The Wikileaks incident

Discussion in 'Archive: The Senate Floor' started by Gonk, Nov 29, 2010.

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  1. Gonk Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 8, 1998
    star 6
    I'm sure you're all aware of the Wikileaks incident, coming on the heels of Wikileaks releases concerning the Iraq War and Afghanistan early this year.

    This is a thread for anyone to voice thier opinion on these releases.

    Since I'm supposed to offer my own opinion as OP, my opinion follows:

    The Wikileaks releases have damaged, in my opinion, the value of the whistle-blower. Many do not accept that whistle-blowers have any place in the structure of society, but I think the Nixon administration runs counter to that example. However I think the WikiLeaks releases are making it harder for leaks of real value to take place, and are in effect causing a turn against whistle-blowers for the price of information that with few exceptions is almost complately invaluable, and in fact in the sum of the latest release, seems to have aided the American position in the long term rather than hurting it.

    I did not mind as much the original Wikileak release on Iraq since it did reveal at least one important turn of information, that the US military was not being forthcoming with the amounts of civilian casualties in Iraq. That a proper and acknowledged amount of causualties can be ascertained for that conflict is information I deem important.

    Beyond that however, the Wikileaks information has largely been a lot of banal detail as far as I have seen. For the price of finding opinions on world leaders and other needless drudgery, a possible avenue of press release is being shut down that could be of REAL USE to society at some point in the future. Instead wikileaks appears to be committed to releasing pointless information at the cost of possible American security and positioning in the world. This information is doing little to save lives and is giving little information on goverment misdeeds: were this detailing the abuse of power at Abu Gharib, perhaps then we could argue as to the worth of these leaks. But these leaks are not really documenting government misdeeds, corruption or meglomania: they don't seem to be about much of anything in particular. Most of them are to the effect of saying if someone takes 2 cream and sugar in thier coffee.

    In fact it seems the greatest losers of this information is not the US, but governments in the Arab world, chiefly Suadi Arabia. It's exposed things that served US interests to keep secret, but now that released perhaps if anything makes the US position easier for others to understand and that many govenrments in the region beyond Israel are letting the US work as thier mouthpiece.

    In my opinion 90% of these leakes don't seem to be about anything of value, and seem to be released to just concide with an idealistic mission statement from Wikileaks, to just expose information they are given regardless of the content. Had they sat on 95% of this information it doesn't seem the world would be much worse off, and in fact they now risk getting shut down when thier services could have been useful to expose actual government misdeeds at some later date.
  2. DarthIktomi Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    May 11, 2009
    star 4
    On the one hand, I think of reasons you wouldn't want classified information out. On the other, I can't help but think of anything that went against Bush's agenda, even if it weren't even tangentially related to national security, being "a matter of national security".
  3. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    If the press really did its job, then WikiLeaks wouldn't be necessary. But most journalists are horribly lazy, very few have ever done the slightest bit of real investigative reporting. WikiLeaks also seems to be learning from the controversy it has created by partnering with news organizations that, once these cables were dropped into their laps, have behaved I think responsibly in redacting and withholding some of the more sensitive information.

    Successful whistleblowing has always and will always drive up the cost of whistleblowing for the next guy. No doubt the U.S. has since brought a whole new level of security down on top of its communication channels since Bradley Manning's arrest.

    And if the U.S. state department and the military aren't using constantly evolving, state-of-the art data security techniques, then we pretty much deserve to be robbed of our secrets by a pfc with a flash drive.
  4. Gonk Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 8, 1998
    star 6
    Successful whistleblowing has always and will always drive up the cost of whistleblowing for the next guy. No doubt the U.S. has since brought a whole new level of security down on top of its communication channels since Bradley Manning's arrest.

    Which is why i think whistleblowing should be reserved for major issues. Most of this stuff... it just seems to be making things harder for the next person with very little to show for it. Most of this is embarrasing but nothing that's about to be used as evidence in any trials of ethical breach, buch less war crimes trials or other similar situations. And in fact the biggest embarrasment for the US... although maybe the news organizations have not reported much on the gravest American revelations... seems to be that the documents were released at all and it looks like thier internal security is the pitts. The biggest embarrasment seems to be the Saudi government, which is trying to save face on the Muslim street and appear as if it's the US pushing them around, rather than they being just as much if not more concerned than the US itself as to the rise of Iran and other issues across the Middle East.
  5. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    Taken as a whole, increasing public understanding of the diplomatic process is incredibly important. To a large extent, democracy and diplomacy are mutually contradictory activities. Diplomacy is something that takes place almost completely separate from a given nation's form of government. China and Saudi Arabia and the U.S. aren't all that different in the way they conduct diplomacy even if their governments are radically different from each other.

