The leaks that aren’t really leaks

Glenn Greenwald praises the New York Times for an article which “exposed” planning for an imminent expansion of Obama’s war in Pakistan:

In my view, the NYT article represents exactly the kind of secret information journalists ought to be revealing; it’s a pure expression of why the First Amendment guarantees a free press. There are few things more damaging to basic democratic values than having the government conduct or escalate a secret war beyond public debate or even awareness. By exposing these classified plans, Mazzetti and Filkins did exactly what good journalists ought to do: inform the public about important actions taken or being considered by their government which the government is attempting to conceal.

Moreover, the Obama administration has a history of deceiving the public about secret wars. Recently revealed WikiLeaks cables demonstrated that it was the U.S. — not Yemen — which launched a December, 2009 air strike in that country which killed dozens of civilians; that was a covert war action about which the U.S. State Department actively misled the public, and was exposed only by WikiLeaks cables. Worse, it was The Nation’s Jeremy Scahill who first reported back in 2009 that the CIA was directing ground operations in Pakistan using both Special Forces and Blackwater operatives: only to be smeared by the Obama State Department which deceitfully dismissed his report as “entirely false,” only for recently released WikiLeaks cables to confirm that what Scahill reported was exactly true. These kinds of leaks are the only way for the public to learn about the secret wars the Obama administration is conducting and actively hiding from the public.

The question that emerges from all of this is obvious, but also critical for those who believe Wikileaks and Julian Assange should be prosecuted for the classified information they have published: should the NYT editors and reporters who just spilled America’s secrets to the world be criminally prosecuted as well? After all, WikiLeaks has only exposed past conduct, and never — like the NYT just did — published imminent covert military plans.

I wish I shared Greenwald’s enthusiasm for the NYT’s investigative journalism but I’m highly skeptical that the reporting in this instance should be regarded as an exposé.

What seems much more likely is that the newspaper is simply serving as the means through which classified information can be made public because doing so is thought (by the leakers) to serve policymaking goals — such as applying pressure on Pakistan.

This merely illustrates the fact that those who make the rules can — whenever they see fit — break the rules. No one is at risk of being caught having leaked classified information to the New York Times. The “leaking” was almost certainly authorized at the highest levels of the administration and the New York Times merely acted as a dutiful servant. The paper is very well-trained when it comes to distinguishing between classified information that it has permission to print and that which is verboten.

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3 thoughts on “The leaks that aren’t really leaks

  1. Norman

    Well put. With this kind of exposure, it should hasten the withdrawal of U,S, forces from theater. Of course, unless there is a cry from the public, there will be more of the same by the Government. There is one thing I consider as the fly in the ointment here, that being the vast majority of unemployed people, along with those that who have lost their homes, will make up a goodly proportion of educated people who will join the revolution, be it peaceful or otherwise in the not to distant future, if the Government doesn’t quite wasting $Billions on Wars, private Army’s, no bid cost + contracts, cut out the Business welfare, set the tax structure so that everyone shares in the burden in rebuilding the infrastructure in this country. There are far too many people to believe otherwise, regardless if the Government is bought & paid for as it is today. What used to take years for changes to occur, take just months today. The Government mindset is still stuck in Lodi, while the people are like Moores Law. Something to think about.

  2. DE Teodoru

    If you wanted, as a negotiating point– to scare the Taliban into thinking that we’ll attack their bases in Pakistan with US forces– you would leak it, of course, to the NYTimes, the same paper that scooped all the about to attack Iran articles. It is, afterall, the rag of favor of both Israel and Wash DC. compliant on phony negotiating leaks (like Project Pennsylvania during Vietnam– a lot of nothing). And, of course, after Obama capitulated on Mideast peace, the NYTimes would naturally oblige to serve his diplomatic games.

    The whole thing about Wikileaks is that it is cutting into the bread and butter of the media. Assange realized that and turned over his latest loot to the media instead of to us,the public.

    We are, once again, as in Vietnam, walking out with our tails between our legs, defeated by little people who are not offered high multi-million dollars pensions on corporate boards and $50,000 per speech as victorious heros for their brilliant war on terror. All these little people want is foreigners out. The real issue is not to allow Petraeus’s future to be wrecked as was Westmoreland’s. He’s hanging on to these war surges until he’s sure there won’t be another generals’ revolt or a media blitz. It’s all a matter of image. That we lost is beyond debate. Now the only thing left to salvage is the media reputation of those at fault. Wikileaks crimped that up, for now we know from Woodward what jerks are at the top and, from the cables released by Wikileaks, what jerks are below.

  3. Vince J.

    As John Pilger recently said: “They read our e-mail, listen to our phone call, etc… Why can’t we read theirs?”

    I totaly agree with the last paragraph of this article! I don’t Trust the NYT since the WMD bull.

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