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WikiLeaks Fallout: Should Hillary Clinton Resign?

4 years ago
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Should Hillary Clinton resign as secretary of state due to the WikiLeaks revelations? My friend Jack Shafer at Slate makes a good case. His reason: Clinton, like predecessor Condoleezza Rice, signed orders instructing U.S. foreign service officers to spy on the diplomats of other nations. Cables went out under her name telling State Department officials overseas to collect the fingerprints, facial images, DNA, and iris scans of African leaders, to obtain passwords, credit card numbers, and frequent flyer accounts used by foreign diplomats, and to gather private information on United Nations officials, including Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Diplomats are not spies (though spies do pose as diplomats). They do collect information -- by working contacts overseas, reviewing the local media, interacting with the population of the nations where they are stationed -- often acquiring intelligence that is as valuable, if not more so, than the secrets snatched by intelligence officials. But there is a line between a diplomat and a spook. The former uses aboveboard methods to find out what his or her government needs to know about other nations; the latter resorts to espionage, wiretaps, bribery, and other underhanded means. There are many reasons for keeping the two roles distinct. Diplomats are awarded immunity and can gain certain access overseas because they are not spies.

Now that the Clinton State Department has blurred the line, U.S. diplomats, who have to contend with the assumption that any U.S. official abroad is really working for the CIA, will have an additional burden to bear when doing their jobs overseas.

Of the many WikiLeaks revelations that have emerged in the past few days -- and more are to come in the next few months, as the renegade website continues to release batches of the 251,287 State Department cables it has obtained -- the news that U.S. diplomats have been turned into part-time spies certainly warrants thorough investigation. Obama administration officials, of course, have tried to make the leak itself the paramount issue. Attorney General Eric Holder has promised prosecutions if "we can find anybody involved in breaking American law." Clinton has called the leak "an attack on America's foreign policy interests," claiming it has endangered "innocent people." Republican Rep. Peter King urged Clinton to determine if WikiLeaks can be designated a terrorist organization. Sen. Joe Lieberman has called on the United States and other governments to shut down WikiLeaks. Sarah Palin, naturally, blamed President Barack Obama's "incompetence" for the leaks, as she erroneously equated this episode with a website posting pages of her new book without her permission.

Yet there have not been such passionate calls for investigating the transformation of U.S. diplomats into undercover snoops. The administration's strategy -- as is to be expected -- is to focus on the easy-to-demonize messenger, not the hard-to-explain message. But Diplomatgate ought to be a top priority for the oversight committees of Congress. Still, this part of the story could easily get lost in the WikiLeaks wash, as multiple revelations appear simultaneously: Arab nations practically encouraging Washington to back an attack on Iran, U.S. diplomats describing Afghan President Hamid Karzai as "driven by paranoia," and -- don't forget this one -- Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi traveling the world with a "voluptuous blonde" Ukrainian nurse. The diplomats-into-spies news is a scandal on its own. But thanks to WikiLeaks fire-hose approach, this exposé is somewhat overshadowed by the entire documents dump.

As for Clinton, WikiLeaks' scattershot approach is probably helping her. Shafer contends,
No matter what sort of noises Clinton makes about how the disclosures are "an attack on America" and "the international community," as she did today, she's become the issue. She'll never be an effective negotiator with diplomats who refuse to forgive her exuberances, and even foreign diplomats who do forgive her will still regard her as the symbol of an overreaching United States. Diplomacy is about face, and the only way for other nations to save face will be to give them Clinton's scalp. . . .

There is no way that the new WikiLeaks leaks don't leave Hillary Clinton holding the smoking gun. The time for her departure may come next week or next month, but sooner or later, the weakened and humiliated secretary of state will have to pay.
In many other nations, news such as this would indeed prompt resignations of high officials. The United States does not have this noble tradition. Here, government officials hold on for dear life when trouble erupts. (How many U.S. officials resigned when it turned out the Bush-Cheney administration was wrong about WMDs in Iraq? None.) So one can expect Clinton to dig in her heels, as the administration decries the leaker and ignores the leaks. (And with Obama in a weak position politically after the 2010 elections, he's not likely to shove aside a woman who's still fancied by much of his party's base.) Perhaps the coming WikiLeaks leaks will cause additional difficulties for Clinton. But given the ADD of the national media, she probably can survive the current storm. Shafer has a sound argument, but I'd settle for seeing Clinton and subordinates grilled on Capitol Hill about the spookification of U.S. diplomats. But that's probably as likely as the White House inviting Julian Assange to a holiday party.

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welcome ords 44

Should Secretary of State Clinton resign? DON'T BE ABSURD! we as a nation spend too much time and energy playing the "Blame Game" instead of acting and Keeping focused on the problem. Secretary Clinton in no way was is at fault here. she was and is acting in the best interest of our country, nothing more than any of her predecessors have done, only she has the misfortune of having every thing exposed. why do we insist on misdirection and blame instead of confronting the real problem?

December 08 2010 at 11:33 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to welcome ords 44's comment

The revealed secret spying policy is the real problem. It substantially reduces the effectiveness of State. If there is a real concern that foreign diplomats are spies, the solution isn't to turn our diplomats into spies. It's a job for CIA on the foreign front, and FBI on the domestic front. Not the State Department.

