Wikileaks gives new meaning to “If you don’t want it on the front page of NYT”

Nov 29, 2010 by

In the communications world there’s an old saying, “If you don’t want what you write on the front page on the New York Times, don’t write it.”

With Sunday’s first release of some 251,200 documents the Wikileaks Website, this old saying has new meaning.  

There are documents listed as secret, confidential and unclassified now posted on the site.  Where they all came from remains unclear, but the content is an extraordinary breach of national security.

Already the US Attorney General has been on TV saying the Justice Department is reviewing what crimes against America have been committed in the release and publishing online of these documents.

Already on Facebook, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has taken President Obama to the woodshed because the release of the documents happened on his watch. Per Gov. Palin, “However, the latest round of publications of leaked classified U.S. documents through the shady organization called Wikileaks raises serious questions about the Obama administration’s incompetent handling of this whole fiasco.

Is that really fair?

Well, I talked to a few people and the response to that question was this: “If Bush had been in office when this happened, they’d be bashing him, so it goes with the territory.”

I suppose that’s true.

Palin goes on to question how “it possible that a 22-year-old Private First Class could get unrestricted access to so much highly sensitive information? And how was it possible that he could copy and distribute these files without anyone noticing that security was compromised?

While I don’t know that age or rank in the military have anything to do with the level of a clearance a person gets, I think it is fair to ask her second question: How did so much information get leaked?

Treason?

NBC nightly news reported tonight that Wikileaks leader Julian Assange was pretty scarce today.  I wonder why.  He’s probably now a higher priority target of more black ops people than Jason Bourne. As for the military soldier in confinement for his role in allegedly leaking documents to Assange, it seems to be pretty clear what most I’ve talked about this issue with think should be done.  The answer: Try him for treason and shoot him.

To her credit, Gov. Palin asks “What if any diplomatic pressure was brought to bear on NATO, EU, and other allies to disrupt Wikileaks’ technical infrastructure? Did we use all the cyber tools at our disposal to permanently dismantle Wikileaks? Were individuals working for Wikileaks on these document leaks investigated? Shouldn’t they at least have had their financial assets frozen just as we do to individuals who provide material support for terrorist organizations?”

Now those all seem like reasonable points to me.  One has to wonder if the Sunday Cyber denial-of-service attack against Wikileaks wasn’t inspired by one government entity or another. Maybe it was too little, too late.  Maybe it was just some kid hackers out for a bit of fun. We may never know.

What’s Most Troubling

What’s hard to comprehend at this point is that over the next few weeks more and more documents are to be released.  This weekend’s batch was just the tip of the iceberg. What’s even more troubling is the compromised people around the globe who have provided our government operatives with information they’d prefer their respective governments, terrorists, thugs, etc. not have known they gave up.  There’s most likely not any way on earth to scoop them all up and relocate, protect, or defend them from the immediate and likely deadly consequences they’re likely to face.

The Lessons To Learn

Back to my first point.  Even in writing government documents it now appears that in our digital age, NOTHING is sacred nor safe.  We used to hear all the time about how hackers were trying to get into government servers and databases.  I hope no one reading this thinks that has stopped, as surely it hasn’t, again whether it be rogue nations, terrorist organizations, or teens like in the 1980s movie War Games.

And it appears that government operatives need to find new ways to send/convey personal observations of foreign dignitaries, etc.

Like I said above, if you don’t want to read about something you wrote on the front page of the New York Times, you shouldn’t write it, let alone send it. (Here’s an interesting piece from Politico on the NYT’s involvement in publishing of the documents.)

Of course, after having watched enough TV and movies, there’s also a part of me that wonders how much of what was leaked was meant to be leaked….  Scary enough, I’m not the only one who made that leap….

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TSA Pat down searches–Learn from this PR mistake

Nov 22, 2010 by

School superintendents, school board presidents, company presidents, communications professionals, Gap, TSA officials and President Obama, the public is witnessing this week what happens when one makes decisions in a vacuum and doesn’t tell their clientele, supporters or users ahead of time–You pay heavily for it on the back end.

When President Obama writes his memoirs in years future, count on there being a chapter called, “How I let the TSA screw up body scans and searches.”

Yes, the public is greatly aware of the recent cargo bombs sent from Yemen disguised as HP printers, and the public remembers the guy who tried to blow up the plane on Christmas Day 2009 with an underwear bomb. The public knows there are dangers.  And yes, the public expects the government to protect its citizenry to the Nth degree.

There are a few other basic principles that need to be brought in mind here, too.

The US public is very leery already of the government’s increased role over recent years.  It’s become very invasive.  When it comes down to it, but the public thinks, “Yes, I want terrorists stopped, but I’m not one, so leave me alone.” Americans still, even though tons of information already about them is online in Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Foursquare and blogs, feel there’s still something creepy about going through an X-Ray detector at an airport and some nameless person staring at your goods.

