By Christian Whiton
On Friday, WikiLeaks again released a massive amount of classified information stolen from the U.S. government. This time is was 392,000 files about the Iraq war. In July, it was more than 70,000 controlled government documents about Afghanistan. More illegal disclosures are promised. What have Congress and the Obama administration done since WikiLeaks started this? Scandalously little as it turns out.
First and foremost, it is important to understand that this is a serious challenge to our national security. It’s not about government transparency or free speech, which is the claim WikiLeaks and its leader, a certain Julian Assange, are making.
Rather, this is an act of political warfare against the United States. WikiLeaks is a foreign organization that obtained these documents as a result of espionage and it means to use the information to thwart and alter U.S. policy. Mr. Assange said as much himself. He reportedly responded to a journalist’s question recently by e-mailing, “I’m too busy ending two wars.”
More correctly, he is busy getting the free world to lose two wars.
In addition to possibly getting some cooperating individuals named in these reports killed, this mass compromise of classified data will make it much harder to find people willing to cooperate with the United States. This will harm information-gathering that remains critical to our defense, whether it is being conducted by an Army sergeant in an insurgency area or a civilian U.S. intelligence officer in a hostile foreign capital.
So far, the Obama administration appears to have been asleep at the wheel in responding to this. The same is true of the Democratic-controlled Congress, which has no fewer than ten committees of jurisdiction that could be doing something about this—but which are not.
Here are some of the things the U.S. could do:
1. Indict Mr. Assange and his colleagues for espionage, regardless of whether he is presently in a U.S. jurisdiction, and ask our allies to do the same.
2. Explore opportunities for the president to designate WikiLeaks and its officers as enemy combatants, paving the way for non-judicial actions against them.
3. Freeze the assets of the WikiLeaks organization and its supporters, and sanction financial organizations working with this terrorist-enabling organization so they cannot clear transactions denominated in U.S. dollars.
4. Give the new U.S. Cyber-Command a chance to prove its worth by ordering it to electronically assault WikiLeaks and any telecommunications company offering its services to this organization.
5. Holding meaningful congressional hearings to look into how this much classified information could ever be compromised and how the U.S. can better identify and combat political warfare organizations like WikiLeaks.
Of course, none of this will happen unless President Obama and congressional Democrats start taking national security more seriously. The initial compromise of this much sensitive information is shocking by itself. But the intervening period of inaction is scandalous. While the Pentagon has done some damage control, it appears to have no help from the Obama White House, other government agencies, or the Congress.
How much will our information-collection capabilities have to be diminished, and how many of our friends and collaborators around the world must die, before President Obama and his friends on Capitol Hill start caring more about national security?
Christian Whiton is a former State Department senior adviser.