Fordham Law


Clinton: WikiLeaks and attack on internation community, those responsible will be prosecuted

Joel Reidenberg in New York Daily News, November 29, 2010

Media Source

WASHINGTON - Secretary of State Clinton says WikiLeaks committed a criminal "attack" by airing her diplomatic dirty laundry for the world to see.

"This disclosure is not just an attack on America's foreign policy interests," Clinton said Monday, but also an attack on alliances "that safeguard global security and advance economic prosperity."

Joining in the pushback against the document dumps, Attorney General Eric Holder said he is pursuing possible criminal charges against the online whistleblower group and its founder, Australian Julian Assange.

"There is a real basis to believe that crimes have been committed here," Holder said. "To the extent that we can find anybody breaking U.S. law, they will be held responsible."

Legal experts on privacy law said Holder will have a hard time building a case. They said U.S. law works against the hacker, and not the disseminators - such as WikiLeaks - of hacked information.

WikiLeaks wasn't the organization that hacked into the computers," said Fordham law Prof. Joel Reidenberg. "The invasion-of-privacy claim will be hard to make."

While condemning the leaks, Clinton said the "candid" discussions in many of the documents on the personalities of foreign leaders amount to the usual diplomatic gossip.

Clinton said one of her foreign counterparts had told her: "Don't worry about it, you should see what we say about you."

The secretary of state also said the disclosure of classified information "puts people's lives in danger, threatens our national security and undermines our efforts to work with other countries to solve shared problems."

She also appeared to take a personal shot at Assange, who has argued he is performing a public service.

"There is nothing laudable about endangering innocent people, and there is nothing brave about sabotaging peaceful relations between nations," Clinton said.

Clinton spoke just before jetting off on a planned trip to central Asia and the Mideast, where she will deal with a collection of leaders who were dissed in the "candid" leaked cables.

Earlier, President Obama ordered a government-wide crackdown on access to classified information to limit the future airing of secrets.

At Obama's direction, the White House Office of Management and Budget sent out a memo to all agencies to make sure their workers only have access to what's necessary for their jobs.

OMB Director Jack Lew said there is a zero-tolerance policy under the new directive. "Any unauthorized disclosure of classified information is a violation of our law and compromises our national security," Lew said.