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Blog Buzz: The Wikileaks fallout

Reacting to Wikileaks' release of American diplomatic cables, neither liberal nor conservative bloggers were too surprised over the messages’ actual content. But their views were less definite when it came to questions over the value of publicizing such information, the motivations of the leakers and the ease with which the cables were accessed by even low-ranking military officers.

Balloon Juice's John Cole suggested that the United States government shouldn't be too surprised such private information was leaked, given its own recent surveillance history.

This dump will just be viewed by many as an attempt to hurt the United States. I have a hard time getting worked up about it- a government that views none of my personal correspondence as confidential really can’t bitch when this sort of thing happens.

AMERICAblog's Chris in Paris characterized the leaks as a byproduct of the "lack of transparency in politics, which is not just a U.S. issue."

The decisions that our political leaders make could definitely benefit from the public being made more aware of what is going on with tax dollars... If politicians are ready to ask individuals to justify every last cent received by the meager social welfare system in the US, it's fair to ask the same from the government. The information may make many uncomfortable, but that is no reason to keep everyone in the dark.

The Washington Monthly's Steve Benen was not as sure as some other liberal bloggers that the leaks were at all a positive development for the country.

I'm not convinced that the release of these secret materials -- some have begun calling it "Cablegate" -- will be too devastating to international diplomacy, though it certainly makes the State Department's work much more difficult, especially in the short term... I would, however, like to know more about the motivations of the leaker (or leakers). Revealing secrets about crimes, abuses, and corruption obviously serves a larger good -- it shines a light on wrongdoing, leading (hopefully) to accountability, while creating an incentive for officials to play by the rules. Leaking diplomatic cables, however, is harder to understand -- the point seems to be to undermine American foreign policy, just for the sake of undermining American foreign policy. The role of whistleblowers has real value; dumping raw, secret diplomatic correspondence appears to be an exercise in pettiness and spite.

Conservative bloggers like Hot Air's Ed Morrissey were more surprised that the information being leaked was accessible to low-level officers like 22-year-old Pfc. Bradley Manning, who, according to an online conversation between Manning and a fellow hacker, "would come in with music on a CD-RW labelled with something like ‘Lady Gaga’ … erase the music … then write a compressed split file. No one suspected a thing."

Oh, please. Tell me that Manning was an encryption genius that spent years cracking some Pentagon code to access the mainframe while rappelling into an antechamber deep in a basement and into a Situation Room. Do not tell me that a corporal was allowed to carry a rewriteable CD into a secure communications area by labeling it as a pop music mix tape. I’ve been in uncleared defense contractor sites with better security than that.

That’s the real scandal. Rewriteable CDs are an obvious security hole. It’s almost as obvious as tape recorder or camera. And if Manning thought of it, there are probably more who have done similar sorts of thefts, perhaps for other ends, which may be even more problematic. After all, we know what Manning got; it’s being splashed all over the New York Times and other publications around the world. Who knows what China, Russia, or Iran may have learned by now?

Red State's Moe Lane wrote in defense of privacy when it comes to world diplomacy.

While I will happily ding President Obama for both his wrong actions and for not living up to his own side’s previously-established standards of behavior, this line of attack by Wikileaks is made up of pure garbage designed to weaken both my country and my government. The President needs his ambassadors to know what he wants; they need to be able to tell him what he can get. So it’s stupid to not be blunt and forthright in private about matters that require a softer public touch. It’s even more stupid for Wikileaks to keep publicly attacking the USA like this.