Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity
Posted at 4:30 PM ET, 11/30/2010

Gates: Warnings of WikiLeaks fallout overblown

By Craig Whitlock

The Obama administration has warned WikiLeaks that the group's release of a huge cache of U.S. diplomatic cables could threaten the lives of "countless innocent individuals" and ruin relations with allies.

But count Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates as a skeptic that the fallout will be so dire. At a press conference Tuesday, he reminded reporters that the U.S. government's habit of leaking secrets about other countries is as old as the republic, and that predictions of doom rarely pan out.

"Let me just offer some perspective of somebody whose been at this for a long time," said Gates, a former director of the CIA. "Every other government in the world knows the United States government leaks like a sieve, and it has for a long time."

Gates then reached back more than 200 years to quote the second president, John Adams, bemoaning the same problem: "How can a government go on, publishing all their negotiations with foreign nations, I know not. To me it appears as dangerous and pernicious as it is novel."

Gates followed that up with another example, this time reaching back 35 years to his own career as a spook.

"When we went to real congressional oversight of intelligence in the mid-70s, there was a broad view that no other foreign intelligence service would ever share information with us again," he said. "Those fears all proved unfounded."

"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 those descriptions are fairly significantly overwrought," Gates added. "The fact is governments deal with the United States because it is in their interest, not because they like us, not because they trust us and not because they believe we can keep secrets.

"Some governments deal with us because they fear us, some because they respect us, most because they need us. We are still essentially, it's been said before, the indispensable nation."

And that won't change or stop, Gates said, even if it means a temporary period of deep chagrin for U.S. leaders.

"Is this embarrassing? Yes. Is it awkward? Yes. Consequences for U.S. foreign policy? I think fairly modest."

By Craig Whitlock  | November 30, 2010; 4:30 PM ET
 
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Setback in case against accused NSA leaker
Next: At security summit, Clinton talks WikiLeaks

Comments

I agree. In many instances we have already seen the leaks actually strengthen our position. I would like to see Assange's head on a platter, though. What a disgusting ego hound. It's clear he thinks of himself as some sort of 'messiah,' it's terribly ironic that he thinks, on this planet of screwed up nations, that the U.S. is the bad guy. That shows a real lack of intellectual curiosity.

Posted by: DPoniatowski | November 30, 2010 5:52 PM | Report abuse

The worst part of the whole issue is the waste incurred by the Department of State to get what amounts to "tabloid innuendo" from some of its sources. Here is State's mandate compared to what they've been up to:

http://viableopposition.blogspot.com/2010/11/wikileaks-tarnishing-department-of.html

Posted by: Baywoodfarm | November 30, 2010 6:02 PM | Report abuse

If we could have two Bob Gates, one at Defense and the other at Treasury, we'd be much better off. There are still competent people in government - just few/none of the elected variety.

Posted by: tm13 | November 30, 2010 6:20 PM | Report abuse

Trust the veteran from Langley to get it right. lol.

He is correct.

Besides, old men like Berlusconi and Gaddafi like the image of "still having some lead left in their pencils" spread around, makes them look strong and manly in their male chauvinistic cultures, Putin likes people to know he's still in charge with the Robin to his Batman, etc. - I'll bet most of the people who are mentioned in these cables are quietly flattered that the images they have tried so hard to cultivate have been so widely disseminated around the world without costing them a dime. Now they'll probably try harder to let the State Department "know" more about themselves - most non-AngloSaxon leaders are narcissistic personality cultists afterall. lol.

Posted by: darkasnight1234 | November 30, 2010 6:29 PM | Report abuse

Gates is about the only one in this admistration that has any credibility. We need more truthful folks in Washington.
The Wiki Leaks ordeal is going to be more about embarrasing individuals and countries than anything.
Barry is going to sic his attack dog, Holder on them! That will get the job done, oops, he is still fighting with BP, Arizona, Californi, Massey Energy. Probably have forgotten some. Go gettum Holder, you putz.

Posted by: NobleDog | November 30, 2010 6:38 PM | Report abuse

It was more about not embarrassing Hillary.

I guess we can live with it, this time, but they really do need to get their acts together on security, in case the information is important next time.

