Commentary By Earl Ofari Hutchinson
WASHINGTON - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton must explain what she meant when she allegedly signed the much railed at orders in April and July 2009 that allege that she ordered US diplomats to spy on UN officials and others. But that hasn't stopped the rush to judgment in the calls for her resignation. It's not just a premature call, it's a silly call.
Yes, on the surface, it does look bad. The Secretary seeming to secretly order State Department officials to collect the fingerprints, facial images, DNA, and iris scans, of African leaders and to obtain passwords, personal encryption keys, credit card numbers, frequent flyer account numbers, and other data connected to diplomats. The Clinton bashers have leaped to conclude from this that she ran a giant spy network out of the State Department and used state department officials, American diplomats, and the usual suspects, the CIA, and other shadowy US backed foreign intelligence agencies to get the goods on diplomats, big and small.
There are three problems with this. The WikiLeaks cables are simply raw cables. There is absolutely no context, background, rationale, or even hard verification about the time and place given for when and even why Clinton or any other state department official asked for the information, not to mention what they hoped to do with it if they did indeed order systematic spying.
The U.S. has run well documented intelligence and counter-intelligence operations since the Cold War and has vast experience, state of the art technology, and well placed operatives to gather whatever information it needs on the actions and activities of friends and foes. It has never had a problem getting that information.
The second problem is that much of the information that Clinton allegedly hungered to get on UN diplomats was already public information and easily obtained in the endless meetings, conferences, discussions, and briefings, as well as the exchange of information that American friendly diplomats routinely share with the State Department. The information is shared through front and back door channels.
Clinton reiterated this point noting that official foreign policy is not set through diplomatic cables but at and within the White House. Clinton also added the obvious that she and other US diplomats routinely meet with and get information all the time from an array of sources, and the information, some of it sensitive, is given without the need for stockpiling DNA, fingerprints and Iris scans.
The biggest problem is the speed and fury in the call for Clinton's head. The calls are not made because of high moral concern over a compromised State Department, a suddenly ineffectual Clinton to do her job, or the illegality, or at best embarrassing impropriety of what the cables purport to show she did. It's about politics. Spying is institutionalized in US foreign policy and every other major nation's policies and operations and every president and state department official has either authorized spy operations, snooping on allies, or flatly conducted illegal operations.
The Bush administration targeted any and everyone it considered a foe or potential foe, American citizen or not, with a systematic spy, monitoring and surveillance operation if suspected of being a potential terrorist. Organizations and individuals were slapped with so-called roving wiretaps (taps that can be placed on an individual or group anywhere, anytime) again based on the flimsiest evidence or suspicion. Bush officials stretched the term terrorist to include anyone that it said was a "terrorist combatant," where and how long that individual could be held (indefinitely) and how they should be legally disposed of (none of the standard constitutional protections).
There were no calls for Bush officials to resign and there were no demands that the State Department which certainly was privy under Secretaries of State Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice to the dubious actions tender their resignations. Or that they resign following the totally discredited doctored evidence of alleged WMD that provided the cover for the Bush administration to wage the Iraq war. Then Secretary of State Powell defended this phony evidence at the UN.
But on the strength of one of even a handful of unvetted memos from a dubious source, Clinton has suddenly become hopelessly damaged goods and must go. The call is an empty one since Clinton hasn't her say on what she had in mind, if indeed she even authorized the spying in the damaging way WikiLeaks documents purport to show. The jury is way out on that and is likely to stay that way.