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The Plot Thickens.

[ 59 ] June 7, 2010 |

The US intelligence analyst who leaked the footage that resulted in Wikileaks’ infamous “Collateral Murder” video has been outed by a hacker to whom he boasted of his actions online, and arrested by the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division. Wired has the story:

Manning was turned in late last month by a former computer hacker with whom he spoke online. In the course of their chats, Manning took credit for leaking a headline-making video of a helicopter attack that Wikileaks posted online in April. The video showed a deadly 2007 U.S. helicopter air strike in Baghdad that claimed the lives of several innocent civilians.

He said he also leaked three other items to Wikileaks: a separate video showing the notorious 2009 Garani air strike in Afghanistan that Wikileaks has previously acknowledged is in its possession; a classified Army document evaluating Wikileaks as a security threat, which the site posted in March; and a previously unreported breach consisting of 260,000 classified U.S. diplomatic cables that Manning described as exposing “almost criminal political back dealings.”

“Hillary Clinton, and several thousand diplomats around the world are going to have a heart attack when they wake up one morning, and find an entire repository of classified foreign policy is available, in searchable format, to the public,” Manning wrote.

Manning’s arrest comes as Wikileaks has ratcheted up pressure against various governments over the years with embarrassing documents acquired through a global whistleblower network that is seemingly impervious to threats from adversaries. Its operations are hosted on servers in several countries, and it uses high-level encryption for its document submission process, providing secure anonymity for its sources and a safe haven from legal repercussions for itself. Since its launch in 2006, it has never outed a source through its own actions, either voluntarily or involuntarily.

Manning came to the attention of the FBI and Army investigators after he contacted former hacker Adrian Lamo late last month over instant messenger and e-mail… From the chat logs provided by Lamo, and examined by, it appears Manning sensed a kindred spirit in the ex-hacker. He discussed personal issues that got him into trouble with his superiors and left him socially isolated, and said he had been demoted and was headed for an early discharge from the Army.

When Manning told Lamo that he leaked a quarter-million classified embassy cables, Lamo contacted the Army, and then met with Army CID investigators and the FBI at a Starbucks near his house in Carmichael, California, where he passed the agents a copy of the chat logs. At their second meeting with Lamo on May 27, FBI agents from the Oakland Field Office told the hacker that Manning had been arrested the day before in Iraq by Army CID investigators.

Lamo has contributed funds to Wikileaks in the past, and says he agonized over the decision to expose Manning — he says he’s frequently contacted by hackers who want to talk about their adventures, and he’s never considered reporting anyone before. The supposed diplomatic cable leak, however, made him believe Manning’s actions were genuinely dangerous to U.S. national security.

More thoughts on this as things develop. Interested in readers’ gut reactions.


Kausmentum Part XVII

[ 7 ] June 6, 2010 |

It’s hard for me to view the Kaus Senate bid with anything but amusement, but he’s obviously trying very hard to irritate as many people as he can…

Saturday Cat/Baby Blogging

[ 10 ] June 5, 2010 |

The pussification of the American male continues, as Orrin caves to the aggressive economic demands of his inferiors.

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Client States

[ 23 ] June 4, 2010 |

Back in the day, a fair amount of the policy oriented literature on international security focused on the question of relationships between patron and client states.  The reasons for this were obvious; the Soviet Union and the United States were in competition for the allegiancefriendship of a variety of states in the first, second, and third worlds, and both scholars and policymakers wanted a grasp on the dynamics of the competition. One school of thought, identified most closely with Hans Morgenthau and then later with the “offensive realists,” argued that client states wield inordinate influence over their would be patrons. Through threats to defect, clients can effectively extort economic, military, and political concessions from their superpower allies. If the one superpower doesn’t come through, then the other will, and the shift will have significance for the global balance of power. Consequently, superpower have to be very attentive to the needs and demands of their clients in order to prevent embarrassing and unpleasant power shifts which might then themselves encourage other clients to gravitate towards the other superpower.

An alternative way of looking at the problem came from “defensive realists” who argued that the balance of power was far more robust than the offensive realists allowed. States have a variety of reasons for selecting their patrons, and few are actually in a position to undertake strategic switches. For one, ideology and local interest aren’t incidental to selection of patron. As Stephen Walt argued in Origins of Alliances, most US allies preferred the US because they preferred the US, rather than because the US had offered a better deal than the Russians. Moreover, switching between alliance systems meant incurring substantial economic and military costs. A patron-client relationship created powerful interests in favor of the status quo within the client state; generals and admirals prefer not to have switch between Western and Soviet military equipment every five years, and the economic ties created an mercantile elite associated with a particular constellation of trade.  Consequently, superpowers should be more willing to “call the bluff” of a client state when it threatens to defect.

