Sunday, November 28, 2010

Wikileaks: Secret U.S. embassy cables will reveal spying, backroom deals

Wikileaks has released 220 of 251,287 State Department cables so far. I skimmed through the documents - located here - and didn't see any that originated in Havana. But in the coming weeks and months, they will find their way onto the Wikileaks website and many others.
I am intrigued by this huge release of documents, which includes secret and classified material. I am interested in what goes on behind the scenes. Many of these documents, no doubt, have great value for scholars and journalists trying to understand momentous events in history.
At the same time, I believe some secrets are justified, and I sympathize with American officials who are now going to have a harder time protecting national interests.
This leak may help promote greater transparency and honesty in government. At the same time, it could endanger American lives and that is tragic.
The release of these documents will also cost U.S. taxpayers millions of dollars, I suspect, as the federal government scrambles to mend fences with offended parties around the world and boost security procedures to try to prevent future leaks.
Wikileaks said it has released information relating to 100 countries over the past four years, and there have been no reports that the information has caused harm to anyone.
The website also says it asked the State Department to point out any cables that might cause harm. Wikileaks said:
As part of the review process, we requested the US State Department, which has claimed to have conducted an extensive review of the material of its own over the last few months, to provide the titles of the cables which we should look at with extra care.
The State Department refused to provide that information, or negotiate any other arrangement, suggesting that its desire to cover up at all costs eclipses its bona fide desire to minimise potential harm.
In announcing the release, Wikileaks said:
The cables, which date from 1966 up until the end of February this year, contain confidential communications between 274 embassies in countries throughout the world and the State Department in Washington DC. 15,652 of the cables are classified Secret.
The embassy cables will be released in stages over the next few months. The subject matter of these cables is of such importance, and the geographical spread so broad, that to do otherwise would not do this material justice.
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.
Photo credit: PressTV

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