Add in the new rule where if you don’t go through the scanner you get the pat down by a TSA agent, and you’ve got a hell of a big mess.

Could it have been avoided?  Maybe not.  Could it have been handled better?  Certainly.  Has the administration begun doing that?  No.

Face The Nation

We were not surprised when Bob Schieffer asked Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Sunday if she would submit to a TSA pat down if she were traveling like the majority of the public.  Without hesitation her response was, Not if I could avoid it,” and then a laugh, “I mean who would?”

The President

News outlets Monday morning were running video clips of the president behind a podium somewhere saying they’re necessary.

“What I’ve said to the TSA is that you’ve got to constantly refine and measure whether what we’re doing is the only way to assure the American people’s safety.”

TSA Administrator

John Pistole, the TSA Administrator was on the national morning programs Monday trying to explain the reasoning and rationale for their actions.   When asked if there was going to be any relief prior to this week’s massive travel demands, he dodged the questions completely.

Why Isn’t The TSA Program Popular?

The Obama administration presently is paying for not being upfront and open with the public prior to the enactment of the new screening machines and particularly, the pat downs.

Instead of sharing the administration’s point of view ahead of time, instead of there being some real figurehead of the administration out in front explaining why this is going to be necessary (i.e. the president), instead of someone out in front showing empathy, there is instead the complete opposite.

School district superintendents are famous for this sort of practice.  Make a decision without any input or support, take it forward or put it into action without a saturated market understanding what was up, and then getting hit with a huge backlash of public anger, further distrust, and resentment.

Mrs. Clinton’s comments, facial expressions and laugh on Sunday on Face The Nation told it all.  From seeing what she said, viewers of the show, and those who now have seen it as part of the massive reruns, likely are further angered.

Sure, the Secret Service would never let Mrs. Clinton, the President nor Mr. Pistole go through a TSA checkpoint at this point in their lives, and there in lies another aspect of the problem.

Another question the news media should be asking, and if it happens, the TSA should be forthright in announcing, is whether or not all this massive searching has led to anything?  One has to wonder if the old gag about the guy standing around screaming and pounding the ground with a stick until he’s asked what he’s doing and he says, “Keeping the elephants away!” is in play when the elephants are 4,000 miles away.

At this point the administration is left with a few hard choices.  Back off and put thousands of peoples’ lives in danger, or keep going and further anger the public.  There is not a win-win here.

And the public now is beginning to see this as a “Do as I say, not as I do,” situation.

Moral of the Story

You cannot afford to make policy decisions in a vacuum.  It takes public input.  It takes an education program ahead of time as to why you’re thinking about taking such actions.  No matter how “obvious” the need for the policy, the public doesn’t move or think like decision makers.  And once angered for not being included in the process, once the news media is able to go out and find a cancer survivor whose urine bag was squeezed all over him, or a YouTube video of TSA doing a very public near strip search of a little boy, and once you have a Cabinet secretary saying she’d not put up with it either, well, you’re in a heap of trouble.

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Robert Gibbs’ Confrontation In India Good For America

Nov 8, 2010 by

Accounts of Presidential Press Secretary Robert Gibbs’ stand in the house door confrontation with Indian security officials during President Obama’s recent visit have lit up the Internet with many commentors upset with Mr. Gibbs’ performance, but what he did, when it all comes down to it, was right.  

Apparently a previously-agreed upon number of US press pool reporters were to be admitted into bilateral talks with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.  Indian security was only going to permit five reporters into Hyderabad House in New Delhi instead of the agreed-upon eight.

It is reported that Gibbs got forceful and loud and at one point was asking Indian security officials if they were going to crush his foot as he had it in between the door well and the door with them pushing with full force.

But there are some important points to remember here.  Of course, a diplomatic solution is always best, particularly when you’re in someone else’s country.  But in this situation, time was of the essence.  It’s reported that Gibbs was threatening to pull the president out of the talks completely if the Indian security forces didn’t honor the agreements, and the question remains whether or not the president really would have gotten up and left if push had come to a little more shove.  But the essential point to remember here is that Robert Gibbs’ “client” is the President of the United States, and ultimately, the people of the United States.

Mr. Gibbs was seeking out what was in the best interest of his clients.  In the world of public relations, some times it comes to this.  In the piece it was noted that Gibbs has a history of going at it with reporters whom he feels are not being fair in their reporting.

One has to ask themselves when hiring someone to represent them in the media, “Do I want milquetoast people who don’t take my company or products seriously, or do I want representation who believes in me, my company and my products who will risk every last appendage possible to keep from being closed out of an opportunity?”

We applaud Mr. Gibbs for his determination, for standing up for what’s right, and most importantly, defending the interests of his clients.

And the more we read comments about “What’s the president doing in Indian in the first place,” the more we worry about the future of America.

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