Wikileaks Isn't Finished Yet
Wednesday, December 8th, 2010
Newsrooms all over the world teemed with activity last week after WikiLeaksi, a non-profit organization that receives and publishes leaked information, began publicly releasing 250,000 confidential cables from the US State Department. The cables expose correspondence between the US and about 270 embassies and consulates around the world.
Most of the leaked information is more embarrassing than anything, like the cableii from late 2008 that refers to the President of Russia as “Robin” to Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin’s “Batman.” Other cables contain similarly unfavorable descriptions of world leaders—Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany, was describediii as someone who “avoids risk and is rarely creative.” In cases like these, the leaks will cause more awkwardness than harm.
But some cables contained less comical information, like the ones that showiv Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States pressuring the US to stop Iran from building nuclear weapons, and actually encouraging military action: the Saudi King told the US governmentv to “cut off the head of the snake” in regards to Iran.
Few people are shocked by the information contained in the cables; if anything, the American public is talking about the fact that these cables got leaked at all. As my friend Jacob said, “Anyone who is surprised by any of the revelations suffers from an incredible naiveté. The only thing surprising is the fact that diplomats actually have a sense of humor.”
He is right to some extent—most of the cables only confirm what had already been speculated in the media. It’d be more appropriate to say the cables have given us greater insight, candidly showing us how government figures communicate when they they think no one is listening.
The founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange—an Australian dedicated to creating transparency in governments—publicized the cables in an attempt to expose and, he hopes, reduce the amount of secrecy in governments.
“We are an organization that tries to make the world more civil and act against abusive organizations that are pushing it in the opposite direction,” he said to Time Magazinevi in an interview on Skype.
The targets of his work, he said, are “organizations that use secrecy to conceal unjust behavior.” Unfortunately for Mr. Assange, his decision to publish a quarter million diplomatic cables is probably going to cause the government to increase security, not reduce secrecy, so something of this scale doesn’t happen again. As Ken Weinstein said, CEO of Hudson Institute and a foreign policy expert, “People are gonna keep their heads down, not put so much in writing anymore.”
Cables are still being publicized daily on WikiLeaks’ website, though some major newspapers were given advanced access to all of them. It’s difficult to say what will happen next. While none of the information seems to be particularly damaging to national security, the fact that it was published at all is certainly unsettling. And while we wait for more information to unfold and for the world to react, relationships between countries, both amiable and hostile, hang in the balance.
Photo Courtesy of Toby Toons
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