You can’t have missed the furor surrounding Wikileaks’ publishing of security cables. The thing is, do we – the public – benefit from this? Yes, there may be a certain amount of justification and interest around the close relationship and extravagant gifts exchanged between Putin and Berlusconi, but how is it of benefit to publicise the fact that Arab leaders are privately urging an air strike on Iran? In such a volatile environment, is transparency always preferable? For security and intelligence services, where do you draw the line between disclosure and the need for confidentiality? Do we believe that every element of government should be conducted in public view?
Wikileaks has made the cables available to the Guardian and four other news organisations: the New York Times, Der Spiegel in Germany, Le Monde in France and El País in Spain. All five plan to publish extracts from the most significant cables, but have decided neither to dump the entire dataset into the public domain, nor to “publish names that would endanger innocent individuals”. WikiLeaks also says it also initially intends to post only limited cable extracts, and to redact identities. Thing is, are any of these organizations qualified to assess what will or will not trigger reaction or endanger individuals/groups/economies? What is their basis for assessment and judgement? Will all media conform to the same restrictions?
- The cables show the extent of US spying on its allies and the UN; turning a blind eye to corruption and human rights abuse in “client states”; backroom deals with supposedly neutral countries; lobbying for US corporations; and the measures US diplomats take to advance those who have access to them
- This document release reveals the contradictions between the US’s public persona and what it says behind closed doors – and shows that if citizens in a democracy want their governments to reflect their wishes, they should ask to see what’s going on behind the scenes.
- Every American schoolchild is taught that George Washington – the country’s first President – could not tell a lie. If the administrations of his successors lived up to the same principle, today’s document flood would be a mere embarrassment. Instead, the US Government has been warning governments — even the most corrupt — around the world about the coming leaks and is bracing itself for the exposures.[Wikileaks]
So the US does work behind closed-doors that contradicts public policy. Is this unique to the US or is it activity that’s mirrored by governments world-wide? The fact that this is US only means, to a certain extent, we’re listening to one side of a phone call, hearing one opinion. Would it have been safer if Wikileaks put out similar missives gleaned from UK, Chinese, French, Italian, Russian and Indian embassies? Would we have seen vastly different practices?
Personally, I don’t agree with the leak. Maybe I’m paranoid, but I still believe there’s a need for confidentiality and breaching it here has the potential to unsettle far more than US diplomatic communications processes.
You can read the Guardian splash, here, if you haven’t already.