- The Washington Times - Monday, December 6, 2010

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Is there a grown-up in the house?

Just when the government needs adult supervision as never before, grown-ups have all gone over the hill. It’s getting scary out there.

The confidential cable traffic between American embassies and Washington, as well as hundreds of military secrets, have been laid out for the world to inspect, and no one can find the man who did it, despite his popping up from time to time to mock his pursuers. The Defense Department, ever vigilant, warns its employees and contractors not to read the stolen files on display for the rest of the world because “they’re still classified.” The Office of Management and Budget, the brass standard of the bureaucracy, sent out an official directive solemnly warning that “classified information, whether or not already posted on public websites or disclosed to the media, remains classified, and must be treated as such until it is declassified by an appropriate U.S. Government authority.” However, it’s OK if government grunions, like the rest of us, read all about it in the newspapers.

Some of those pilfered files are believed to include important military secrets, perhaps even including descriptions of troop movements to defend Washington against Jubal Early’s raid on Washington in the summer of 1864.

President Obama and the Democrats, meanwhile, are determined to defend the economy against its attempt to recover from the recession, the worst since the Great Depression. Raising taxes in such circumstances is a strategy that has never been tried before, but if it works, it could help the Democrats keep the White House and regain the House of Representatives in 2012. Life is snug and cozy in the time warp where Democrats dwell.

Over at the Pentagon, some of the generals and one of the admirals are setting out to enhance military effectiveness by spreading widespread distraction and naked confusion in the ranks. Adm. Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — who never, never, never gets sick at sea (well, hardly ever) — is eager to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell” because to deprive gays of serving openly in the ranks is to deprive them of their civil rights. This is an odd understanding of how the military has always worked; no one else has ever seen such an animal as a democratic army. But by declaring the right to serve in the Army a right open to every citizen, the admiral and his sidekick in mischief, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, have discovered new reserves of what we once were allowed to call “manpower.” The halt, the lame, the one-armed and the peg-legged cannot be denied their rights, either, and arthritic 80-year-olds, leaning forward on their canes and walkers, will soon join the traditionally abled in the ranks.

The Defense Department, by issuing its own directive forbidding the reading of what everyone else is reading (and publishing) could make the first arrests in the investigation of WikiLeaks. “Viewing and downloading still classified documents from unclassified government computers creates a security violation,” a Pentagon spokeswoman says. Will arrests follow? If you can’t find Julian Assange, the rogue with a laptop who put all these stolen files on the Internet, you might find a clerk in the Quartermaster Corps reading one of them. If you can’t find the villain you want, you must want the villain we’ve got.

The WikiLeaks scandal invites mirth, bitter as it may be, but it’s anything but a Keystone Kolonel one-reeler by Mack Sennett. “National security” is a card the bureaucrats are always eager to play, even when all they’re talking about is a lost key to a general’s toilet, but it’s easy to see how the long list of key U.S. facilities, compiled by the State Department and furnished to the world by WikiLeaks, could in a crunch cripple the nation’s defenses. The list includes pipelines, satellite locations, communications and transportation hubs and such unusual installations as a cobalt mine in the Congo, a factory to manufacture anti-snake venom in Australia and an insulin laboratory in Denmark. It’s nothing less than a shopping list for terrorists, ranging from a map of the place where the trans-Atlantic cables make landfall in Scotland to an engineering firm in Edinburgh “critical” for the operation of the U.S. nuclear-submarine fleet.

There are villains aplenty in the tale, and none more deserving of blame than President Obama and his amateur-hour administration. How could a soldier, a mere private first class, download a quarter of a million classified documents and send them on to Julian Assange, and not raise somebody’s eyebrows? Once upon a time, when grown-ups were in season, someone would have noticed, and stopped the fun and games.

Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.

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