There is much that could be said about the leak of more than 75,000 classified documents about the war in Afghanistan through WikiLeaks, reportedly by Bradley Manning, a U.S. Army intelligence analyst. It goes without saying that those who leaked and published the documents did so in hopes of impairing the U.S.’s war effort in Afghanistan. This is deeply reprehensible, and we have consistently opposed all such efforts to use illegal means to undermine the war on terror and the war in Iraq.
For now, let us merely note the role that the New York Times played in today’s scandal. The Times was one of three left-wing newspapers that were given the original scoop by WikiLeaks, along with the Guardian in England and Der Spiegel in Germany. No surprise there: the Times enthusiastically, and illegally, published leaked, classified material throughout the Bush administration.
So what did the Obama administration do when its friends at the Times had another illegal scoop in the works? Did the Democrats at least try to persuade the Times to respect security concerns and the safety of our armed forces in the field? No. The question was asked of Robert Gibbs in his press conference today:
QUESTION: Did you try to get the New York Times not to publish?
GIBBS: No. Never asked them that.
The New York — let’s keep — let’s understand first a few things. The New York Times didn’t publish the documents. Wikileaks published — Wikileaks published the documents.
I will say this. Had only the New York Times had this story, would we have made a case and an effort, as we have with them and other news organizations, not to compromise security? Yes.
But understand that the Times was one — the New York Times was one of three news organizations that had access to these documents. We got questions from — I believe on Friday from Der Spiegel and met with Tommy Vietor, Ben Rhodes and I met with the New York Times on Thursday.
Is that entirely unreasonable? Perhaps not. But more broadly, what standing do the Democrats and the Obama administration have to oppose illegal leaks that compromise our national security? Gibbs now says that Obama is against such law-breaking:
QUESTION: The head of Wikileaks tells us that he — he won’t identify the source of the material. He actually says we still don’t know who the source is. But if it was Private First Class Manning, who is already in custody, the head of Wikileaks says, “He’s a hero.” What does the president say to Wikileaks and those who believe that they are doing the right thing…
GIBBS: Well, look…
QUESTION: … in outing the policy they disagree with?
GIBBS: Well, I think there are ways in which one can disapprove a policy without breaking the law and putting in potential danger those who are there to keep us safe.
Again, if I were to have handed one of you these documents, I would be breaking the law.
I think there are certainly better ways to — to discuss and register one’s opposition, rather than putting people in potential harm’s way.
Yeah, well, we agree with that. But when the New York Times and the Washington Post were breaking the law during the Bush administration and were being rewarded with Pulitzer Prizes and adulation from the Democratic Party, where was Barack Obama? Did he ever register any disapproval of such lawless efforts to undermine our country’s war efforts? Did he ever argue that it was a bad thing to violate the law in a way that put our troops in added danger, or that compromised the effectiveness of our anti-terror efforts? Not that I remember.
So pardon me if I’m not surprised that neither the New York Times nor anyone else takes seriously the Democrats’ newfound concerns about illegal national security leaks.