism and Mr. Holder’s.

The most unethical act in war 0

The surest successes that the US has achieved lately in the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan have been by the use of drones. Questions have been raised about the morality of their use, by the American Civil Liberties Union for instance, on the grounds that they incidentally cause civilian deaths.

A new documentary examines the morality of incidentally or deliberately killing civilians in war.

From Commentary, by Jonathan S. Tobin:

Monday night, PBS’s American Experience series will broadcast a new documentary titled The Bombing of Germany, about the strategic-bombing campaign carried out against the Nazis by American forces in World War II. Coming from the liberal-leaning PBS and in an era where denunciations of American military actions — even in the “good war” against Nazi Germany — have become commonplace, it would have been no surprise if this film was yet another revisionist attempt to decry Allied tactics as immoral. This impression is reinforced by the introduction to the film on PBS’s website, which highlights the number of German civilian casualties incurred by Allied bombing and the “defining moments that led the U.S. across a moral divide” that would make it easier to drop a nuclear bomb on Japan. Indeed, the narration heard during the opening moments of The Bombing of Germany goes straight to this conclusion when it says that by the time the war ended, the bombing left “both German cities and America’s lofty ideals in ruins.”

But, fortunately, there is more to this documentary than the facile conclusion that the bombing of Germany was so immoral that it cannot be defended even in a war in which the future of civilization was at stake. By the time the 50-minute film is over, liberals expecting another trashing of America are left with some conclusions that not only reinforce the morality of American tactics during that war but also might affect the way we think about contemporary conflicts.

The story of the bombing offensive is complex. During the war, Britain’s Royal Air Force believed that the key to knocking German war industries was to burn down the cities where the factories existed. From their frame of reference, there was no moral distinction between the factories themselves and the homes of the defense workers who created the material that enabled the Nazi regime to commit the crimes against humanity that made the war a matter of life or death for the free world.

But the United States Army Air Corps, equipped with more sophisticated planes and bombsights, as well as a more romantic notion about the distinction between government and civilian targets in a totalitarian state, disagreed. The Americans believed that by flying during the day when visibility was obviously better (the British flew at night), their planes could knock out strategic targets without having to attack entire cities. The results produced by this theory were not that good. Much damage was caused to the German war effort, but the losses of American planes (especially before the introduction of a long-range fighter plane in 1944 that would make it safer for U.S. bombers to fly over Germany) made it too expensive to continue. By contrast, the British weeklong raid on Hamburg in 1943, in which the entire city was hit, was a major blow to the German war effort. At the time, Nazi armaments minister Albert Speer told Hitler that a few more raids like Hamburg would bring the German war effort to a halt. …

What the filmmakers and some of their consultants see as the moral turning point of the war for America [was] the bombings of Berlin and Dresden in February 1945 in which there was no pretense that the attack was anything but an attempt to destroy the city. The Dresden raid, immortalized in Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Slaughterhouse Five, has been widely represented by many American, English, and German historians as immoral because the beautiful medieval city was not considered a military target and heretofore had been spared the devastation that rained down on other German cities. It is here that author Don Miller, one of the prominent voices heard in the film, describes the raid as the crossing of “a moral threshold … that we will not deliberately bomb civilians … once we crossed the moral divide in Berlin, it made everything else, including the atomic bomb, a little bit easier.”

But Miller is not the only voice heard about the raids against Berlin and Dresden. The film goes on to credit these devastating attacks for helping to make the Soviet assault on Eastern Germany, including the conquest of Berlin, easier. Moreover, the film points out that in a total war against a ruthless foe, half measures are of no use. After all, the ordinary Germans who served in Adolf Hitler’s army and worked in the factories that produced the weapons and other material that made his crimes possible never wavered in their loyalty to the Nazi regime, even as the Reich was reduced to ruins around them. This fact undermines the notion that Allied air-war theorists fervently believed in: that bombing could break the will of a nation. But Allied bombing attacks that literally destroyed the physical structures of the enemy’s war effort did work and, in fact, helped shorten the length of the bloodiest war in history.

The most devastating line of the film is its last, in which historian Conrad C. Crane, director of the U.S. Army Military History Institute, confronts the moral dilemma of killing civilians in a righteous war against an immoral opponent. While the question of the deaths of civilians is one we must ponder, Conrad insists, “The most unethical act for the Allies in World War II would have been allowing themselves to lose.”

