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Debate: WikiLeaks release of US diplomatic cables

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*'''Wikileaks release is an assault on global democracy.''' Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini recently stated that the WikiLeaks release could be considered the "September 11 of world democracy."[http://www.metrolic.com/wikileaks-starts-publishing-us-cables-us-considering-legal-action-149906/] *'''Wikileaks release is an assault on global democracy.''' Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini recently stated that the WikiLeaks release could be considered the "September 11 of world democracy."[http://www.metrolic.com/wikileaks-starts-publishing-us-cables-us-considering-legal-action-149906/]
 +:US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the Wikileaks disclosures "an attack on the international community."[http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2010/12/the-shameful-attacks-on-julian-assange/67440/]
*'''Wikileaks release undermines trust and, thus, diplomacy.''' [http://www.metrolic.com/wikileaks-starts-publishing-us-cables-us-considering-legal-action-149906/ "WikiLeaks Starts Publishing US Cables, US Considering Legal Action." Metrolic. November 29th, 2010]: "For short, they all agree that it wasn’t a good idea for Wikileaks to make public some very important documents that could seriously contribute to hostile relationships between the US and a lot of countries worldwide. The key ingredient to all relationships is trust. With the release of the cables you could say that the trust that’s essential to diplomacy has been broken. As Rep. Peter Hoekstra of Michigan mentioned, shortly after describing the release as very damaging, a lot of countries, whether US allies or enemies, might ask themselves “Can the United States be trusted?” and might wonder if the country can keep a secret. Apparently it can’t since its top secret documents are readily available on the web, for anyone to read. There is a lot more that can be said regarding the US cables that just became available through WikiLeaks and we’ll probably be back with fresh reports." *'''Wikileaks release undermines trust and, thus, diplomacy.''' [http://www.metrolic.com/wikileaks-starts-publishing-us-cables-us-considering-legal-action-149906/ "WikiLeaks Starts Publishing US Cables, US Considering Legal Action." Metrolic. November 29th, 2010]: "For short, they all agree that it wasn’t a good idea for Wikileaks to make public some very important documents that could seriously contribute to hostile relationships between the US and a lot of countries worldwide. The key ingredient to all relationships is trust. With the release of the cables you could say that the trust that’s essential to diplomacy has been broken. As Rep. Peter Hoekstra of Michigan mentioned, shortly after describing the release as very damaging, a lot of countries, whether US allies or enemies, might ask themselves “Can the United States be trusted?” and might wonder if the country can keep a secret. Apparently it can’t since its top secret documents are readily available on the web, for anyone to read. There is a lot more that can be said regarding the US cables that just became available through WikiLeaks and we’ll probably be back with fresh reports."

Revision as of 03:17, 7 December 2010

Background and context

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Pro

  • Lying diplomatic cables needed to be shaken up. Kristinn Hrafnsson, Wikileaks spokesperson: "If global stability is based on deception and lies, maybe it needs a bit of a shaking up."[1]
  • Transparency is a valuable part of democracy. Kristinn Hrafnsson, Wikileaks spokesperson: "We believe that transparency is the basis of healthy democracy. It is one of the foundations of what we base our operation on. A world without secrets is a better world."[2]
  • Wikileaks release serves public interest of revealing US policy. The New York Times: "the documents serve an important public interest, illuminating the goals, successes, compromises and frustrations of American diplomacy in a way that other accounts cannot match."[3]
The documents "illuminate American policy in a way that Americans and others deserve to see"[4]
David Samuels. "The Shameful Attacks on Julian Assange." The Atlantic. December 3rd, 2010: "Julian Assange and Pfc Bradley Manning have done a huge public service by making hundreds of thousands of classified U.S. government documents available on Wikileaks"


  • Cables show (can counter) US spying, missteps, and corruption. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said in a November 2010 statement: "The cables show the U.S. spying on its allies and the U.N.; turning a blind eye to corruption and human rights abuse in 'client states'; backroom deals with supposedly neutral countries and lobbying for U.S. corporations."[5]
  • Cables reveal contradiction b/w US public and private statements. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said in a November 2010 statement: "reveals the contradictions between the U.S.'s public persona and what it says behind closed doors."[6]
  • Releasing cables crosses an unwritten diplomatic line. Associated Press writer Dan Perry, reporting from Jerusalem, wrote: "The torrent of condemnation heaped on WikiLeaks from around the globe suggest a widespread sense ... that in releasing U.S. diplomatic documents the group crossed a dangerous line."[7]
  • Legal for WikiLeaks to post diplomatic cables. "WikiLeaks' posting of diplomatic cables does more harm than good." TDN.com. December 6th, 2010: "But the person or organization receiving and publishing the documents would seem to be in the clear. The First Amendment prevents the government from telling media outlets what they can and can't publish. The Supreme Court confirmed that constitutional protection against censorship prior to publication almost 40 years ago, when it sided with The New York Times' and Washington Post's right to publish the so-called Pentagon Papers that detailed some embarrassing government lies regarding the Vietnam war. Daniel Ellsberg, who provided the papers to the newspapers, had legal difficulty. But not the newspapers that published them."
  • WikiLeaks only confirm what we already know about Iran-US. Susan Fayazmanesh. "The leaks of WikiLeaks: Revelations that were not." PayVand. December 6th, 2010: "When it comes to Iran, the US State Department cables, released by WikiLeaks, are important in so far as they confirm what we already know. They are also tantalizing if one likes gossip or is interested in the "he said/she said" aspect of these cables. But, as far as substance is concerned, there is hardly anything in these documents that one can consider to be a revelation. Much of what appears in the news media as sensational stories concerning US-Iran relations, presumably revealed by WikiLeaks, were readily available online through major electronic news sources. It is in the nature of corporate news media to make a mountain out of a molehill, to make sensational what is old news. The more sensational the news, the more profit they can make."


