11/29/2010 04:05 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

How to Turn Off WikiLeaks

Things in our house like to break on holidays, when repair services are unavailable, leaving the work to us. When a faucet got into the act recently, I looked to and read the following first step: "To repair the leak, first turn off the water."

With a click of a National Security Agency mouse, could henceforth display a c. 1996 "url not found" message. Hundreds of mirror sites would remain in business, however, and even if the NSA managed to transform all of them to Yule log footage, the leaking would persist. A copier, envelope and postage stamp would suffice to reveal identities of American intelligence officers and sources abroad (such a list, including the names and villages of our informants' family members, was included in WikiLeaks' 'Afghan war logs,' providing actionable intelligence for the Taliban).

There may be ample legal justification for a special operations team to converge on WikiLeaks front man Julian Assange at brunch tomorrow morning and spirit him off to a cell lacking such comforts as Internet access.

But Assange isn't the water.

Another member of WikiLeaks would post, likely with a vengeance.

And if a special ops team tracked her to a WiFi-equipped coffee bar in Iceland and spirited her off, she would probably have a battalion of lawyers by the end of the day, an ongoing trial at the end of three years, and a book deal, thus rallying thousands more to WikiLeaks's aid. And for good reason: She isn't necessarily culpable. WikiLeaks is merely the faucet. The water is the PFC Bradley Mannings and other government employees who signed nondisclosure agreements before gaining clearance to classified documents.

So how do we turn them off?

As one of my intelligence community sources says, we need to eliminate MICE. By that he means Money, Ideology, Compromise, Ego, the common denominators of all leaks. In other words, leaks will persist as long as human nature does.

A counter to the above carrots may be a swift and public stick so that potential leakers think twice, or a hundred times. In interfering with military operations and supporting America's enemies during wartime, they may be in violation of the Espionage Act, which is punishable by "by death or by imprisonment for any term of years or for life."

Such cases have been almost nonexistent. Notably, in 1985, naval intelligence officer Samuel Loring Morison was prosecuted under the Espionage Act for leaking satellite imagery of a Soviet nuclear powered aircraft carrier. He received a two-year prison sentence. In 1998, Senator Daniel Moynihan called the case an anomaly, adding, "What is remarkable is not the crime but that he is the only one convicted of an activity which has become a routine aspect of government life: leaking information to the press in order to bring pressure to bear on a policy question." In 2001, President Clinton pardoned Morison. President Obama may decide that leaks in the digital era imperil more than policy.

Returning to the leaky faucet, next advises an examination of the parts. At the least, it looks like SIPRNet--the Department of Defense classified information transmission system accessed by Manning--could stand the electronic equivalent of a new washer.