Glenn Greenwald writes (and my comments follow):
To say that the Obama administration’s campaign against WikiLeaks has been based on wildly exaggerated and even false claims is to understate the case. But now, there is evidence that Obama officials have been knowingly lying in public about these matters. The long-time Newsweek reporter Mark Hosenball — now at Reuters — reports that what Obama officials are saying in private about WikiLeaks directly contradicts their public claims:
Internal U.S. government reviews have determined that a mass leak of diplomatic cables caused only limited damage to U.S. interests abroad, despite the Obama administration’s public statements to the contrary.
A congressional official briefed on the reviews said the administration felt compelled to say publicly that the revelations had seriously damaged American interests in order to bolster legal efforts to shut down the WikiLeaks website and bring charges against the leakers. . . .
“We were told (the impact of WikiLeaks revelations) was embarrassing but not damaging,” said the official, who attended a briefing given in late 2010 by State Department officials. . .
But current and former intelligence officials note that while WikiLeaks has released a handful of inconsequential CIA analytical reports, the website has made public few if any real intelligence secrets, including reports from undercover agents or ultra-sensitive technical intelligence reports, such as spy satellite pictures or communications intercepts. . . .
National security officials familiar with the damage assessments being conducted by defense and intelligence agencies told Reuters the reviews so far have shown “pockets” of short-term damage, some of it potentially harmful. Long-term damage to U.S. intelligence and defense operations, however, is unlikely to be serious, they said. . . .
Shortly before WikiLeaks began its gradual release of State Department cables last year, department officials sent emails to contacts on Capitol Hill predicting dire consequences, said one of the two congressional aides briefed on the internal government reviews.
However, shortly after stories about the cables first began to appear in the media, State Department officials were already privately playing down the damage, the two congressional officials said.
In response to Hosenball’s story, Obama officials naturally tried to salvage the integrity of their statements, insisting that “there has been substantial damage” and that there were unspecified “specific cases where damage caused by WikiLeaks’ revelations have been assessed as serious to grave.” But the only specific cases anyone could identify were ones where the U.S. was caught by these documents lying to its own citizens or, at best, concealing vital truths — such as the far greater military role the U.S. is playing in Yemen and Pakistan than Obama officials have publicly acknowledged.
And this, of course, has been the point all along: the WikiLeaks disclosures are significant precisely because they expose government deceit, wrongdoing and brutality, but the damage to innocent people has been deliberately and wildly exaggerated — fabricated — by the very people whose misconduct has been revealed. There is harm from the WikiLeaks documents, but it’s to wrongdoers in power, which is why they are so desperate to malign and then destroy the group.
On Saturday, the New York Times revealed that the Stuxnet malware attack on Iran’s uranium enrichment program was a joint US-Israeli operation. The report illustrates the officially sanctioned relationship between the US government and the US press when it comes to the publication of classified information. Indeed, this relationship is so well understood that on matters of national security, the New York Times can be regarded as effectively serving as the US government’s ministry of information.
Although the report does not cite government sources — even anonymous officials — there seems little doubt that on an intelligence issue such as this (there could not be one of greater sensitivity) the newspaper’s editors would at least have shown the report to administration officials before publication. Which is to say, the New York Times would not publish a story of this nature without government approval. That is not to say that the accuracy of the report was being vouched for but that, at the least, the government could tolerate (and might well welcome) the disclosure of the classified information it contained.
This gets to the heart of the Obama administration’s fight against WikiLeaks: it’s not about the protection of secrecy; it’s about control of classified information. In other words, it’s about the exercising of the political power to pick and choose when the law should be upheld and when it can be disregarded.
WikiLeaks presents a challenge to centralized power; not governance by law.