Monday, November 29, 2010

Shiny Objects

Strange. Yet again the WikiLeaks Leak is turning into a Shiny Object distraction. This time I really thought there might be some major fireworks, but no. In fact, from reports, Hillary has been working the phones diligently, smiling broadly and cackling her special cackle with presidents, potentates, and princes around the world, saying "Heh! Joke!" and getting away with it.

In fact, what I've read of the cables has actually increased my confidence in the smarts and the merits of the career State Department personnel. They seem to be more on top of their game than the military, but that isn't really fair. The military is dealing with a very different set of circumstances and has a very different mission. One I think needs a serious re-think.

But I'm actually kind of proud of the State Department people.

Isn't that something.

They're saying that, well, because of the leak, people at State are going to be more guarded in their communications with one another. But that's probably horseshit. This information sharing system has been in operation for years, and its vulnerabilities have to have been very well known from the outset. The fact that practically anyone who was read in to the system and had a password could download anything suggests to me that "security" and "confidentiality" were never really matters of particular concern.

Discussing the situation with a close friend this evening -- who has to deal with confidential government communications all the time -- she remarked, "You know there's something about this that sounds very deliberate. Like they wanted this stuff to leak."

I mentioned a Security Breach incident several years ago at a Federal Agency I have some familiarity with (heh) and what the Agency response was. A rather high level employee downloaded some Confidential Information and shared it with the media. This was a major security breach, nearly unprecedented, and the response was swift and sure. [I should make absolutely clear this was NOT a "whistleblowing" incident. The information did not involve any wrongdoing or corruption or criminality. It was information that nevertheless was privileged and was not to be made public, at least not in the form the employee gave it to the media.] The employee was arrested and charged, but beyond that, there was an intensive effort to overhaul security protocols. Downloading of Confidential Information was forbidden almost immediately, and it was made impossible to download it within a week or so. All storage media was confiscated, and any that was found on employees after the prohibition was cause for termination. Security protocols, layers of passwords, restrictions on access, and so on, were repeatedly "enhanced," to the point where it became a real annoyance to have to have anything to do with Confidential or Restricted Information. Communications security was repeatedly "enhanced" as well. The entire process took no more than a few weeks, and all computers and communications within the Agency were affected; there had never been a time when many people within the Agency had full access; now only a very few would have that kind of clearance, and their actions once they accessed secure information would be surveilled.

It was a major security clamp-down, yet apparently the Pentagon has just now gotten around to preventing downloading from its "secure" network. That's simply bullshit.

The network was never secure, and it isn't secure now. It was never, apparently, meant to be, not with three million personnel having the "key" as it were. In the Agency which I was describing above, I would say no more than a few hundred had the kind access the employee who breached security did at the time he did it, and afterwards, no more than a few dozen had that access. At no time did more than a few thousand Agency personnel have even limited access to Confidential Information.

So I do tend to wonder if all of this isn't deliberate, a strategic move by a factional player within the Government. To do what, though?

The upshot seems to be a reinforcement of existing policies. In other words, those who would take issue with the military and international policies of the Government -- specifically by making them even more belligerent -- are finding no support for doing so in the doc dumps.

One thing I noticed about Julian in the interview with CNN that he walked out of was that he is an Imperialist of the Old School. He doesn't really make any bones about it. He's very nearly into White Man's Burden territory when he says "we" can't leave Afghanistan or wherever to fend for itself (you know how primitive these people are) and it is "our" obligation to raise them up. OK. He'd be right at home Out in Burmah, I guess. It's not so much that he is against what the Imperialists are doing, it's that they are doing it wrong.

I agree, they are, but I'd rather they not be doing it at all. Perhaps he would too, but in the meantime, "we" have obligations to meet. His concern for the Natives is that of a possibly unconscious Imperialist assuming they are unable to take care of their own affairs.

I don't want to say that my initial dread at the WikiLeaks Diplomatic Cable release was unwarranted. We still don't know what else will emerge. But I have to say that most of what has come out so far has actually been very good.

And I guess they like Hillary in the embassies and presidential palaces. So she can grin and cackle and the leaders and whatnot overseas can say, "Well, you should see what we say about you!" and they can laugh some more, and that as they say is that.


I'm sure Henry Kissinger has hawked up several hairballs by now.

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