On February 24, the Washington Post ran a prominent story on a “top-secret” State Department cable that warned of Pakistani safe-havens for militants that were allegedly putting the “US strategy in Afghanistan in jeopardy”. The cable was so secret, the Post reported, the US Ambassador to Afghanistan “sent it through CIA channels rather than the usual State Department ones”.
Yet somehow, it still ended up on the pages of one of the biggest newspapers in the United States of America.
While many might have assumed this was the work of WikiLeaks and their alleged source Bradley Manning, it wasn’t. “Several” US officials described the cable’s contents to the Post in a seemingly coordinated effort to affect Afghanistan war policy. Meanwhile, during the same week the Post article ran, Bradley Manning was arraigned on 22 charges, including “aiding the enemy”, that have him facing life in prison for also leaking State Department cables - none of which were classified as high as the cable published by the Washington Post.
Will those “several officials” be investigated, arrested and aggressively prosecuted for leaking such highly sensitive information? And will the Justice Department open up a grand jury investigation into the Washington Post for publishing such information, as it did for WikiLeaks?
The answer is almost certainly no, and highlights the hypocrisy in the Obama administration’s current war on whistleblowers. But this is far from the only example in recent weeks; a separate incident led ABC’s Jake Tapper to admirably confront the White House over its contradictive policy.
Two weeks ago, the White House issued multiple statements praising two prominent journalists who both recently died reporting from Syria, proclaiming their deaths were “a reminder of the incredible risks that journalists take … in order to bring the truth about what is happening in a country like Syria to those of us at home”. But as Tapper told White House press secretary Jay Carney, just as the administration was praising “aggressive journalism” overseas, its Justice Department had just finished indicting a sixth person under the Espionage Act for leaking classified information - a total higher than all of the previous presidents combined.
Former CIA agent Jon Kiriakou stands accused of leaking information to news organisations in 2008 about the torture methods used on two alleged al-Qaeda leaders and the names of the CIA agents involved. Despite the fact that torture is illegal in the United States, no one has been prosecuted for the CIA’s torture programme carried out under former President George W Bush. Yet the Justice Department decided to prosecute someone for merely alerting the press about it.
“There just seems to be disconnect here,” Tapper remarked. “You want aggressive journalism abroad; you just don’t want it in the United States.” While Carney tried to excuse the Justice Department’s Espionage Act cases by claiming they involve highly sensitive state secrets, Tapper rightly observed, “you’re suing a CIA officer for allegedly providing information in 2009 about CIA torture. Certainly that’s something that’s in the public interest of the United States”.