Posted by: Benson | November 30, 2010 6:38 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Gates, sometimes a person just likes America (because he likes the American people, who are nice warm and friendly on the inside), even when he doesn't actually need America - and at such times the U.S. government is at a complete loss about what to do or how to interact with such a person, be sure you know which it is you are dealing with, especially if it is an individual (who is never a government nor a country nor a region nor a religion), and especially if he has something you want. lol.

Posted by: darkasnight1234 | November 30, 2010 7:05 PM | Report abuse

"The fact is governments deal with the United States because it is in their interest, not because they like us, not because they trust us and not because they believe we can keep secrets.

----

Gates got this one dead right.

Posted by: BrettPaatsch1 | November 30, 2010 7:27 PM | Report abuse

What's overblown was the misuse of Sunni Saudi's views on Shiite Iran to instill fear, and push for unnecessary American military action which is against American interest.

The Shiite Sunni conflict equation was the lesson that Bush failed to heed before the invastion of Iraq.

On one side of the equation:
Sunni Saudi, from where much of the funds support Sunni AL Qaeda and the Sunni Taliban.

On opposite side of the equation: The Shiite powers: Iran, Iraq(at least in the eyes of many Iraqi Sunnis who have lost power in the last decade)

There is no wisdom for any American to taut these intra-Muslim Sunni-Shiite shouting match to justify ANY contemplation of American military actions.

What's shameful is for Charlie Rose's program to be usurped for half an hour for such an overblown cause. If Charlie Rose was allowed to host the half hour special program instead of a subpar substitute, sanity would have ruled and such overblown coverage would not have been allowed.

Posted by: Joallen8 | November 30, 2010 7:44 PM | Report abuse

Somewhere on the hard drive of a hidden super computer there is a record of every dirty dollar deal that took place in the last few years. Bribes, kickbacks,cover ups, payoffs, blackmail, extortion, informant salaries, drug deals, purchase of judgeship's, embezzlement, and hundreds of other criminal transactions are on file. The trusted employees in charge of that computer would do the world a great service if they Wiki leaked that info to the media. It would result in millions of criminals being arrested and then punished by having them spend the rest of their lives working for minimum wages in fast food restaurants.

Posted by: morristhewise | November 30, 2010 8:08 PM | Report abuse

I think Gates is mostly right, but there will probably be some downfalls, mostly with existing negotiations. I think the leaks harm other nations more. What can Sarkosy say when its published that the Americans think he is a fool? This might have positive effects for America in other countries. And the two-faced nature of the middle east royalty is shown as nothing else could show it. These guys cannot be taken at their public statements and we now know they lie all the time.

But the real gem is Iran, where the leaks point to the world hating Amadinajad and wanting an attack on their nuke facilities. So complete is the negative view of Iran that Iran publically has stated the leak is an American plot (like everything else I guess). This should have a positive effect on the Iranian opposition, which now knows the Iranian leaders have little to no support in the international community. Overall, when you weight the bad and good from the American perspective, I think WikiLeaks did the US a favor.

Posted by: Fate1 | November 30, 2010 9:38 PM | Report abuse

I agree. In many instances we have already seen the leaks actually strengthen our position. I would like to see Assange's head on a platter, though. What a disgusting ego hound. It's clear he thinks of himself as some sort of 'messiah,' it's terribly ironic that he thinks, on this planet of screwed up nations, that the U.S. is the bad guy. That shows a real lack of intellectual curiosity.
------------------------------


The anti-Assange mob sound like the British moaning about Ghandi just before the fall of the empire! All Assange has done, is dent a massive US ego!

Posted by: francinelast | November 30, 2010 10:14 PM | Report abuse

Gates is one smart cookie...he tells it like it is. What a prescient observation.

Posted by: nostromo7 | December 1, 2010 9:33 AM | Report abuse

Post a Comment

We encourage users to analyze, comment on and even challenge washingtonpost.com's articles, blogs, reviews and multimedia features.

User reviews and comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be removed from the site. Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. Finally, we will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or privacy policies or any other policies governing this site. Please review the full rules governing commentaries and discussions.




characters remaining

 
 
RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company