Published December 03, 2010
Hey, Hillary! Hey, all you flustered generals, ambassadors and government-security chiefs!
Protect your own damn secrets. Don’t be expecting the media to keep your secrets for you. That’ll never happen any more, not in the age of WikiLeaks.
This week, all of Washington has been in an uproar over the big Web site document dump. Loose-fingered U.S. diplomats are embarrassed while Vladimir Putin, Muammar Qaddafi and other thin-skinned world leaders are not one bit amused.
Seems our Foreign Service professionals, in their secret international cables, forgot the very first rule of e-mail: It’s easy to forward, so be discreet! Our reps around the world have been trading unflattering gossip they should definitely have saved for the bar.
Is the Russian president really that lazy? Apparently so.
Who is the sexy Ukrainian nurse at the Libyan leader’s side day and night? Wouldn’t you like to know!
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and high-ranking officials at the State Department and the Pentagon are warning of international catastrophes, although up ’til now most of the stuff seems pretty tame. But there are definitely some lessons worth learning before the leaks gets even uglier.
One lesson is how easy the leaking is. In this case, a 22-year-old Army private seems to be responsible. What was he doing with access to hundreds of the thousands of secret documents as he sat at a laptop outside Baghdad. Clearly, procedures need to be tightened.
A second lesson is this: In this age of millions of Web sites, you will never stop the secrets from flowing once they seep out of government.
When it was just a few big newspapers and some network TV, government officials could huddle with editors and plead to keep things under wraps. With the media as spread out and disconnected as we are today, that will never work any more.
If WikiLeaks won’t publish, somebody else will. And if they won’t, a thousand others will.
And finally, this isn’t all bad: How else would we have known about Putin’s nap time and Qaddafi’s nurse?