Bill Keller has another narcissistic column attacking Julian Assange. The whole thing is rubbish not worth your time, but I did want to unpack the complaint with which Keller ends his column.
“A lot of attention has been focused on WikiLeaks and its colorful proprietors,” Aftergood told me. “But the real action, it turns out, is not at the publisher level; it’s at the source level. And there aren’t a lot of sources as prolific or as reckless as Bradley Manning allegedly was.”
For good reason. The Obama administration has been much more aggressive than its predecessors in pursuing and punishing leakers. The latest case, the arrest last month of John Kiriakou, a former C.I.A. terrorist-hunter accused of telling journalists the names of colleagues who participated in the waterboarding of Qaeda suspects, is symptomatic of the crackdown. It is this administration’s sixth criminal case against an official for confiding to the media, more than all previous presidents combined. The message is chilling for those entrusted with keeping legitimate secrets and for whistleblowers or officials who want the public to understand how our national security is or is not protected.
Here’s the paradox the documentaries have overlooked so far: The most palpable legacy of the WikiLeaks campaign for transparency is that the U.S. government is more secretive than ever. [my emphasis]
The Obama Administration has charged 6 people with some kind of espionage charge for leaking:
All the non-WikiLeaks leaks allegedly took place before Manning’s. All were formally charged before Manning, and all but two men were arrested before Manning.
And yet Bill Keller, in a demonstration of his typical reporting skill though not Newtonian physics, suggests that WikiLeaks caused the crackdown on leaks.
WikiLeaks can’t be the reason the government has cracked down so harshly, because most of the crackdown preceded the key WikiLeaks publications.
Perhaps Keller is just looking for some easy explanation for why Kiriakou got busted. As I have shown, the most logical way to establish the case against Kiriakou (short of the now legal acquisition of journalist call records using NSLs) was through the NYT article reporting Deuce Martinez’ role in interrogating Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. And while Kiriakou’s recklessness–as a CIA guy who leaked a covert officer’s identity through apparently unencrypted email–rivals Manning’s, security expert Chris Soghoian has pointed out how shoddy (and far inferior to WikiLeaks’) the NYT’s own security is.
The government is prosecuting leaks at a degree unheard of–and has been since before WikiLeaks. It is using new interpretations that strip journalists of the privacy expectations they once had. But along with that, journalists have taken a while to adjust to the new intrusiveness.
The government deserves most of the blame for it. But the NYT seems to deserve more of the blame for shoddy security than WikiLeaks does.