Whatever the logical merits of the second position, policymakers on both sides of the Cold War seem to have operated on the assumptions of the first. The US and the Soviet Union poured money and weapons into a variety of clients in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and South America. The Soviet Union undertook politically and economically costly invasions of several clients in danger of defection (Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Afghanistan) in order to dissuade other potential defectors. The United States helped dozens of “friendly” regimes protect themselves from their own people. In spite of the fact that the actual defections (Vietnam, Iran, China, Egypt, Albania) didn’t seem to lead to catastrophic alterations in the global balance of power, Moscow and Washington acted as if future defections would.

This kind of behavior should have subsided with the Cold War.  As the threat of defection waned, the only remaining superpower should have been much less willing to make concessions to its clients.  To some extent, this appears to have been the case.  The US undoubtedly became less willing to protect friendly military regimes in Latin America as the threat of communism declined.  The US also became more assertive in its economic relations with Japan, China, and Europe.  In Africa, several states found themselves almost completely cut off from both US and Soviet support, because no one really cared anymore about the balance of power in region wherever.

Still, in a few key cases client states still seem to wield inordinate influence over their patrons, or at least to resist their patron’s political will. US issues with Israel are familiar to all; in spite of the economic and military dependence of Israel on the US (a dependence which can be overstated, but that nonetheless exists), it’s remarkably difficult for the US to make Israel do what it wants Israel to do. Chinese relations with North Korea should be understood in the same terms. Rather than thinking of North Korea as an asset to China, or as a key cog in China’s grand plan to dominate the Pacific, I think it’s better to understand the China-North Korea axis as a troubled patron-client relationship in which the patron has only limited influence over the behavior of the client. China’s economic relationships with the United States, South Korea, and Japan are all more important than the relationship with North Korea, and North Korea is of limited military utility to the Chinese in any context other than a war on the peninsula. Moreover, North Korea is almost 100% dependent on China for energy and other key sectors. While it’s possible that the North Koreans ran the plan to sink Cheonan by Beijing, I find it extremely unlikely; rather, I suspect that Beijing was deeply displeased by the North Korean move, but has been left without good options for disciplining its client.

Why can’t patrons always discipline clients, even after the Cold War? Let me suggest two reasons. The first is that, just as the patron-client relationship creates interests in the client, it creates interests in the patron. Outside of the state these interests can take the form of ethnic diaspora communities or groups that benefit economically from the relationship. Inside the state these interests take form through the multitude of contacts between a client and its patron. Diplomatic, intelligence, and military linkages between a patron and a client create communities inside the state with vested interests in the perpetuation of the alliance. Decisions on alliance commitment affect funding and organizational focus, which affects careers, which creates stakeholders. These stakeholders, often in combination with the interest groups outside the state, push back when the alliance is at risk. During the Cold War this pushback was particularly effective in both the US and the USSR (although in the USSR the internal state groups were much more important than the external groups) because the breakup of an alliance could be rhetorically construed as defeat, decay, and decline. Thus, even after a relationship has ceased to be of strategic use to a patron, some domestic interests will favor the status quo.

The second reason that patrons can’t discipline clients is that, on many issues, clients simply care much more than patrons. The US kind of sometimes cares about settlements, but the important actors in Israel really care about settlements, and the latter are willing to risk more than the former in order to pursue their policy ends. The clients bet on the likelihood that the patron will risk the entire relationship in order to get its way on the smaller issue, and often the clients win. Clients can take advantage of the fact that they care mostly about issues of local importance, while patrons have much larger strategic interests. Clients leverage their strategic value (and their constituencies within the patron state) in order to win patron concessions on the issues they care about the most. As their strategic value to patrons diminishes (with the end of the Cold War, for example) the ability to do this decreases, but doesn’t necessarily disappear. In the North Korea-China case, Pyongyang isn’t even leveraging positive expected utility (its positive strategic value to China); rather, it’s leveraging the negative expected utility to China of its own collapse.

Thoughts along these lines formed the context of my recent diavlog with Dan Drezner (yes, EVERYONE must diavlog Dan Drezner eventually)…

…which concentrated on the client state issue as it applied to Israel and North Korea. Matt Duss also wrote a bit about the topic, especially on the context of Anthony Cordesman’s comments about the strategic value of the Israel to the United States.