    Take this new NYT article based on the diplomatic cable archive:

    Around the World, Distress Over Iran.

    This is amazing information of vast international public and historical importance. It helps everyone I think to understand underlying motives of diplomacy. And I think it shows how whistleblowing is useful even if the behavior it exposes isn't wrong. Maybe whistleblowing is the wrong word for this. A renegade facilitating transparency about a hidden process, what do we call this, besides treason?
  6. DarthBoba Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jun 29, 2000
    star 9
    Sure, it gives a good demonstration of how diplomacy works. But diplomatic cables are secret because they need to be-governments require confidentiality in their day to day workings even more than individuals do, as governments represent and are supposed to serve and protect large groups of people. A government that cannot keep secrets is potentially endangering the people it represents, particularly in relation to something as serious as a regional enemy (which Iran is to virtually every government in the region) possessing an advantage as potentially unbalancing as nuclear weapons.

  7. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    Der Spiegel is one of the WikiLeaks media partners. They've created an interesting Atlas of the the U.S. Diplomatic Cables.

    I'm sure it's frustrating for the State Department. No doubt they spend millions of dollars annually to protect from cybersecurity threats. No doubt they give people like pfc bradley extensive background checks to minimize the risk of someone spying for a foreign government. And then they were blindsided by something like this.

  8. SuperWatto Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Sep 19, 2000
    star 5
    Any news that's true is good to know.

    Iranian missiles can reach Western Europe.
  9. Espaldapalabras Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Aug 25, 2005
    star 5
    This is a disaster, and the best description I've heard was roughtly "vandalism masquerading as journalism."

    This is a disaster for both the American government and the American people. If anything it confirms my belief that 99% of what the government keeps secret it has very good reasons for doing so.

    By far the greatest failure this demonstrates is just how inempt and messed up our intelligence service is. There was no way 3 million people needed access to all this information. We need a highly trained and connected group of intelligence officers, not a mob of junior Army officers.
  10. Kimball_Kinnison Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 28, 2001
    star 6
    The tragedy of WikiLeaks is that they started with such potential, but have chosen to squander it through their behavior. Initially, WikiLeaks was designed to give a means for political dissidents to release information about despotic regimes with complete anonymity. If they had kept to that vision, there wouldn't be a very big problem.

    Unfortunately, they couldn't support themselves (by getting donations) without shifting that focus. Instead of targeting despotic regimes that actively suppress dissidents, their biggest leaks have targeted the US, which is hardly a despotic regime nor does it suppress dissidents.

    Why? The answer to that question is pretty clear from WikiLeaks' behavior last December. They announced that they were low on funds and would not be able to resume operations without significant donations. They were essentially shut down from December 2009 until May 2010. By releasing material that targets the US, they are able to tap into significant new sources of publicity and funding that they would otherwise not be able to access.

    For the most part, I would say that WikiLeaks has been incredibly irresponsible about how and where they focus their efforts. It seems to me that their only criteria for publishing documents is "does someone want to keep this private", with no consideration of why someone wants to keep it private. There are legitimate reasons to keep documents private, ranging from national security issues (including diplomatic communications) to personal privacy (names, addresses, financial information, etc). It can be quite harmful to many different people, and they seem to have a reckless regard for that harm.

    Most of all, they seem quite hypocritical. They think nothing about violating any and all bounds of privacy in the name of "leaking" information, and yet they very jealously protect the privacy and finances of WikiLeaks itself as an organization. How do you think that they would react if all of their private communications were leaked to the press? Why, then, do they feel that they have a right to leak other organizations' (both public and private) private documents and communications?

    Kimball Kinnison
  11. Gonk Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 8, 1998
    star 6
    Sure, it gives a good demonstration of how diplomacy works. But diplomatic cables are secret because they need to be-governments require confidentiality in their day to day workings even more than individuals do, as governments represent and are supposed to serve and protect large groups of people. A government that cannot keep secrets is potentially endangering the people it represents, particularly in relation to something as serious as a regional enemy (which Iran is to virtually every government in the region) possessing an advantage as potentially unbalancing as nuclear weapons.

    Agreed. Now that it's done and it doesn't really matter, I'm all for Poli Sci. departments around the world to delve into the wikileaks releases to help improve thier curriculums. But in terms of what the cost might be here, I think those are improvements we could have done without.

