Inside the Beltway
Why, it’s just like health care reform legislation. The massive Wikileaks release of classified information about U.S. activity in Afghanistan is huge and unwieldy. But the cache of documents — about 75,000 reports — is more than 30 times the size of the health care legislation, give or take a couple of hundred pages. And like health care reform, the principle players admit even they have not read it all.
Julian Assange — the elusive, silver-tressed, 39-year-old Australian computer hacker/activist/nomad who founded Wikileaks four years ago — says he and his “team” read perhaps 2,000 of the documents before rushing them online, in concert with three news organizations. Even the Pentagon can’t gauge “the extent of the damage” to national security, and the assessment could take weeks. Meanwhile, the New York Times was the sole American newspaper to be privy to Mr. Assange’s revelations — and lunged at the chance. And not for the first time.
“The New York Times hasn’t shown much regard before now for protecting U.S. efforts to thwart terrorism, as exemplified by James Risen’s 2005 exposure of the monitoring of terrorist suspect phone calls with people inside the U.S.,” the Media Research Center’s Brent Baker tells Inside the Beltway.
The Times mined seven stories from the documents on Monday alone, including a navel-gazing entry called “Deciding What to Publish” plus a dozen document samples. Are we leery? An online poll from Mediaite.com already reveals that 61 percent of the respondents say the newspaper should not have published the leaked documents at the expense of military secrecy. Thirty-nine percent said the public “has a right to know” about the content.
“The quickness and extent the New York Times decided to devote to addressing outrage from government officials and readers about the damage the publication may cause, is new — and shows the newspaper recognizes that respected experts believe it has gone too far and will cause real harm,” Mr. Baker adds.
THE ASSANGE WATCH
“Since Assange is not a citizen of this country and does not reside in the United States, it is unclear whether he has enough other contacts for the U.S. to seek his extradition and prosecution,” says Heritage Foundation security analyst Hans von Spakovsky, who notes that e-mails from Mr. Assange revealing that “disclosure of classified information was solicited and accepted” on a U.S.-based Internet server could be the key.
“The Obama administration should not automatically assume that he is unreachable and the Justice Department should look hard at whether it has the ability to prosecute Assange as well as the leaker. If it cannot, then it should use its diplomatic leverage with our ally to see whether Assange can be prosecuted in Australia,” Mr. von Spakovsky advises.
BUSY BUSY BUSY
He might as well peek in on Martha Stewart as well. President Obama will tape an episode of “The View” on Wednesday to air Thursday; but not to worry, the ABC talk show was on the way. Mr. Obama will be attending a fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee in Manhattan as well.
This will be his third appearance on the female-dominated chat fest; Mr. Obama appeared in 2004 when he was still an Illinois senator, and again in 2008 when he was on the campaign trail. The network is all excited though, crowing that the appearance is “the first time in history a sitting United States president has visited a daytime talk show.”
“I find it amusing that designer Diane von Furstenburg has come out with a $65 ‘Team Pelosi’ tote bag for the Democratic National Committee, since I have been donating Sarah Palin Radio ‘Tea Bags’ for months now. Like they say, imitation is the highest compliment,” LaDonna Hale Curzon, producer and host of Sarah Palin Radio, tells The Beltway.
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