This is a concept that applies not only to the war against Hitler but also to the one that America is currently fighting against Islamo-fascists. We have heard a great deal in the past few years about unethical tactics both in terms of attacking terrorist strongholds and as in dealing with prisoners who possess information about future threats. As the Obama administration tries to avoid further debacles like its reaction to the Christmas Day bombing attempt over Detroit and to maintain pressure on the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the conclusion of The Bombing of Germany should haunt them. It is all well and good to try to earn applause for being more moral than our opponents. But when facing an enemy whose goal is the destruction of our society and the murder of countless innocents, the prime objective must remain the same as it was in World War II. Allowing ourselves to lose such a war is the most unethical act imaginable.

Civil war? Or revolution? 0

By Andrew Walden:

Earlier this month, the Obama administration moved to transfer alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed from the military justice system at Guantanamo Bay to the jurisdiction of the US District Court for the Southern District of New York. Behind this move away from the military tribunal system, which delivered justice so effectively at Nuremburg, is an $8.5 million lobbying effort by the so-called “John Adams Project” launched in April, 2008 by the American Civil Liberties Union.

With the endorsement of Clinton Attorney General Janet Reno, former boss of Obama’s Attorney General Eric Holder, as well as former President Jimmy Carter, FBI and CIA chief William Webster, and others from both Republican and Democratic administrations, the ACLU‘s victory on behalf of the man sometimes described as “al Qaeda’s CEO” is also a defeat in the U.S.-led war on terror. Thanks to the ACLU, a terrorist like KSM will now enjoy the constitutional rights reserved for American citizens.

The civilian trial of a leading terrorist is the culmination of a years-long campaign by the ACLU to handicap U.S. efforts in the war on terror. The ACLU responded to the 9/11 attacks with the formation of its so-called National Security Project. Under the leadership of the ACLU and its ideological affiliate, the so-called Center for Constitutional Rights, hundreds of lawyers from top law firms have worked without pay to “serve the caged prisoners,” as they call the terrorist detainees in American custody. Their assault on the courts, combined with Democratic electoral gains in 2006 and 2008, has seriously undermined the military commission system. …

Their excuse is that they are safeguarding civil and constitutional rights. But as such rights do not extend to alien attackers, it’s  a thin and feeble pretext for doing what they are so passionately engaged upon that they do it free of charge. Their real aim is deeply malign: to damage America.

To the ALCU and its liberal allies, the al-Qaeda defendants are merely pawns in a larger game aimed at shackling the American and international forces who have been fighting al-Qaeda since 9/11.

Many of the ACLU’s campaigns have taken place under the “National Security Project.” Led by its CAIR-affiliated director, Jameel Jaffer, it reveals a broader picture of ACLU’s ongoing sabotage of American national security. …

Walden gives a number of examples to back up what he’s saying, including –

ACLU v. DOD –the ACLU seeks to … to go after individual US and international military and intelligence personnel — and after defense contractors if the right kind of precedent is created in Mohamed et al. v. Jeppesen Dataplan, Inc . John Adams Project operatives are also photographing CIA agents and giving the photos to Guantanamo detainees in order to generate torture allegations.

In Amnesty v. McConnell, the ACLU seeks to eliminate the right of the US government to spy without warrant on international telecommunication traffic. This is a right exercised by Carter, Reagan, Clinton, Bush and now by Obama–as well as many Presidents before them. An ACLU victory in this case could subject numerous US military and intelligence personnel telephone companies and military contractors to criminal or civil prosecution by or on behalf of jihadists in US or foreign courts.

The ACLU is seeking to extend constitutional rights to hostile foreign nationals living outside the US and to protect armed activities conducted partly or wholly outside the US. As the KSM trials suggest, it also has a sympathetic ear in the Obama administration.

For instance, Obama’s Attorney General Eric Holder was a senior partner in the Covington & Burling law firm, which currently represents 16 Guantanamo detainees. Holder’s C&B law partner David Remes stripped to his underwear at a July 14, 2008 Yemeni news conference to demonstrate the strip-searches he claims are the most serious “torture” inflicted on detainees. Strip searches are a daily standard procedure in US and international prisons housing common criminals. But in the eyes of Holder’s former partner, this procedure is too debasing to be applied to jihadists. Remes soon left the firm to work on so-called “human rights” cases full time. …

The ACLU … wants to see all the Guantanamo detainees given civilian trials. The ACLU strategy has the potential to create a web of interlocking decisions and precedents that would serve to establish a basis for criminal prosecutions and more civil lawsuits by al Qaeda members against the US military personnel, contractors, Bush administration officials, and intelligence officers who have pursued them since 9/11.

If the ACLU is even partially successful, Americans and foreign allies who have risked their lives to pursue al Qaeda may find themselves in court answering to charges brought by the jihadists. With the civilian trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the ACLU is one step closer to that destructive goal.

Is this not civil war being fought by lawyers through the law courts? Or is it revolution?