Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Drip, drip, drip... Why can't Obama fix a leak?

The Gulf oil spill this year was one of the biggest challenges for the Obama administration to-date. About 200 million gallons of oil spilled into the waters before the leak was plugged, endangering wildlife across the Gulf coast and threatening our economy.

No, the Obama administration didn't cause the oil spill. But, it didn't act nimbly enough to stop the leak for months, and more could have been done to prevent it.

Now, President Obama is facing a different kind of leak at the hands of another third party, one that threatens our national security and endangers American citizens.

WikiLeaks was not a sneak or surprise attack. The media has been teasing the latest round of released information for weeks. In fact, the New York Times and other papers around the world allegedly were given an advance copy of released documents for review. Yet, seemingly nothing was done to stop the release of this information.

Maybe we missed it, but where is the outrage from President Obama? What is being done to stop this leak of information, to hold those responsible for it accountable, and to prevent the release of classified information in the future?

Remember when the Tim Cahill for Massachusetts Governor campaign alleged that internal information had been released by its campaign consultants? Cahill's legal and public response to the alleged leak of campaign information about a statewide political race was seemingly swifter and more aggressive than what the Obama administration is doing to combat one of the biggest releases of classified national government information in the history of the United States.

Hundreds of thousands of documents have been released by WikiLeaks so far, some of them classified materials that deal with America's relationship with foreign nations and the war on terror. Think about the magnitude: if each of these documents was only one page long, the trail of supposedly-secret papers released would stretch almost 90 miles, or roughly the distance from Boston to Springfield. But there seems to be little shock or outrage about the leak because it is floating in the abyss of the Internet, where people are used to seeing supposedly-private information released for public scrutiny regularly.

WikiLeaks is not like tabloid sites showing videos of Paris Hilton, or like Tiger Woods' text messages being printed in the newspaper. This is serious business. American lives are at stake, and our national security is in serious danger, not to mention our reputation with foreign countries in the diplomatic community.

In the latest issue of Der Spiegel (Germany's main newspaper), the paper editorializes:

"Never before in history has a superpower lost control of such vast amounts of such sensitive information -- data that can help paint a picture of the foundation upon which US foreign policy is built. Never before has the trust America's partners have in the country been as badly shaken. Now, their own personal views and policy recommendations have been made public -- as have America's true views of them." http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,731580,00.html

The lack of any meaningful response leads us to conclude that the real answer is either one of two things. One possibility is that the Obama administration disapproves of the leak but that it really isn't that outraged about it. We don't think the administration actually wants classified documents released, but perhaps having thousands of documents showing that the administration favors diplomacy over the use of force in dealing with foreign threats isn't seen as such a bad thing on balance. (After all, Obama campaigned on that foreign policy platform.) The other possibility is that, much like what apparently happened with the Gulf oil spill, the Obama administration actually doesn't have any idea how to stop this leak, and it doesn't know how to regain sound control over sensitive documents to prevent future leaks.

Both possibilities are equally alarming, and Americans deserve answers and a resolute response. One thing is sure: if a lone Army private supposedly armed with a Lady Gaga CD and a memory stick can do so much damage, American national security is at cataclysmic risk.

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