Just what is it about Wikileaks that has so many world leaders pissing their pants? Is catastrophe just around the bend because our enemies — or our friends, one can never be sure which is which and the masks may change according to esoteric niceties of guts politics — because other countries now know the password for the President’s e-mail?
You’d think it was something like that — of that character but of greater magnitude — if you listened to or read bloviators or statedepartmentalists. And of course, there is a real chance that secrets of consequence will actually be found in the mass of documents: needles in haystacks, but needles there may be.
I can tell you, from some small experience of my own in military intelligence, that very few secrets about our system — critical secrets, potentially damaging secrets — are likely to be found in those haystacks.
What will be found, what already has been found, is… the other kind of information. The counter-secret — that is, what we know about the other guys which they didn’t think we knew. And my guess is the intelligence community and the Pentagon and the State Department are seriously distressed to have the Russians — or the Chinese or the Israelis or the Nigerians — find out how much we know about them, and equally important, to have them figure out how we learned it.
That to my mind is the big news about Wikileaks. It tells other countries what secrets of theirs are leaking out, and where the leaks are. (The same is true, of course, for other countries with regard to us: we will learn at least a bit about the operation of and effectiveness of their espionage machineries.)
There will also be some damage to personal ego, which I’d guess is the big burr under Putin’s saddle right now. We know a lot about his machinations, his despotism, his corruption — and he knows we know it — but he’s pissed off to have it printed on the front pages of papers all over the world.
I may be wrong, of course; I have no recent knowledge of the game, nor do I want any. But the kind of weeping and wailing I’ve heard so far sounds to me like the reverse-spin worry I noted above: Oh shit, now they know that we know about X, and they’ll probably figure out out we learned it and plug that hole.