Pots, Kettles and Secrets

SayUncle doesn’t think the Government that snoops ought to have much to complain about when the tables get turned. When it comes to leaking government malfeasance, even if those documents are technically classified, I agree. I’m a lot less sympathetic to someone who dumps reams of diplomatically sensitive classified information online with the sole purpose of embarrassing the US government and destroying its capacity to engage in diplomacy worldwide. In a world where you have a nuclear armed North Korea itching to start a war, and your documents contain sensitive information about plans to reunify the Korean Peninsula, that kind of crap can get millions of people killed. As far as I’m concerned, Assange (and you can’t spell “Assange” without “Ass”) ought to be charged with espionage (I’ve heard talk of Treason. Treason is when you betray your own country). It looks like the Swedes already want him for rape.

But we’re increasingly living in a transparent society. None of us will have any privacy, but that’s going to be true of the government as well. The only effective ways to keep secrets in a world as interconnected as ours is to keep the number of people who know the secrets down to as small a number as possible. If more than a few dozen people have access to your secrets, chances are one of them will be a malcontent, and your secret is no longer.

Even in a transparent world, the governments still have legitimate reasons to keep secrets, but for better or worse that’s going to become more difficult if not impossible. On the balance, I think that will be a good thing rather than a bad thing.

11 thoughts on “Pots, Kettles and Secrets”

  1. Two can keep a secret if one is dead.

    Assuming that Justin Assange is operating from Sweden, how does the USA have jurisdiction?

  2. Assange apparently hops around to various parts of the world, though he is an Australian national. Some crimes don’t have to be committed in the United States in order for the United States to claim jurisdiction. Espionage is one of them. The US can file a warrant with Interpol, which instructs any police agency worldwide that he’s a wanted man in the United States, and should be picked up. Most states will generally cooperate. Australia certainly would.

  3. I’m still not entirely sure that I like the US being able to claim jurisdiction on a foreign national for actions taken on foreign soil. Especially when the same actions might well be constitutionally-protected if they were taken by a US national on US soil (cf. Pentagon Papers).

    The actual leaker can be nailed, and probably should be. Assange received the info and published it. I’ll grant his motive and actions constitute an attack on the US. I just can’t see that grants the US Legal system a claim on him.

    Also, the rape warrant – really? Does that have any bearing on his actions vis a vis the Wikileaks debacle? Or is it just another way to smear him?

    Sure, he’s not a nice guy, and doesn’t have the best interests of the USA in mind. He’s not a US Citizen or perm resident; he doesn’t owe a duty to the USA. He didn’t do anything while under the jurisdiction of the USA.

    IMHO, issuing an international arrest warrant for Assange is on the same level as NJ issuing an arrest warrant for you because I gave you a box of hollowpoint ammo that I bought in NJ and you put it in your carry gun, in violation of NJ’s law against carrying hollowpoints; and forcing PA to extradite you to NJ to face charges.

    I wnat to make sure I’m clear. What Assange did was *wrong* and sophomoric, against the interests of the USA, and will likely get people killed and hinder our diplomatic efforts (plus damage a few people’s careers). I just can’t see that a foreign national publishing from foreign soil information given to him by a third person makes him a criminal under the jurisdiction of the USA. Sovereignty has limits, and national borders mean something, no?

  4. for a more on-point example; should Iran be able to demand we extradite a journalist who published the transcript of a “vigourous” interrogation of a pro-democracy dissident?

  5. Time was that when secret stuff was published, it was done with hard copy only, those copies were numbered and the dissemination was on a “need to know” basis.

    Now it seems they put everything into electronic databases and any one of a few hundred thousand people can log in and read whatever they want without having to justify a need.

    It’d be like opening up a bank vault and letting anyone who works for the bank to wander in and grab handfuls of cash whenever they felt the urge.

    If it was that easy to take classified documents, Wikileaks is a popcorn fart. Instead, I wonder what other people have taken and given to China, Russia or Iran.

  6. Iran can demand anything. We don’t have to do anything for them. It’s up to the member country how they decide to handle an Interpol alert.

  7. Apparently the rape allegations are a few months old. Though, I’m guessing Sweden issued the Interpol alert on the warrant they put out for him because, now that he’s embarrassed a number of world governments, they figure not too many countries have a strong incentive to look the other way.

    Generally speaking, classified data it’s legally classified until the government says it’s not. It’s not like a trade secret where, once it’s public, it’s generally no longer legally considered such.

    There were actually prosecutions for the Pentagon Papers, and at least one Supreme Court ruling that protected a certain use, plus New York Times v. US But the Times case only limited itself to whether the government could enjoin a newspaper from publishing, not whether the publisher could be punished after the fact.

  8. Heh – then everyone publishing excerpts is publishing classified data :)

    I still don’t see that the US has a claim for jurisdiction on this guy, any more than Britain would have jurisdiction on you for publishing something that a court there had issued a gag order on, or my previous example of Iran.

  9. Sooo…No Pentagon papers? Throw Woodward and Bernstein in Gitmo? Repeal the first amendment?

    There was a near riot within Wikileaks after the first irresponsible document dump on Afghanistan. My understanding is that now WikiLeaks vets the dumps better by using a network of Journalists help with redactions. Later dumps are embarrassing, but I don’t know of any that blew anyones cover.

    I’m willing to bet the story of the two women that started having consensual sex and then claim it became non-consensual has a bit more to it than has been publicly released. I mean they questioned him, and then let him leave the country before issuing the warrant. Something stinks.

    Oh, and a Interpol warrant has already been issued:


    Somehow I think it’ll be far easier to drag Assange to Gitmo than actually capture Osama. And we’ve thrown billions toward catching Osama.

  10. My opinion….if the government wants to keep a secret, they shouldn’t keep files.

    Frankly, the only files that I think should be prosecutable (against an American) are ones involving direct troop movement and upcoming military operations.

    As for China and N. Korea. I found that quite fascinating. I wonder if China has realized the potential of the situation.

    Imagine if China invaded N. Korea. Using the recent attacks on S. Korea as a basis. They probably can provide evidence of N. Korea’s actions.

    China invades, (not like N. Korea has a friend in the world that would come to it’s aid). Declares that they will facilitate a peaceful re-unification of South and North Korea under the Democratic government of S. Korea with Seoul as the capital. That they will dedicate xxxx billions of dollars of economic help to facilitate the re-unification.

    China would have eliminated one of the major tension regions of the world. While at the same time propelling itself to super power status. I am sure a few anti-China individuals will object. But many will likely laud the action. Especially if China could do it with minimally to no casualties.

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