Opinion Extra

The Democrats’ well-deserved WikiLeaks blowback

Supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders protest outside the Democratic National Convention a day after emails presumably stolen from the DNC were posted to the website Wikileaks.
Supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders protest outside the Democratic National Convention a day after emails presumably stolen from the DNC were posted to the website Wikileaks. AP

Over at the CIA and the National Security Agency headquarters, they must be really enjoying watching Democrats in Philadelphia squirm over WikiLeaks’s exposure of tens of thousands of internal Democratic Party emails. There’s a word for what is happening in the intelligence community:


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Throughout the Obama administration, nothing was done as WikiLeaks damaged our national security with its serial leaks of highly classified intelligence documents.

When in 2010 WikiLeaks released more than 76,000 secret intelligence documents — exposing “the identities of at least 100 Afghans who were informing on the Taliban, including the names of their villages, family members, the Taliban commanders on whom they were informing, and even GPS coordinates where they could be found,” as I wrote — nothing was done.

When in 2011 WikiLeaks released a trove of classified documents it dubbed the “Gitmo Files” — including secret details about the CIA’s enhanced interrogation program — nothing was done.

When that same year WikiLeaks unleashed what founder Julian Assange called a “thermonuclear device” — its full, unredacted archive of more than a quarter-million secret U.S. diplomatic cables — nothing was done.

When in 2014 WikiLeaks released classified documents exposing how CIA operatives maintain cover while traveling through airports — including guidance on how to survive secondary screening — nothing was done.

When in 2015 WikiLeaks released documents revealing that the U.S. government was spying on its allies — including listening in on the phone calls of three French presidents — nothing was done.

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When in 2016 WikiLeaks published secret details of European Union military operations to intercept refugee boats traveling to Europe from the regions along the Libyan coast infested with Islamic State terrorists, nothing was done.

When in 2016 WikiLeaks exposed top-secret documents describing NSA intercepts of foreign government communications — including a private climate-change strategy meeting between United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin — nothing was done.

But WikiLeaks has finally crossed a red line that has earned it the Democrats’ outrage. Instead of targeting the CIA or the NSA, WikiLeaks has gone after an organization Democrats actually care about: the Democratic National Committee.

WikiLeaks has released tens of thousands of emails showing that, while presenting itself as an impartial arbiter during the primaries, the DNC was in fact working overtime on Hillary Clinton’s behalf to undermine Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. In one leaked email, DNC officials said they planned to expose Sanders as an atheist. Others showed DNC staffers mocking Sanders supporters as “Bernie Bros” and plotting how to spin the narrative of his failure. Others reveal that the DNC and the Hillary Victory Fund apparently channeled money through state Democratic parties, perhaps in an effort to avoid contribution limits to her campaign. Other leaks include spreadsheets that appeared to match Democratic donors and fundraisers with appointments to federal boards and commissions once Clinton was elected. Still others show DNC staffers calling their donors “clowns” and promising to have one “sitting in the s-----est corner I can find” at a DNC event. The convention in Philadelphia has been roiled by the revelations, which caused Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., to step down as chair.

Democrats have no one to blame but themselves for this debacle. The Obama administration could have indicted Assange and his fellow WikiLeaks staffers and made clear that the United States will not tolerate any country — particularly NATO allies — providing them with a haven. It could have sought their extradition and — if the countries where they were hiding refused to cooperate — used existing Justice Department authorities to arrest them anywhere in the world, with or without those countries’ consent. It could have used the assets of U.S. Cyber Command to carry out cyberattacks on WikiLeaks servers to disrupt its ability to disseminate classified information that puts lives at risk.

But it appears that the administration has done none of these things. In 2013, The Washington Post reported that “The Justice Department has all but concluded it will not bring charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for publishing classified documents because government lawyers said they could not do so without also prosecuting U.S. news organizations and journalists … unless he is implicated in criminal activity other than releasing online top-secret military and diplomatic documents.” Seriously?

As for using our nation’s offensive cyber capabilities to disrupt WikiLeaks’s ability to disseminate classified information, that clearly has not happened. To this day, WikiLeaks’s entire archive of stolen classified documents remains available on its website for anyone to read.

Now Democrats are paying the price for Obama’s inaction. And WikiLeaks promises there is more to come.

Apparently, exposing intelligence sources and methods has not mattered enough for the Obama administration to do something about WikiLeaks. Maybe saving Hillary Clinton from further embarrassment, or worse, will finally spur it to action.

Follow Mr. Thiessen on Twitter @marcthiessen.