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Jim Crow Lives in the Jury Box

[ 4 ] June 4, 2010 |

It’s dismaying. While it doesn’t seem to get discussed much, the dissent in Miller-El is part of the context that makes Parents Involved so infuriating. Invoking glib tautologies in defense of a “color-blind constitution” becomes pretty hard to sustain when you’re unable to find any racial discrimination in a case in which prosecutors systematically excluded black jurors for transparently pretextual reasons. But that’s modern conservatism: Brown v. Board has been reinterpreted on the one hand to constitutionally legitimate school systems that are segregated and unequal, while on the other it can prevent school boards from trying to integrate their schools.

In related news, former Time Blog of the Year calls the 14th Amendment “an anachronism.”

Friday Geek Blogging

[ 3 ] June 4, 2010 |

The next Olympic Sport? Seriously.

There Is Unrest in the Forest

[ 6 ] June 3, 2010 |

Libertarian food fight!

Visualizing Privacy

[ 0 ] June 3, 2010 |

These visualizations are credited to Matt McKeon. If you go to his website, you can track the gradual shift in FB’s privacy settings by year. These graphs are only updated through April (so far).

Of course FB has supposedly just made changes. Read more…

Nonsensical historical analogy of the day

[ 15 ] June 3, 2010 |

Courtesy of David Broder, who’s going to need a sitz bath if he keeps straining like this:

I was thinking back to when another Democratic president, Jimmy Carter, found himself stymied in another seemingly endless ordeal. Iranian militants stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979 and held 52 officials and workers hostage for 444 days, while the United States was helpless to free them . . . .

As sinister as the jet stream of escaping oil and gas looks via the underwater camera in the gulf, Barack Obama has not yet moved into the category of the late-night patsy that Jimmy Carter became. The Iranians were more clever, or diabolical, in exploiting their hostages than the restrained BP executives or their enviro foes are in this situation.

Um. I’m confused. Leave aside the implication that environmentalists are simply “foes” of BP executives who might, under different circumstances, be “exploiting” the catastrophe simply to humiliate and extract concessions from the Obama administration. As others have pointed out, it would be difficult to imagine better adjectives than “clever” and “diabolical” to describe the recent behavior of British Petroleum (whom Broder is, in any event, old enough to remember by its original name, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company.) Perhaps Broder’s understanding of “clever” and “diabolical” doesn’t include flagrantly shortcutting environmental regulations, ignoring worker safety rules, manipulating energy markets, befouling an ecosystem and then denying access to reporters trying to cover the aftermath. But since I’m assuming that BP executives, their environmental “foes,” and the Obama administration all seek minimally shared goals — plugging the goddamned leak — I’m failing to appreciate how this is supposed to resemble an in utero Iranian hostage-crisis. But since Broder concedes that in nearly every meaningful way, this doesn’t resemble the Iranian hostage crisis, I won’t worry too much.

Fortunately, we don’t need to linger on this self-refuting part of Broder’s column, because what comes next is even more spectacularly idiotic.

But we have seen this movie before, and we know how it ends politically. Somebody else shows up and says he can fix this. Or end it. Or make it come out right.

This is why Democrats are right to be very nervous as this gulf incident drags on in its second month. We have endured about as much technical explanation of the rigors of deep-sea drilling as we can stand.

The chart talks demonstrating that we had figured out where the hostages were being held didn’t do Carter a lick of good when voters were aching to see the captives walk into their families’ arms.

I assume that Broder is suggesting here that Obama’s political opponents — the people who believe that BP is the victim here, that Baby Jesus broke the well, and that everything is going to be fine someday — are going to work the issue in the style of Ronald Reagan and use the spill to regain control over the government.

Here again, though, I have no idea what Broder is talking about. The Reagan campaign spent most of 1980 (falsely) accusing the Carter administration of trying to secure the release of the hostages by enticing the Iranian revolutionaries with promises of weapons and ammunition — weapons and ammunition that the Reagan administration, of course, eventually delivered themselves under different circumstances. As far as I can recall, the Reagan camp had no superior, alternative plan — unless we believe Gary Sick — to actually bring the hostages home; they simply hoped the status quo would endure until the November election, after which point they were greatly contented with Carter’s ability to actually finish the job. Though I suppose it’s probably true that many in today’s GOP would be perfectly content to allow the Gulf disaster to continue so long as it brought suffering to the Obama administration, I’m eagerly awaiting the fulfillment of Broder’s prophecy that the Republicans will offer a minimally convincing plan to fix the situation. Since the full extent of the GOP’s vision on mineral extraction is to drill everywhere and deregulate everything, the comparison to 1980 would only make sense if Reagan had campaigned on the notion that hostage situations were really quite unavoidable from time to time and that any retaliation would represent an unconscionable intrusion upon the rights of hostage-takers.

