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  • Podcast: WikiLeaks

    As Julian Assange avoids stepping foot in the United States and cuts off ties to U.S.-based servers for his website, WikiLeaks, what recourse is left for the United States to take? Further, what punishment will Private First Class Bradley Manning, the officer charged with leaking these documents to Assange, face? And could technology allow for more of these types of leaks in the future?

    Visiting legal fellow Paul Rosenzweig confronts these questions and more in a timely podcast on the legal side of WikiLeaks.

    For all of our weekly podcasts, be sure to subscribe to our RSS Feed or to subscribe on iTunes. Click here to listen to this week’s podcast on WikiLeaks.

    Posted in Legal [slideshow_deploy]

    3 Responses to Podcast: WikiLeaks

    1. George Colgrove, VA says:

      “There is a correlation somewhere to the type of people DC attracts, the unscrupulous, selfish, highly ambitious type (mostly) along with the highly idealistic, usually blinded and in this administration most certainly extremely misguided. It takes someone who is morally challenged and pathologically self-centered to profit off the misfortune of the entire nation, or someone so ideologically narcissistic as to be blind to the larger picture and to think that their recompense is just. I say this having lived among those people long enough to know. DC is a town where everyone walks around wondering if the over-dressed doofus facing her has more or better "access" than she does. Everyone has knives up their sleeves made specifically for stabbing in the back and you cannot spit in any direction without hitting a lawyer.” – random anonymous blog post made earlier this year.

      Wikileaks is just a symptom to a greater cancer. The cancer being a highly secretive and dishonest federal government, the massive self-serving well to do federal workforce and the audaciousness of the Congress. These self-defined patriots have no restraint. We have had several severe leaks this last year and to assume it was one Sargent in the military is ludicrous. The bottom line is this, federal employees provided Wikileaks the classified documents. That is the crime. Wikileaks and major news organizations posting the material was reprehensible, but one could say the cat was out of the bag at the moment the federal employee gave over the documents.

      The fact there is no paper trail as to who had access to the classified material is disturbing. Moreover, there is no record of a massive short term access to hundreds if not thousands of classified documents as what would be needed if one were to fill a flash drive or a CD-ROM with such documents. Even on top of that, why do federal computers have such capabilities to record CD’s or transfer to flash drives to begin with? Shouldn’t federal employees with access to such material be banned from having personal iPods, cell phones, flash drives and the such at their desks anyway? This is a clear example of how poorly the federal government is being operated, how much of a security risk government is into itself and why it is so expensive.

      A review of the classification process is needed but also the number of people with security clearances need also be reviewed. According to the Washington Post earlier on this year, there are over 850,000 personnel with “Top Secret” clearances. This does not count personnel with lower level clearances. It could very well be that over half of the federal workforce has high level clearances. This shows a massive amount of disorganization which needs to be reined in. The administrative cost alone to manage this is expensive. Most clearances are pointless and are a result of lazy governance. Simple reviews of governmental procedures can clean up the document trails such that most work done by government officials can be done with standard business background checks and can be done with declassified documents or documents that have been redacted to protect classified information.

      The cost of the government is so high because of mismanagement of resources and people. There is a massive amount of pointless and needless redundancy. Multiple people are declassifying the same document for different purposes. And each does not know the other is doing it. Each step alone may not amount to much, but a few million here and a billion there can start to show significant savings as well as enhancing our national security.

      People who access or who are in charge of managing classified information should strictly be the “owner” or subject matter experts with working knowledge of that they are charge to protect. Office managers, administrators, etc, who have no working experience with the material (i.e. degrees combined with field experience with the subject matter) should strictly be working with declassified documents.

      We should have a robust declassification program. Subject matter experts as defined above should be the only people doing declassification. Their eyes should be the only eyes on the material. These employees should be rotating members of the military so no single person has significant exposure to a large body of classified documents. This body's primary purpose should be to declassify documents needed by other government offices or for public consumption and should have no direct connection to the public both by person, via phone or email or by a computer network. They should be working in “clean rooms” without any access to their personal belongings. Each person should be thoroughly checked prior to entering and leaving the room. Once declassified, these documents may need further redactions for privacy or other concerns, but could be released to the rest of the federal government on standard business secure systems in electronic form. Thus eliminating the need for expensive secured couriers that are roaming around DC.

      There should be a quality control process enacted to ensure what remains classified complies with a narrow band of criteria protecting national security. Not the embarrassing material as shown in the recent collections of leaks. Challenges and disputes will always occur. In these cases of appeals or judicial actions, a firewall comprising of military lawyer personnel should be the arbitrators of what is released to the public. If need be, executive summaries can be produced of the subject matter that does not compromise national security and be attached to the redacted document.

      Inappropriate redactions or document retentions should be investigated and prosecuted if wrong intent (i.e. federal government illegal activity or cover-ups) was discovered. This system can be open and transparent in the realm of process, but sensitive material can be kept out of the hands of people who do not need it – which comprises most of the people working for the federal government. There is no reason why 850,000 federal employees (perhaps even over 1.5 million) need top level clearances. DoD Sec Gates admitted it is difficult to wrap his arms around the entire community.

      A revamped system which is far more limited and restricted, will provide better control and provide a record of people who accessed or viewed the documents. If a document were to end up in the public domain, there would be a record of the few people who had access to it. This would make finding leakers easy. People with security clearances who have access to classified material should have limited or no access to the public, either personally or electronically. There should be the assumption of distrust, and they need to be checked to ensure they are not a compromise to national security. The numbers of people with access should be limited and controllable. Any departmental or program head should be able to know the size and scope of the entire national security and intelligence community.

      The system is currently sloppy and heavily burdened. It is time to greatly limit access and simplify as well as strengthen the process. This is a cost factor and a security factor. We are in scary times, but I fear the arrogance and ineptitude of the ever expanding federal government more than I fear our enemies.

    2. Tim AZ says:

      I think a new crime would have to be invented to charge Julian Assange with. There is currently no law that governs the dissemination of second hand information. If there where The New York Times would have been out of business a long time ago. I'm not saying Julian Assange is acting in Americas best interests. In fact he wasn't even a considered a problem until he began to damage members the regime with some of these documents. I suppose he could be charged with slander if the regime could prove any of the documents to be false. I doubt they can or would want to make the attempt. What Assange has done is made it impossible for those citizens that are paying attention to claim that govt. is or has been honest with the American citizenry. A portion of the American citizenry has always known this at some level. As for Bradley Manning he could easily be tried for treason. A crime that as far as I know still carries the death penalty. The question is does America still take itself serious enough to convict and carry out the harshest sentence under the law? If we do not then our laws are as impotent as the regime intends them to be.

    3. Jay A Anema Seattle, says:

      Privates are Privates, Officers are Officers.


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