Saturday, 4 December 2010

A real reaction to Wikileaks

Hat tip to Techdirt for highlighting the response which should have been taken from day one with the Wikileaks material. Defense Secretary Robert Gates' response is measured, calm, and actually looks at the reality of the situation, rather than resorting to wild overreaction and panic:
Let me just offer some perspective as somebody who’s been at this a long time. Every other government in the world knows the United States government leaks like a sieve, and it has for a long time. And I dragged this up the other day when I was looking at some of these prospective releases. And this is a quote from John Adams: “How can a government go on, publishing all of their negotiations with foreign nations, I know not. To me, it appears as dangerous and pernicious as it is novel.” . . .

Now, I’ve heard the impact of these releases on our foreign policy described as a meltdown, as a game-changer, and so on. I think – I think those descriptions are fairly significantly overwrought. The fact is, governments deal with the United States because it’s in their interest, not because they like us, not because they trust us, and not because they believe we can keep secrets.

Many governments – some governments deal with us because they fear us, some because they respect us, most because they need us. We are still essentially, as has been said before, the indispensable nation. So other nations will continue to deal with us. They will continue to work with us. We will continue to share sensitive information with one another. Is this embarrassing? Yes. Is it awkward? Yes. Consequences for U.S. foreign policy? I think fairly modest.

The whole way this is framed is elegant, subtle and in three paragraphs sums up the entire issue in terms which are useful and persuasive.

Small Wars Journal have the full text of the Q&A session here, and its worth taking a look at as it contains a breakdown of the response the military will be taking to ensure it doesnt happen again:
First, the – an automated capability to monitor workstations for security purposes. We’ve got about 60 percent of this done, mostly in – mostly stateside. And I’ve directed that we accelerate the completion of it.

Second, as I think you know, we’ve taken steps in CENTCOM in September and now everywhere to direct that all CD and DVD write capability off the network be disabled. We have – we have done some other things in terms of two-man policies – wherever you can move information from a classified system to an unclassified system, to have a two-person policy there.

And then we have some longer-term efforts under way in which we can – and, first of all, in which we can identify anomalies, sort of like credit card companies do in the use of computer; and then finally, efforts to actually tailor access depending on roles. But let me say – let me address the latter part of your question. This is obviously a massive dump of information.

Gates is the first Governmental figure I've seen speak on this issue without coming across as shrill and his answers are a confident, no nonesense approach to the issue.

This is how the Government should have been talking about the issue from day one. This section bears repeating to drum the point home:

Many governments – some governments deal with us because they fear us, some because they respect us, most because they need us. We are still essentially, as has been said before, the indispensable nation. So other nations will continue to deal with us. They will continue to work with us. We will continue to share sensitive information with one another. Is this embarrassing? Yes. Is it awkward? Yes. Consequences for U.S. foreign policy? I think fairly modest.

Thats how you communicate in a crisis. You set the good with the bad, you make a real assessment of the problem and you make your opinion public. You stick by it rigidly, you maintain your confidence in it, and you ride out the storm. You're not ashamed, you don't cower, you own it and tell people to get on board.

Congratulations SECDEF Gates, your comments deserve to be in every newspaper on the planet.
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