Thursday, July 28, 2016

Tightening Up The Ship

WaPo columnist and right-wing scold Marc Thiessen makes the argument that the WikiLeaks attack on the Democratic party came about precisely because President Obama hasn't done what the organization has repeatedly accused him of: using the full resources of the federal government to systematically go after Julian Assange and his allies and tossing them in the nearest dark hole.

WikiLeaks has released tens of thousands of emails showing that, while presenting itself as an impartial arbiter during the primaries, the DNC was, in fact, working overtime on Hillary Clinton’s behalf to undermine Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). In one leaked email, DNC officials said they planned to expose Sanders as an atheist with Baptist voters in Kentucky and West Virginia. Others showed DNC staffers mocking Sanders supporters as “Bernie Bros” and plotting how to spin the narrative of his failure. Others reveal that the DNC and the Hillary Victory Fund apparently channeled money through state Democratic parties, perhaps in an effort to avoid contribution limits to her campaign. Other leaks include spreadsheets that appeared to match Democratic donors and fundraisers with appointments to federal boards and commissions once Clinton was elected. Still others show DNC staffers calling their donors “clowns” and promising to have one “sitting in the [s-----est] corner I can find” at a DNC event. The convention in Philadelphia has been roiled by the revelations, which caused Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) to step down as chair.

Democrats have no one to blame but themselves for this debacle. As I pointed out in The Post on August 2010, there were many steps the Obama administration could have taken to stop WikiLeaks. It could have indicted Assange and his fellow WikiLeaks staffers and made clear that the United States will not tolerate any country — particularly NATO allies — providing them with a haven. They could have sought their extradition and — if the countries where they were hiding refused to cooperate — used existing Justice Department authorities to arrest them anywhere in the world, with or without those countries’ consent. They could have used the assets of U.S. Cyber Command to carry out cyberattacks on WikiLeaks servers to disrupt its ability to disseminate classified information that puts lives at risk. 
But it appears that the administration has done none of these things. In 2013, The Post reported that “The Justice Department has all but concluded it will not bring charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for publishing classified documents because government lawyers said they could not do so without also prosecuting U.S. news organizations and journalists . . . unless he is implicated in criminal activity other than releasing online top-secret military and diplomatic documents.” Seriously?
As for using our nation’s offensive cyber capabilities to disrupt WikiLeaks’s ability to disseminate classified information, that clearly has not happened. To this day, WikiLeaks’s entire archive of stolen classified documents remains available on its website for anyone to read. 
Now Democrats are paying the price for Obama’s inaction. And WikiLeaks promises there is more to come. In an interview with CNN this week, Assange said he might soon release “a lot more material.” That should have Democrats terrified
Apparently, exposing intelligence sources and methods has not mattered enough for the Obama administration to do something about WikiLeaks. Maybe saving Hillary Clinton from further embarrassment, or worse, will finally spur them to action.

My immediate reaction is that Thiessen works for the Washington Post, arguably the world's largest beneficiary of exposing federal government leaks in existence.  Hell, it's their profit model for crying out loud. Perhaps he's being a bit hard on Assange and at least owes the guy the kind of professional courtesy that mobsters, lawyers, and sharks reserve for one another. At the very least I think the reporter doth protest too much for a business that's built on exposing information that people may not want to see the light of day. Even if you're a DC think-tank pundit like Thiessen, you operate on leaks on a daily basis.

I mean, reporters have been pretty critical of the Obama White House for supposedly being very unkind to the press, particularly in the president's second term.  That's always seemed very odd to me considering the previous administration's repeated admissions that manipulating the press for things like, oh, I dunno, starting a war with Iraq was always a chief goal. I've long postulated that the press had to find some similar accusations to hurl at Obama in order to prove that they were dupes of both parties along with the rest America, rather than willing participants along with Bush/Cheney.

That's why it strikes me as very odd to see any major newspaper columnist advocate extradition, arrest, even counter-cyberattacks to shut WikiLeaks down, especially taking the position that WikiLeaks should have been dealt with in 2010.  But it turns out Thiessen is something of a special case in this regard, to his credit he had Assange pegged as a criminal six years ago:

Let's be clear: WikiLeaks is not a news organization; it is a criminal enterprise. Its reason for existence is to obtain classified national security information and disseminate it as widely as possible -- including to the United States' enemies. These actions are likely a violation of the Espionage Act, and they arguably constitute material support for terrorism. The Web site must be shut down and prevented from releasing more documents -- and its leadership brought to justice. WikiLeaks' founder, Julian Assange, proudly claims to have exposed more classified information than all the rest of the world press combined. He recently told the New Yorker he understands that innocent people may be hurt by his disclosures ("collateral damage" he called them) and that WikiLeaks might get "blood on our hands."

So in the end I guess that Thiessen is just continuing his call for the President to do something about putting Assange in decidedly substandard federal housing for a long time.  Perhaps now that WikiLeaks has gone after Obama and the Democrats personally and is obtaining help from our good friends the Russians, that might get moved up the priority list.

It's a kick square in the crotch to have to agree with Thiessen on anything but yes, Obama should have scooped up Assange some time ago.

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