December 27 2010 at 9:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Hillary may have signed those orders but that is what she should've done. It shows she is trying the protect us from frauds or imposters. Look at the guy in Afghanistan who posed as a taliban leader and met with top ranking officials including the president of Afghanistan and was making deals towards peace. Turns out he is a store owner in some little village over there who probably gets told what to do by his wife!

December 07 2010 at 2:00 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Mr. John

If you are in business, or just having someone coming to your home for a visit you want to know as much as you can about them and what you can do to make them the most comfortable while visiting you: this is not spying on them, it is doing everything you can to be the best host.

December 06 2010 at 9:47 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

I don't particularly like current US policy but I also don't like the other country's policies the have to face either. Before you use your "journalistic" rights to bury this country, why not find out whether she was the only one doing it or was she just the only one caught. By the way, which country do you live in and which country do you work for. That is two separate and distinct questions.

December 06 2010 at 9:28 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

The real issue surrounding this WIkileaks story is US State Dept reform. Folks on the street and the gov't leaders need to focus on how the US does business. We have bad US strategic interest in places like Africa, Angola for an example. The US is basically stealing or has colonized this country through militias and other armed organizations for US private interest. Now US diplomats have a tough job keeping this sort of circus up, so that we can continue to benefit from this poor-rich country. So the behavior of people like Clinton and others on a lower level, is probably the most horrific. I would only equate this to having a bad school principal's administration. What do you do? While the US can't admit to this or even give it up for that matter, only make you wonder about hearts and motives. Wikileaks shed light on this obvious behavior.

December 06 2010 at 9:19 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

time to go tried hard.....and got caught being clean up our image...and your global elite agenda..............scooter libby took a little for plame but the bush adminaistration will always wear dirt.....obama's got to step up

December 06 2010 at 8:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

So Condoleeza Rice, Secretary of State during the Bush administration, signed the same orders that Hillary Clinton did. How, then, is it such a big deal now when during the Bush administration it wasn't such a big deal? It wasn't a good idea then and it isn't a good idea now, either, but I will need to see more evidence than I have seen so far before I would be willing to agree with your call for Secretary of State Clinton's resignation. Julian Assange is losing his safe places very quickly. Now the Swiss have blocked his Swiss bank accounts because he told lies on his application. Pretty soon Julian will have no place to hide and no funds to run with and those who continue to support him will wind up with no place to hide and no funds to do it with, either. Personally, I will be happy to see him in jail on that rape charge.

December 06 2010 at 3:55 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Pat's comment

It's strange how the government can intimidate other country's to flush out Julian Assange, and to cut funding to wikilinks, yet the government can't seem to intimidate other country's to flush out that scumbag-Osama Bin Laden, or cut off funding to terrorist organizations. And as far as the rape charges go..........ya I'm suppose to believe that the charges are true, how convenient.

December 09 2010 at 2:41 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Hillary could survive Watergate. It has never mattered to the public what she does or more importantly,who she is. The USA will always have credibility issues since it is constantly policing the world. The WTO needs police protection so what better source is there then the UN and NATO. Without the USA,neither would exist. It would not surprise me to see Hillary's next "job"as spokesperson for the WTO, who will probably have a different name to hide it's identity but a genuine soviet source of power. The selling of America has bankrupt a lot of good people while Corporations have lined their pockets. Selling short is no crime, but when you are a politician,it is. If we can not secure our borders it is because the government is corrupt and allowing it to continue.

December 06 2010 at 9:19 AM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
David Marvin

From Mary: The real culprit is the person who in our government gave the information to Wikileaks. Why don't we find out who this person is? Are government workers immune to investigations and firings and prosecutions?

December 05 2010 at 7:41 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to David Marvin's comment

Haven't you been following this, Mary. The culprit is a gay Army Pfc. who was angry because the don't tell, don't ask law hadn't been repealed. He's going to do 50 in the slammer! They should also fire his boss, his boss's boss, and the next two or three up the line. Maybe they'd get the attention of all the other incompetents in the system.

December 05 2010 at 7:29 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

Once again, the Clintons take the fall for what everyone does, and prob for the same reason, to discredit her well before the 2012 elections. There's a line between whistle blowers protecting us and deliberate 'leaks' to discredit our image, I'm not sure who can be trusted to make that decision. Esp with foreign interests owning so much of America's media and telling us how they want us to think. There are huge problems stemming from investigative reporting today, with ethics and the facts blown off in favor of national enquirer sensationalism. Get 'the masses' whipped into such a frenzy, they dont even think to look behind the curtain...

December 07 2010 at 1:09 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
David Marvin

From: Mary More importantly than what was leaked should be: How did the leaks happen and who is responsible for the leaks. Shouldn't our government papers be secure? Also, it should be a given in these times that there may have been legitimate reasons for our State Department to have this knowledge. Hilary Clinton made the call for a reason that she felt necessary. The public must think that being our government's representative is child's play. The evilness in this fiasco is the child-like innocense of the public in how we should deal with countries who would like to see the downfall of the United States.

December 05 2010 at 7:36 AM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply

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