    Maybe if we were dealing with a populace that took it upon itself to be informed and pay attention to these matters, this might hold more traction. Although I think DarthBoba's post would still hold sway even if that were the case. As it is they don't, so even there I think this demonstration will pass most people by.

    IMO the place of the whistle-blower... if this is indeed what we are discussing... is to reveal behavior as undertaken by the state that runs counter to the rule of law. Although I recognize there are times when the state may have to act outside the rule of law in order to preserve the greater good, the balance of recognizing that fact is that it is part of the greater good that those very people be exposed by whistle-blowers, after the fact, regardless of intention. Because there is such inherent danger of the state going beyond the rule of law when it is NOT in the interests of the greater good and instead merely the interests of an elite few, the whistle-blower's position must be recognized as essential in exposing the deeds of the Nixons and Roosevelts alike: the only difference being that hopfully the actions of the whistle-blower will come PRIOR to Nixon's watergate scandal and AFTER whatever Roosevelt might have approved in WWII (I guess, as V puts it in "V for Vendetta": 'Away with our destroyers; we have no need of them in our better world'). The rule of law should only be superceeded by the survival of the state, not the reputation of any one man.

    But that said, it's just as irking to see the that position of whistle-blower bounced around when the information at hand is not an example of the state going beyond the rule of law, or humanitarian concerns are not in question. Again, the only thing that's come close here is the revelation of some of the Iraqi casualties, and that revelation came around spring of this year. that the government is not being forthcoming to absolutely everything should not be the concern of a whilstle-blower if the aim isn't of dire consequence (i.e: trying to start a war). If the nation in question is acting in what might be described as good faith, then the whistle-blowing makes it harder for when the need truly is dire.

    Iranian missiles can reach Western Europe.

    Wasn't that already known in the public sphere?
  12. DarthBoba Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jun 29, 2000
    star 9
    Additionally, this compromises our standing with people we absolutely need to side with us to get anything accomplished. You think Russia and China will be giving us any more help after having the fact that they basically switched sides after receiving oil-supply guarantees become public? Probably not; at best, they'll not interfere from this point forward. Russia and China have frequently been the deciding factor in the Security Council, for obvious reasons.

    This also damages relations with Saudi Arabia and the rest of the ME. If they think our lines of communication are easily compromised-and frankly, they have been-they'll be considerably less likely to communicate fully with us in the future. This is dangerous, to put it mildly. A great example of this is the current fracas with the Koreas-it's becoming increasingly obvious that the United States is basically the only reason South Korea hasn't already gone to war, and that's predominantly because they know they can rely on us and can trust us to keep things that you may not want other people knowing a secret.

    This is no longer the case for anyone in the Middle East. Our communications with them have become public knowledge and this is not an acceptable fact in world governance for reasons I've already explained.
  13. SuperWatto Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Sep 19, 2000
    star 5
    I'd still like to see someone make the case that diminished American regional influence - which, it sounds like, is what most here fear - is necessarily bad for the world.
  14. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    I'd argue that the global public needs to be much more aware than it already is of just how much energy policy drives the diplomacy of states, that China's insatiable demand for energy in a world of increasingly limited supplies means that our nations share the same Achilles heel.

    But anyway, I understand the points everyone has made, but I still can't help being glad that all this information has been made public and that laypeople who care now have a means of being better informed about U.S. foreign policy than they have ever been before.

    Nothing new has happened here, and this will happen again after WikiLeaks is gone. WikiLeaks is insignificant, it's just a metaphor for the ease of broadcasting private and secret information in a globally networked digital age. No company or institution is ever going to be entirely safe from a disgruntled or outraged insider willing to take information and publish it rather than sell it to a foreign intelligence agency. In cases like these, the person who takes the information is treated like a spy, and I don't have a problem with that. Some people are not going to be deterred by the penalty they will have to pay.
  15. DarthBoba Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jun 29, 2000
    star 9
    Go read the article linked to a few posts up. It specifically states that American influence is the only reason Iran wasn't struck militarily in 2008, and that the United States is the lead nation in the sanctions imposed against Iran. It's not "the USA and Israel are ganging up on Iran!!"; it's "the entire region is freaked out by Iran and want to do something"

    The Arab countries are not friendly to Iran, and vice-versa; to counter an Iranian nuclear influence they either need to a) develop their own or b) have a friend with a nuclear arsenal to begin with. Israel is not a viable option; Europe doesn't use it's own nuclear weapons in that manner. The US does.

    It's not just a "loss of regional influence" for the USA, either-it has the general potential to diminish governments globally, for obvious reasons.

