I know a lot of you with .gov and .mil addresses have been warned to stay far, far away from the Wikileaks material. I am going to spend a lot of time over the next few weeks going through the cables carefully, pulling out the things that I think are most interesting. So, even if you can’t wade through all the nitty gritty stuff yourself, I will do my best to pick out the nuggets of gold.
My overall reaction is that the cables are quite exculpatory.
Although Wikileaks claims the cache of purloined cables “reveals the contradictions between the US’s public persona and what it says behind closed doors,” I am not so sure. Indeed, what I am struck by is how close the agreement is between what the United States says in public and in private. Sure, cables are candid — such as when speculating on Muammar al-Qadhafi’s fondness for a certain “voluptuous blonde” — but certainly not scandalously so. To put it another way, I can’t imagine another government that could suffer 250,000 prejudicially chosen cables being posted on the internet and come off looking more sober, professional and pragmatic.
Really, the State Department can hold its head up high.
I also want to highly recommend Steven Aftergood’s essay, The Race to Fix the Classification System, which does much better than Wikileaks in stating the real implication of these documents and what that ought to mean for a sensible public policy that is concerned with both transparency and the protection of genuinely sensitive national security information:
The Wikileaks project seems to be, more than anything else, an assault on secrecy. If Wikileaks were most concerned about whistleblowing, it would focus on revealing corruption. If it were concerned with historical truth, it would emphasize the discovery of verifiably true facts. If it were anti-war, it would safeguard, not disrupt, the conduct of diplomatic communications. But instead, what Wikileaks has done is to publish a vast potpourri of records — dazzling, revelatory, true, questionable, embarrassing, or routine — whose only common feature is that they are classified or otherwise restricted.