Monday, November 29, 2010

The Open Society Becomes Its Own Enemy

“His crimes are legion,” Joseph diGenova, a former federal prosecutor, told Nightline about Bradley Manning, the 22-year-old Army private suspected of leaking an amazing array of diplomatic cables to the website Wikileaks.

Those leaks have blanketed the news today. NPR reported on Arab leaders calling in private for armed U.S. intervention to take out the Iranian nuclear program. The BBC spent considerable time on the Chinese response to North Korea’s nuclear efforts. As diGenova said, the source of the Chinese leaks may have been someone in the Politburo itself — and that person is likely to end up dead, once the Chinese identify who it was.

Manning has been in a military brig in Quantico, Va., since July. He is being held on charges that he disclosed a classified military video of an attack in Iraq that killed two Reuters journalists. Based on today’s revelations, the list of charges seems destined to mushroom soon.

Manning may have been a bad egg, but he exploited something rotten in the state of post-9/11 intelligence. Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the U.S. initiated reforms aimed at making it easier for intelligence analysts in various agencies to share information. The intention was to empower the relevant players to “connect the dots” and stop future attacks.

What happened, however, was the creation of a poorly supervised information commons open to far too many people. According to diGenova, the figure is an astounding 600,000.

When Karl Popper wrote The Open Society and Its Enemies a half century ago, he could not have imagined this.

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