“Leaks” can be whistleblowers exposing government wrongdoing, but many actually are government agencies manipulating the public or punishing enemies, as is playing out in today’s Trump/Obama “leak war,” says Rick Sterling.
By Rick Sterling
“Hacking” and “leaking” can be either good or bad depending on the motives behind the disclosures and your political perspective. Generally speaking, democracy benefits from transparency and from having a more fully informed citizenry.
But “leaks” can also be used to punish dissidents or to enflame public passions in favor of war or against some vulnerable minority group. Indeed, “leaks” can paradoxically be used to advance cover-ups by punishing people who tried to expose the truth.
An example of that sort of “leak” occurred during George W. Bush’s presidency when his subordinates “leaked” derogatory information about former U.S. Ambassador Joe Wilson, who had offended the White House by exposing a key falsehood used to justify the Iraq War, that Iraq had been seeking yellowcake uranium from Niger.
To discredit and punish Wilson, Bush’s aides disclosed through “leaks” that Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame, was a CIA officer as a way to suggest that Wilson’s investigation was a junket, not a serious inquiry.
In other words, to discredit an attempt to honestly inform the American people about a false pretext for war, the Bush administration released classified information that was intended to undercut Wilson’s reputation and which destroyed his wife’s CIA career. The so-called Plamegate Affair sent a warning to other government officials who might be inclined to challenge the case for war in Iraq that – if you dare do so – you will pay a price. That “leak” was really part of a cover-up.
Still, as commonly understood, public-spirited “leaks” seek to expose the lies and the propaganda that are…