Jacob Heilbrunn

Are the WikiLeaks Actually An American Plot?

 The Obama administration is busily denouncing the WikiLeaks. Spilling secrets is a bad thing, we're told, for American national security. Relations with friendly leaders will be jeopardized. And so on.

But is it true? Or are the leaks, in fact, part of a carefully orchestrated plot by the American government?

Think about it for a moment. The Saudis, we learn, want America to cut the head off the Iranian snake. Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak says Iran's sponsorship of terrorism is "well-known but I cannot say it publicly. It would create a dangerous situation."  In other cables American diplomats describe Hamid Karzai and his relatives in less than approbatory language.

Several things may well be going on. For one thing, the documents should create a comforting feeling among the American public that officials aren't asleep at the switch. President Obama may not be able to say that Karzai is a pathologically corrupt nutjob, but it's clearly what he and his emissaries think. Nor do they have any illusions about Iran. Or North Korea. So much for the myth that Obama is clueless. That would be one incentive for the administration to secretly welcome the release of the documents.

But there is more. Most of the foreign leaders quoted in the documents are stating the obvious. It's been clear for years that the Saudis and various other moderate Middle Eastern countries would like to see America and Israel deliver a knockout blow to the Iranian mullahs. But they were afraid to say so publicly. Now the WikiLeaks have done it for them. At the same time, the Obama administration has upped the psychological pressure on Iran, which has also just seen one of its top nuclear scientists assassinated. The message is clear: work for the regime and you will pay a price. Maybe there will even be a new WikiLeak about it in a year, showing that the Mossad arranged the hit.

The truth is that the American government engages in gross overclassification of documents, something that the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan inveighed against and that the redoubtable Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists continually battles. Maybe the WikiLeaks is a way of circumventing those restrictions. Getting American threats on record, while pretending to deplore the loss of secrecy, could be a potent weapon. If this is the case, then Obama may be craftier than anyone has assumed.