Information Entitlement Doctrine of Barack Obama
The Justice Department has just secured indictment against yet another federal employee for leaking secret information to the press. This makes at least four individuals in short order that federal prosecutors have sought to imprison for disclosing what the government thinks the American people have no right to know. The latest target in this aggressive campaign by the Obama Administration is Stephen Jin-Woo Kim, who allegedly told a reporter that the CIA had determined that another round of sanctions against North Korea might trigger the regime in Pyongyang to conduct a third nuclear weapons test.
According to the Associated Press, the 43-year-old Mr. Kim was a State Department contractor in the Bureau of Verification, Compliance and Implementation from the middle of 2008 until September of last year. Mr. Kim penned the introduction to Korea and the United States through War and Peace, 1945-1960, by Henry Chung (Seoul: Yonsei University Press, ©2000), and authored Master of Manipulation (Seoul: Yonsei University Press, ©2001), among other activities establishing at least some credentials of knowledge about intelligence activities on the Korean Peninsula.
Assistant U.S. Attorney General David S. Kris blustered that the indictment against Kim would "...serve as a warning" to would-be leakers of government secrets.
Perhaps the indictment will also serve as a warning to those still thinking that Barack Obama is something other than the latest fist of authoritarianism. The list of formally accused includes at least one soldier, PFC Bradley Manning, who delivered devastating combat video and documentation to Wikileaks, a Swedish organization founded by Julian Assange, who is beyond the reach of U.S. authorities. In their frustration at not being able to use American law to wreck Mr. Assange, a Swedish tabloid seems to have been the tool by which elements in the American government attempted to humiliate and discredit him with a claim in June that he was being investigated for two separate sex crimes. Unfortunately for the disinformation specialists, a day after the sleazy story was plastered across the headlines, Sweden's chief prosecutor summarily and publicly declared that Mr. Assange was no longer wanted on any such charges.
That failed operation aside, the U.S. has still obtained indictments against Americans who are alleged to have leaked classified information, including one against Bush-era National Security Agency executive Thomas A. Drake, who disclosed to a reporter at the Baltimore Sun embarrassing information about staggering cost overruns, mismanagement, and other problems at the NSA, particularly in a massive construction overhaul of the nation's signal intelligence infrastructure.
While the Obama Administration's law enforcement instrumentalities have adamantly refused to indict even one principal of the Bush Administration programs that crafted, implemented, oversaw, concealed, and cynically justified under color of legal counsel the systematic torture of detainees in violation of both American statutory law and international treaty obligations, the current top officials at DoJ are militating to imprison a resolutely up-standing, long-time member of the national security community who disclosed outrageous failures that cost the American taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars and delayed the implementation of modernization of the nation's antiquated intelligence-gathering capabilities.
Returning to the latest individual caught up in the government's ramped-up efforts to cork the flow of information the Obama Administration deems secret, U.S. Attorney Kris went on in his press conference about the indictment of Steve Kim to assert, "The willful disclosure of classified information to those not entitled to it is a serious crime."
The timeline of circumstances surrounding the document Mr. Kim leaked to the press is interesting, if not downright telling, about how President Barack Obama and his inner circle of advisers conduct foreign policy and manage information in multilateral negotiations.
After North Korea carried out its second test of a nuclear device in late May 2009 (a test considerably more successful than its first several years earlier), the Obama Administration swiftly and publicly took a lead in spearheading work on a new set of multi-nation sanctions against Pyongyang, ruled by the reclusive and rather odd Kim Jong-il, son of the equally reclusive and rather odd former strong man Kim Il-sun.
Like his father, Kim Jong-il is so resilient to outside pressures that he has let his own people go through one mass starvation after another rather than capitulate to demands from the international community on matters of nuclear non-proliferation. The best hope of getting any traction with sanctions against North Korea would not be through the toughness of the punishment so much as with the endorsement of the punishment by China, the only nation to which Kim Jong-il will even marginally listen, given China's cross-border trade with and stream of welfare to North Korea.
Apparently, at the same time Obama was conducting this very public, multi-nation campaign to further economically isolate Pyongyang, his own intelligence community had produced an information product that assessed a good likelihood that those very sanctions Obama and his foreign policy advisers wanted would have the highly undesirable effect of spurring the Pyongyang regime to test yet another nuclear device. Each such test is costly to North Korea in terms of weapons-grade nuclear fuel spent but also extraordinarily valuable in terms of wide-ranging technical know-how in nuclear bomb construction.
Obama's negotiators were whipping up international support for new sanctions against North Korea at the same time the Central Intelligence Agency was reporting its judgment that those sanctions would probably induce the Pyongyang regime to test another nuke: presidential diplomacy on the public stage to construct a concert of nations imposing sanctions on a rogue state, while that president's own, presumably trusted, analysts were back stage advising in a written document that success of the public diplomacy could backfire at 180 degrees to intended effect.
Then, throwing a monkey wrench into this interesting situation, federal contractor Steve Kim, on assignment to the State Department from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, leaked the classified report to a journalist, unnamed in the indictment against Kim but probably a reporter at Fox News. According to an updated Reuters release, somewhat unclear in its connection to the pending criminal case, Mr. Kim had also "...briefed former Vice President Dick Cheney and other top U.S. officials." Whether this was during the Bush Administration or after is not stated in the Reuters update.
On June 12, 2009, the United Nations passed Resolution 1874, which imposed sanctions against North Korea cumulative to those in Resolution 1718 of 2006, the latter resolution punishing the Pyongyang regime for its nuclear bomb test in May 2009, the former for its first bomb test.
North Korea has not tested a nuclear device since the one in the late Spring of last year. At the close of 2009, the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses, a South Korean government think tank, issued its 2010 outlook, in which defense analysts found "a high possibility" that North Korea would conduct its third nuclear bomb test during 2010, in part to strengthen the Pyongyang regime during the anticipated transition of power to the son of Kim Jong-il, and in part to bolster its case that the nations of the world should accept North Korea as a legitimate nuclear state.
The U.S. issued no criticism of the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses for its December 2009 public report, which directly discussed North Korea and which essentially paralleled in its findings the prior, secret CIA document leaked to the press without directly naming North Korea.
Notwithstanding claims by the State and Justice Departments that Stephen Kim compromised sources and endangered national security, it would at least appear that the difference between the U.S. government's outrage over the leak by Kim and the later, open report published by South Korea was that the Obama Administration had, in the second instance, already achieved its objective of securing the desired United Nations resolution in the context of a written American intelligence community conclusion that success at the UN against North Korea would be short lived and counterproductive.
It is quite likely that during the run-up to the UN vote on Resolution 1874, most nations with even marginally capable intelligence analysis capabilities had come to the same conclusion about the risk of new sanctions against Pyongyang, which means the Obama Administration seems to share the view of the previous regime in Washington that, given a choice, secrecy is preferable to transparency, regardless of its value to national security. Assistant Attorney General Kris put it succinctly: "...disclosure of classified information to those not entitled to it."
Label it "classified," and thereby make it an entitlement.
As the Central Intelligence Agency puts it, "Information is the most dangerous weapon of all."
In the view of a succession of diverse American rulers, including the current President, information is not a right of a free people, but is, instead, an entitlement, one reserved for those who must ensure that freedom is not taken literally by the governed.
Wrote rm hitchens:
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