Con

  • Wikileaks release is an assault on global democracy. Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini recently stated that the WikiLeaks release could be considered the "September 11 of world democracy."[8]
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the Wikileaks disclosures "an attack on the international community."[9]
  • Wikileaks release undermines trust and, thus, diplomacy. "WikiLeaks Starts Publishing US Cables, US Considering Legal Action." Metrolic. November 29th, 2010: "For short, they all agree that it wasn’t a good idea for Wikileaks to make public some very important documents that could seriously contribute to hostile relationships between the US and a lot of countries worldwide. The key ingredient to all relationships is trust. With the release of the cables you could say that the trust that’s essential to diplomacy has been broken. As Rep. Peter Hoekstra of Michigan mentioned, shortly after describing the release as very damaging, a lot of countries, whether US allies or enemies, might ask themselves “Can the United States be trusted?” and might wonder if the country can keep a secret. Apparently it can’t since its top secret documents are readily available on the web, for anyone to read. There is a lot more that can be said regarding the US cables that just became available through WikiLeaks and we’ll probably be back with fresh reports."
  • IR depends on frank and private conversations within govts. Cameron Munter, U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan. "Wikileaks - the U.S.-Pakistan Relationship." US Embassy in Pakistan. November 29th, 2010: "United States deeply regrets the disclosure of any information that was intended to be confidential. And we condemn it. Diplomats must engage in frank discussions with their colleagues, and they must be assured that these discussions will remain private. Honest dialogue-within governments and between them-is part of the basic bargain of international relations; we couldn't maintain peace, security, and international stability without it. I'm sure that Pakistan's ambassadors to the United States would say the same thing. They too depend on being able to exchange honest opinions with their counterparts in Washington and send home their assessments of America's leaders, policies, and actions."
  • Private reports do not represent official US policy. Cameron Munter, U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan. "Wikileaks - the U.S.-Pakistan Relationship." US Embassy in Pakistan. November 29th, 2010: "I do believe that people of good faith recognize that diplomats' internal reports do not represent a government's official foreign policy. In the United States, they are one element out of many that shape our policies, which are ultimately set by the President and the Secretary of State. And those policies are a matter of public record, the subject of thousands of pages of speeches, statements, white papers, and other documents that the State Department makes freely available online and elsewhere."
  • Wikileaks has exposed information that can get people killed. "WikiLeaks' posting of diplomatic cables does more harm than good." TDN.com. December 6th, 2010: "If not criminal, WikiLeaks' action was irresponsible to the extreme. But that's in line with many of the organization's previous postings. New York Times columnist David Brooks observes in a recent column that WikiLeaks has published the Social Security numbers of U.S. soldiers. The organization also has published details about a device the U.S. Army developed to help neutralize roadside bombs. That's the sort of information that, if made public, can get people killed. Former President Bill Clinton believes the publication of these sensitive diplomatic documents also could have tragic consequences. In a speech last week at Guilford College in Greensboro, N.C., Clinton said, "I'll be very surprised if some people don't lose their lives. And goodness knows how many will lose their careers."
  • Transparency is important, but not in the case of diplomacy. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: "Transparency is fundamental in our society and its usually essential — but there are a few areas, including diplomacy, where it isn't essential."[11]


Infrastructure: Was the exposure of critical infrastructure justified?

Pro

  • WikiLeaks' critical infrastructure releases revealed nothing important. Steve Aftergood, director of the Federation of American Scientists’ Project on Government Secrecy, told Threat Level in December of 2010: “My own opinion is that there’s no shortage of potential targets that hostile actors might find interesting, and they don’t need a State Department list to assist them. The good news is it’s hard to read. Talk about security through obscurity … this is one boring memo. You have to be really committed to get through this."[12]



Con

  • WikiLeaks wrongly exposed critical infrastructure. Philip Crowley, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State, told the Financial Times: "There are strong and valid reasons information is classified, including critical infrastructure and key resources that are vital to the national and economic security of any country. Julian Assange may be directing his efforts at the United States, but he is placing the interests of many countries and regions at risk. This is irresponsible."[13]



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