    Governments need to be able to communicate secretly.
  16. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    Everyone's talking about the potential cost, but what about potential geopolitical benefits of the leaks?

    Iran has already reacted to the leaked cables
    - it isn't happy about an international public outing of how much their nation is disliked by so much of the Muslim world. Does it help or hurt or in any way affect the political process over Iran's nuclear program if they know just how incessant the calls for military action have been? Not that this would be a huge surprise to them. "Everyone wants you dead" isn't going to be big news to Ahmadinejad, but maybe knowing that "everyone" actually includes everyone does make a difference.
  17. Mr44 VIP

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2002
    star 6
    Yeah, if anything, the Wikileaks info illustrates just how complex international relations are, but I think the nuance is certainly lost because of how Wikileaks handled it.

    As has already beed posted, this information certainly highlights the strengths and weaknesses of numerous nations. The US is the idealistic nation. Quite a few other countries are two-faced and manipulative, happy to be out of the spotlight. It's funny, but some of this information mirrors discussions that we've had in the forum for years now-particularly with the US's place in the post-cold war era, and how everyone complains about the US and/or publically criticizes it's involvement in everything, but then turns around and is happy to have the US bear the brunt of any decisions. So really, the Senate forum is just that forward thinking....

    There's nothing really shocking here, except for the fact that it's all in print. It's the diplomatic equivilent of reading a document that outlined that yes, Lindsay Lohan does have a drug problem.
  18. DarthIktomi Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    May 11, 2009
    star 4
    What I'm surprised about is that the idea that we use diplomats as spies is a secret. Every country does, in Ronald Reagan's words, "Trust, but verify." The whole world knows about Valerie Plame, thanks to Scooter Libby.
  19. JediSmuggler Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 5, 1999
    star 5
    Actually, Armitage was the source for Novak, not Libby.
  20. Gonk Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 8, 1998
    star 6
    Ok, the timing of this is a bit too convenient, if you ask me:

    http://www.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/europe/12/01/sweden.interpol.assange/index.html?hpt=T1

    For some reason, I sense the hand of Clinton in this.
  21. Kimball_Kinnison Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 28, 2001
    star 6
    Actually, the sex-related charges have been in the works since at least August. More recently, after Assange refused to return to Sweden for further questioning, Sweden issued an arrest warrant for him. As it was known that he had left the country, then then applied for Interpol to issue a warrant as part of their standard procedure.

    There's really no need to suggest any sort of conspiracy (i.e. pressure from the US) when standard practices already explain the behavior.

    Kimball Kinnison
  22. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    The guy is a megalomaniac and a creep and quite possibly a criminal, but as they say, just because he's paranoid doesn't mean everyone isn't out to get him, and that would seem doubly true for a person like him. His stories of having laptops stolen and so on ring true to me. There's no doubt in my mind that he's being watched by absolutely everyone and I would not be surprised one bit if he is the target of special government-sanctioned harassment by perhaps more than one government.
  23. Gonk Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 8, 1998
    star 6
    Actually, the sex-related charges have been in the works since at least August. More recently, after Assange refused to return to Sweden for further questioning, Sweden issued an arrest warrant for him. As it was known that he had left the country, then then applied for Interpol to issue a warrant as part of their standard procedure.

    There's really no need to suggest any sort of conspiracy (i.e. pressure from the US) when standard practices already explain the behavior.


    I don't agree with what this guys doing even if his background was clean. But the timing just appears all-too convenient. On the other hand, I suppose, anyone acting against him would have probably thought that's exactly how it would look. Regardless though, it feels like a very Richard Nixon sort of situation.

    However KK, if you like, if there are figures or names that are drawing my suspicion on this, this time they're all Democrats. :p
  24. yankee8255 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 31, 2005
    star 6
    It's particularly interesting that an organization ostensibly dedicated to transparency has an incredibly secretive organizational/ownership structure.
  25. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    Yankee, I don't even know if WikiLeaks qualifies as an "organization" anymore. Assange has driven pretty much everyone else involved with it out. In any event, I don't think "WikiLeaks" as a concept will go away even if Assange ends up dead or in prison for life.

    A lone disgruntled government employee can become a global celebrity by net publishing secret information. Human error and human nature pretty much ensure that governments will never be entirely safe from this kind of disclosure. Hopefully, as Gonk pointed out, it will serve a higher purpose in most cases than just embarrassing the government in question. I think in this case, punishing the U.S. just for being itself was the whole point of the betrayal.
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