By Brad Friedman on 1/19/2011, 11:34am PT  

So, despite all the sturm und drang, despite all the outraged comments from both Republican and Democratic officials, despite all the calls for its founder Julian Assange to be assassinated without trial, criminal charges of any kind, or any due process whatsoever, despite the Vice President of the United States even smearing him as a "terrorist" on network television, it turns out there has been no substantive damage at all from leaked documents published by WikiLeaks and their partner media outfits, according to Mark Hosenball at Reuters, as based on interviews with government officials.

In short, as Salon's Glenn Greenwald describes it today, "To say that the Obama administration's campaign against WikiLeaks has been based on wildly exaggerated and even false claims is to understate the case. But now, there is evidence that Obama officials have been knowingly lying in public about these matters."

According to Reuters...

Internal U.S. government reviews have determined that a mass leak of diplomatic cables caused only limited damage to U.S. interests abroad, despite the Obama administration's public statements to the contrary.

A congressional official briefed on the reviews said the administration felt compelled to say publicly that the revelations had seriously damaged American interests in order to bolster legal efforts to shut down the WikiLeaks website and bring charges against the leakers.
"We were told (the impact of WikiLeaks revelations) was embarrassing but not damaging," said the official, who attended a briefing given in late 2010 by State Department officials.

Publicly, however, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley maintained to Reuters that, despite claims to the contrary from privately briefed officials, "there has been substantial damage" caused by WikiLeaks and that "hundreds of people have been put at potential risk because their names have been compromised in the release of these cables."

Of course, cables released by WikiLeaks have already revealed that Crowley himself has out-and-out lied about U.S. involvement in drone attacks in Yemen, so he may not be a particularly credible source on these matters.

Via Greenwald last December, here is Crowley during a December 15, 2009 Q&A with reporters:

QUESTION: On the conflict in Yemen, Houthis say that U.S. warplanes have launched airstrikes in northern Yemen. Is the U.S. involved in any military operations in Yemen?



MR. CROWLEY: But we --- those kinds of reports keep cropping up. We do not have a military role in this conflict.

But what have we learned from a WikiLeaks released cable describing a January 2010 meeting between General David Petraeus and Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh in which they discussed the December 2009 bombing of supposed terrorist targets in Yemen?:

President Obama has approved providing U.S. intelligence in support of ROYG [Republic of Yemen government] ground operations against AQAP targets, General Petraeus informed Saleh. . . . Saleh lamented the use of cruise missiles that are "not very accurate" and welcomed the use of aircraft-deployed precision-guided bombs instead. "We'll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours," Saleh said, prompting Deputy Prime Minister Alimi to joke that he had just "lied" by telling Parliament that the bombs in Arhab, Abyan, and Shebwa were American-made but deployed by the ROYG.

So, it may be fair to say the Obama Administration's State Dept. spokesman Crowley is to be dismissed as a liar --- at least on these matters.

The Hosenball report also describes "Two U.S. intelligence officials" who say "they were aware of specific cases where damage caused by WikiLeaks' revelations have been assessed as serious to grave, though they said they could not discuss the subject matter because it remained highly classified."

If those officials are telling the truth, it seems the matters they claim to be referencing are so "highly classified", that even Congressional officials interviewed by Reuters were not informed of them.

At the same time, "current and former intelligence officials" also tell Reuters that WikiLeaks "has made public few if any real intelligence secrets."

That, despite the fact, as Hosenball reports, that just prior to the recent release of State Department cables by the whistleblower media organization, "department officials sent emails to contacts on Capitol Hill predicting dire consequences, said one of the two congressional aides briefed on the internal government reviews." But shortly after "the cables first began to appear in the media, State Department officials were already privately playing down the damage," according to Reuter's sources in Congress.

Greenwald compares the way the media was played by the Obama Administration (and Congressional officials) to pass on lies about WikiLeaks to the American public in 2010 to the way the media was played by the Bush Administration (and Congressional officials) in regard to passing on lies about Iraq and Saddam Hussein in 2003 [emphasis in original]:

[T]he WikiLeaks disclosures are significant precisely because they expose government deceit, wrongdoing and brutality, but the damage to innocent people has been deliberately and wildly exaggerated --- fabricated --- by the very people whose misconduct has been revealed.  There is harm from the WikiLeaks documents, but it's to wrongdoers in power, which is why they are so desperate to malign and then destroy the group.

Just as was true in 2003 --- when the joint, falsehood-based government/media demonization campaign led 69% of Americans to believe that Saddam Hussein participated in the planning of the 9/11 attacks (the Bush era's most revealing fact about American politics) -- this orgy of anti-WikiLeaks propaganda has succeeded, with polls reliably showing the American public largely against the group and even favoring its prosecution (citizens in countries not subjected to this propaganda barrage view the group far more favorably).  As has been demonstrated over and over, when the U.S. Government and its media collaborate to propagandize, its efficacy is not in doubt.  And as Marcy Wheeler notes, these lies were told not only to distort public opinion and justify prosecuting WikiLeaks for doing nothing more than engaging in journalism, but also to coerce private corporations (MasterCard, Amazon, Visa, Paypal) to cut all services to the group.

The case against WikiLeaks is absolutely this decade's version of the Saddam/WMD campaign.  It's complete with frivolous invocations of Terrorism, grave public warnings about National Security negated by concealed information, endlessly repeated falsehoods, a competition among political and media elites to advocate the harshest measures possible, a cowardly Congress that (with a few noble exceptions) acquiesces to it all on a bipartisan basis and is eager to enable it, and a media that not only fails to subject these fictions to critical scrutiny, but does the opposite:  it takes the lead in propagating them.  One might express bewilderment that most American journalists never learn their lesson about placing their blind faith in government claims, but that assumes --- falsely --- that their objective is to report truthfully.

There is at least one difference between the Bush Administration's 2003 lies about Iraq and the Obama Administration's 2010 lies about WikiLeaks: so far, at least to our knowledge, nobody has died thanks to the Obama Administration lies in regard to WikiLeaks. On the other hand, hundreds of thousands of innocent men, woman and children met their end thanks to the media's willingness to uncritically pass on lies to the public from the Bush Administration. All of which underscores precisely why we need WikiLeaks now more than ever, as the corporate media in the U.S. has proven time and again they can absolutely not be trusted to do the job they are Constitutionally entrusted to do.