WikiLeaks — the not-for-profit internet media organisation that says its goal is “to bring important news and information to the public” – is in the news again. This time it received over 250,000 diplomatic cables that were pilfered from the US State Department and promised they will be released in stages “over the next few months.” A low-level employee, since in custody, apparently simply brought in a home made music CD, downloaded the files and waltzed out with them.
While no grave secret that actually threatens the security of any state has been released (the cables are being screened by the five news organisations that WikiLeaks released them to in their entirety) the confidential information compiled by US diplomats has caused great discomfiture to politicians in the score of countries that have been examined to date. Corruption and cynicism typifies the “lowdown”. There has been a summary of all countries mentioned (Guyana is purportedly flagged 395 times) and one can only imagine the feeling of dread as the remaining (guilty) politicians wait for their “other foot” to fall.
The US, of course, is most red in the face. Their State Department ordered its diplomats to collect DNA samples and other personal information about foreign leaders – including those at the UN – in violation of the international covenants to which they have signed. Even the phlegmatic U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was moved to confess, “What worries me is the mixing of diplomatic tasks with downright espionage. You cross a border … if diplomats are encouraged to gather personal information about some people.”
The recriminations have been flowing fast and furious: the Saudis are apoplectic that their King’s signal to the US to attack their fellow Muslim state of Iran is in the open. “Cut off the head of the snake,” he coldly advised his American friends. The present Pakistani Chief of Staff of their armed forces evidently had no qualms to reveal that he was considering removing the present elected president of his country. Hillary Clinton questioned the mental health of Argentina’s President, Cristina Kirchner, who is now certain to resume the anti-US rhetoric of her departed husband and last General Secretary of UNASUR, ex-President Nestor Kirchner. Russia has officially protested being described as a “mafia” state.
There were the interesting back-room deals: China agreed to put pressure on Iran (from which it receives most of its oil) over its nuclear program, after the US had the Saudis agreed to supply the Chinese with oil in case of an Iranian cut-off. The US offered money and access to countries to accept Guantanamo’s prisoners. There were even salacious details about Libya’s Gaffadi’s inseparable “voluptuous blonde” Ukrainian nurse, and Italy’s Bercuscolni’s all night risqué partying..
In the meantime, Interpol has placed Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, on its most-wanted list after Sweden issued an arrest warrant against him as part of a drawn-out rape probe — involving allegations Assange has denied. He is now on the run – even as his site, with its cache of, cables is being attacked by hackers to bring it down. Some are asserting that Assange could be prosecuted under the Espionage Act, but here we enter a tricky area. Assange has consistently portrayed himself as a crusading journalist and has received widespread support for his stance to reveal the secrets of how the world actually turns.
And it is to this question that all well-meaning citizens of the world must turn: has WikiLeaks’ mission been positive or negative.
We believe that once lives are not being threatened – and the intermediate news organisations have taken care to prevent the publication of such sensitive names – the leaks ought to be published. It is a mark of the United States’ relative openness as a society that it has been the victim of most leaks – but we know that some in other more secretive and oppressive societies will become emboldened and reveal the dirty underside of governance that in the long run, impoverished all.
On the other hand, the leaks will certainly cause most governments to hunker down and bury their underhandedness even deeper.
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