The Yoda Doctrine and the War on Terror

[ 8 ] June 3, 2010 |

The NYT picked up on my BHTV spot with Dan Drezner last weekend, where we discuss whether or not Obama should be assassinating Americans. But they only stuck a small clip of our discussion on that topic at their site, so I’ve clipped the entire piece for your perusal.

Note that a variety of technical snafus caused the BH folks to edit the video here and there making the context hard to infer at spots (watch out for the part at about 5 minutes in where my face and voice suddenly jump scarily forward at you!). In fact, it seems they edited out the part where I mention the Terrorist Expatriation Act currently being pushed through the Senate by Joe Lieberman, which would render it constitutional to strip Americans of their citizenship for “joining a foreign terrorist organization or engaging in or supporting hostilities against the United States or its allies.”

While human rights law would still arguably make it criminal to summarily execute non-citizens, the aim of this legislation is to at least render the constitutional questions moot (would it, actually? I defer to the lawyers who blog here and elsewhere…) until such time, at least, as the Supreme Court renders said law unconstitutional.

In that regard, it’s worth noting the Court’s (and the current nominee’s) past history on precisely these issues, which has been helpfully summarized by Richard Epstein.

Serious Political Analysis

[ 10 ] June 3, 2010 |

Think the BP’s massive oil spill and the ensuing massive environmental and economic catastrophe represents a difficult problem? Obviously, you haven’t yet heard the solution posed by Mark Penn, Union Buster(TM):

On the BP crisis, he needs to get away from the posturing politicians and the environmentalists and get together with scientists, generals and big-time business people who have experience solving big logistical problems. Now is the time to call in the big brains, lock them in a room, and deliver every possible resource to shut the oil flow down; think Manhattan Project meets Independence Day, with fewer aliens and more eggheads.

Strange that Obama, unlike his otherwise sharp Democratic primary opponent, doesn’t think that analysis of this quality merits a 7 figure salary. Obviously, he doesn’t know what he’s doing…

…Brian in comments: “Maybe McCain could sit the well and the ocean down and say, “Stop the bullshit.””

Galarragas Wake

[ 11 ] June 3, 2010 |

As commenters have pointed out, fairness demands that it be noted that Jim Joyce may have screwed up what would have been a profitable future career as a Republican elected official or BP executive by admitting his egregious error. And given this it would probably better to emulate Galarraga’s remarkable class and grace under pressure.

But since I’m not as good a person as Galarraga, I should explain why I don’t buy the argument that since it didn’t cost the Tigers the game it wasn’t that big a deal. I think this actually stands the truth on its head. While I’m free about criticizing inept umpiring, I try to never claim that umps cost the team a game, because it’s almost always more complicated than that. Cuzzi’s foul call in the ALDS last year was at least as bad as Joyce’s, but it was a pretty minor factor in the Twins loss; Cuzzi didn’t tell Joe Nathan to throw a cookie to Slappy Rodriguez, he wasn’t hitting when the Twins went on to parlay the bases loaded with none out into zero runs, and given the same sequence of events the Twins would have been huge underdogs, tied against a better team on the road. Same thing with Denkinger; it was a bad call, if not quite was bad as Joyce/Cuzzi, but the Cardinals still had every chance to win after it, and Denkinger wasn’t hitting or pitching when the Cardinals went on to be outscored 13-0. The endless whining by the Cardinals and their fans is not merely problematic but unseemly, excuse making by a team that lost and deserved to lose. And as much as it pains me to admit it, the same goes for the Seahawks’ Super Bowl loss. If Holmgren spent less time complaining about the officiating and more time on his two minute drill they might have won.

What was unusual about the Joyce call was that it really was an if-not-then call in which the athletes in question were blameless. Which, combined with the fact that it wasn’t close but was a call a major league umpire should never get wrong, makes it hard to forgive. And while a perfect game might be an “arbitrary” accomplishment, well, Dennis Martinez in 1991 and Pedro’s 27 outs-with-no-support in San Diego in 1995 are two of my most ten most vividly remembered regular season games as a fan, and I don’t think I’m unusual.