Blame Snowden and Manning for the CIA Leak

Steven Bucci

This article first appeared on The Daily Signal.

The most recent dump of documents from WikiLeaks can be directly attributed to Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden.

No, I don’t think either of these two previous titleholders of the "biggest spy in modern history" award was directly involved with this disastrous event. Manning is still in prison, but not for much longer, and Snowden is still sunning himself in some dacha in Vladimir Putin’s Russian paradise.

Their physical fingerprints are not on it this time, but their actions and the failure of America’s leaders to ensure their punishment surely led to this.

As curious reporters and pundits paw over the enormous pile of stolen secrets from WikiLeaks’ “Vault 7,” some people are debating whether Julian Assange’s “troops” have committed a crime or have done a service—striking a blow for openness and slaying the dragon of spying.

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Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden's portraits adorn an umbrella at a protest march against the electronic surveillance tactics of the NSA on July 27, 2013, in Berlin. Steven Bucci writes that the thief who plundered Vault 7 was watching what happened to Manning and Snowden, and the message he or she took was that there would be little downside to ignoring the law, violating their oath and deciding that they as an individual knew better than the collective wisdom of the leaders of our land. Sean Gallup/Getty

There should be no question in anyone’s mind that this was a huge blow to America’s security and makes the nation less safe. Our enemies now have a much better idea as to how the CIA contributes to protecting America from those who openly, and with no remorse, mean to do her harm.

In truth, if Manning had not been pardoned by President Barack Obama, and if Snowden had not been allowed to escape into Russia’s “protection,” this massive leak still may have happened. It is extremely unlikely that these were obtained by hacking.

Related: Has the CIA been damaged by the latest WikiLeaks leaks?

The CIA is not the Democratic National Committee. The agency’s computer security is not perfect (it does have humans involved in it), but it is darned good, and it is not connected to the internet.

The most likely way WikiLeaks obtained the Vault 7 files was by a malicious insider stealing them.

A malicious insider (like Manning and Snowden) is someone who has the proper clearance and authority to be “inside” the network, but uses that authority to loot the files and pass them on to others who have no lawful right to see them.

That is a federal crime. It is spying, and it is a treasonous act. No amount of pained logic, hand-wringing and moral gymnastics can turn that into heroic action.

Criminal acts are normally deterred by the fact that previous occurrences have been severely punished to the fullest extent of the law. But that did not happen with regard to Manning. He got a fraction of what the judge could have given him for his guilty verdict, and Obama pardoned a big chunk of that.

It has not happened to Snowden, who still sits blithely in Russia, occasionally piped in to American academic conferences by Skype to opine on the “police state” called America.

The thief who got Vault 7 was watching, and the message he or she took was that there would be little downside to ignoring the law, violating their oath and deciding that they as an individual knew better than the collective wisdom of the leaders of our land.

No, Manning and Snowden didn’t walk out with the files this time, but they are, together with the weak responses of the Obama administration, fully to blame.

Steven Bucci is a visiting research fellow at The Heritage Foundation.

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