Hardly a day passes without some news about the latest development or commentary upon the affair of the leaked US diplomatic cables. It’s the more surprising that I haven’t seen anyone asking one important question yet.
I don’t mean the importance of the leaked ‘information’, although that is an interesting aspect as well. Having a look at the items highlighted by the BBC, in more than half the cases the saying ‘surprise, surprise’ comes to mind. “Berlusconi admires Putin’s macho, decisive, and authoritarian governing style, which the Italian PM believes matches his own.”. “The UK has deep concerns about the safety and security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons.” “Gadaffi has been described as both mercurial and eccentric, and our recent first-hand experiences with him demonstrated the truth of both characterisations.” You hadn’t read this a thousand times in the media before those leaks?
What I have in mind, however, is how nobody seems to question the reliability of the leaks. “A terrible by-election defeat in Scotland has left the Labour Party reeling and fuelled fears among MPs that Brown’s premiership may now be beyond repair.” And? Being a US diplomat makes your opinion about the Labour more worthy than if you were, say, a top UK political newspaperman? “China was becoming frustrated with North Korea’s behaviour and was coming round to the view that the Korean peninsula should be reunified under Seoul’s control in the long term.” A leak to that effect from China or the CIA might arguably be worth something, but from a US ambassador?
Yet more importantly: what makes people think that just because a cable is classified its writer must have been telling their mind? No, I’m not Ahmadinejad to imply some Wag the Dog-like cospiracy here. But if Assenge and his team had simply hacked all those documents, do you take it for granted they are publishing them indiscriminately, unedited? If they came into their possession through some ‘sources’, do you really think those sources didn’t just hand in what they saw fit?
It reminds one of the uncritical acceptance of the Communist secret police forces’ files afer the ’89 overthrow. Why should those people, so good in lying to the public, always tell the truth to each other? It reminds me of the time when I worked at the construction of a nuclear power station and one green organization published some ‘shocking leaks’ about that. I could have supplied them with much more shocking documents, but why should I have? So they could, lacking inside knowledge as they were, misinterpret them as monumentally as the documents they did get?
In other words, it may well be that the diplomatic world was taught a lesson about secrecy in the age of the Internet. It may well be that Assenge did rape somebody and it may well be that this is just a slur, a counter-move like freezing his Swiss bank accounts. (On the other hand I can quite understand Amazon rejecting Wikileaks hosting. They’re a business, not a charity. Why should they risk a cyber attack for such a fishy affair?) But don’t kid yourself into thinking that thanks to some leaks, Internet or otherwise, you’ll ever know what’s really going on in high places.
Or have you solved the JFK assassination mystery already?