When WikiLeaks published its "Afghan War Diaries" documents in July, the Obama administration shrugged it off. Obama told the press he was "concerned about the disclosure" but that the documents "don't reveal any issues that haven't already informed our public debate on Afghanistan."
The administration's response to WikiLeaks' publication of diplomatic cables this month – many of them embarrassing for U.S. representatives – is equally myopic. Obama has left it to White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs to deliver the administration's tepid response. He told "Fox & Friends"
that "our country is stronger than one guy with one website. We should never be afraid of one guy who plopped down $35 and bought a web address."
Gibbs means that we shouldn't have to bother with paying attention to one little website. Others might say a community organizer like WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is more dangerous than he first seems. In one sense, Gibbs is right – if the administration understood the value of defending America from all attacks, we wouldn't have to fear "one guy with a website," because he would be made to feel the cost of putting American security at risk for his 15 minutes of fame.
Instead of tracking down and making a public example of the people behind the leaks, however, the administration is hoping Assange will be silenced by charges of inappropriate sexual conduct in Sweden. Meanwhile, the case against the accused leaker, Pvt. Bradley Manning, is taking a back seat to the obsession with Assange. American companies such as Amazon.com, PayPal and MasterCard have cut WikiLeaks off from its services. They're taking these attacks seriously, while Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is joking
, "I'm writing a cable about it, which I'm sure you'll find soon on your closest website."
The United States government can make a compelling case that the damage done by Assange's attacks on America is significantly greater than the damage done by his alleged actions in Sweden. Obama should be in a very public fight with Sweden over which country gets first crack at Assange. Yet he seems content to allow the Swedes to handle it and let a U.S. case against Assange be "Plan B."
The administration's refusal to take WikiLeaks seriously reflects a bigger problem: its refusal to take national security seriously. This leak is about more than embarrassing gossipy diplomatic cables. It illustrates the administration's troublingly flippant attitude toward national security and most importantly to the safety of the men and women on the frontlines of the War on Terror.
The Obama administration's who-cares approach to "whistleblowers" and the terrorists who aid and abet them puts our soldiers, sailors, airmen and U.S. Marines at risk, directly and indirectly. Some of the "diplomatic cables" included lists of key global infrastructure – prime targets for al-Qaeda and other terrorists. Indirectly, it sends the message the commander in chief is either ignorant or indifferent to the effect his actions and attitude have on the fighting forces.
In my role reporting on the War on Terror as the host of "War Stories" and author of "American Heroes in Special Operations
," I've spent a significant amount of time over the past nine years on the front lines with American troops. I've witnessed firsthand their courage and selflessness. I've also seen how the lack of leadership from their commander in chief affects morale.
The administration was already ignoring the voice of too many of our fighting forces with its push to repeal the ban on homosexuals in the military. Nearly 45 percent of combat troops believe rescinding the ban would negatively impact unit effectiveness in the field, and nearly one in four service members said they'll consider leaving the U.S. armed forces if the ban is repealed. In response, Adm. Mike Mullen brashly said they could "find another place to work." Now, again, the administration is ignoring the fact that our troops abroad need to see leadership and intestinal fortitude, not jokes and bluster.
Regardless of what the administration and intelligence community are doing behind the scenes to respond to WikiLeaks and prevent similar attacks in the future, President Obama needs to realize his public response is equally important. It provides him an opportunity to show leadership on national security that for two years has been severely lacking. It would help him politically, but more importantly it would provide a boost of confidence in our troops that their commander in chief is paying attention and committed to fighting for them while they're fighting for us.