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Debate: WikiLeaks release of US diplomatic cables

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*'''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."[http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/wikileaks-defends-release-of-secret-u-s-cables-as-perfectly-legal-1.328280] *'''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."[http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/wikileaks-defends-release-of-secret-u-s-cables-as-perfectly-legal-1.328280]
-*'''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."[http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/wikileaks-defends-release-of-secret-u-s-cables-as-perfectly-legal-1.328280]+*'''WikiLeaks aids transparency and accountability.''' 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."[http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/wikileaks-defends-release-of-secret-u-s-cables-as-perfectly-legal-1.328280]
 + 
 +:[http://www.ocregister.com/opinion/government-278744-information-people.html Steven Greenhut. "WikiLeaks no threat to free society." OC Register. December 5th, 2010]: "Clearly, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has done our nation a service by publishing at-times embarrassing accounts of how the U.S. government conducts its foreign policy. This is a government that claims to be of the people, by the people and for the people, and which has grand pretenses about projecting freedom worldwide, yet it wants to be able to keep most of the details of its actions away from the prying eyes of the public."
*'''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."[http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/40401066/ns/us_news-security/] *'''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."[http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/40401066/ns/us_news-security/]

Revision as of 17:26, 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]
  • WikiLeaks aids transparency and accountability. 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]
Steven Greenhut. "WikiLeaks no threat to free society." OC Register. December 5th, 2010: "Clearly, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has done our nation a service by publishing at-times embarrassing accounts of how the U.S. government conducts its foreign policy. This is a government that claims to be of the people, by the people and for the people, and which has grand pretenses about projecting freedom worldwide, yet it wants to be able to keep most of the details of its actions away from the prying eyes of the public."
  • 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."
  • WikiLeaks is doing what traditional journalism should have. Mr Assange told the Sydney Morning Herarld: "How is it that a team of five people has managed to release to the public more suppressed information, at that level, than the rest of the world press combined? It's disgraceful."[8]
  • WikiLeaks helps expose wasteful/equivocal top secret world. David Samuels. "The Shameful Attacks on Julian Assange." The Atlantic. December 3rd, 2010: "The Shameful Attacks on Julian Assange." Dec 3rd, 2010]: "the task of penetrating the secret world that threatens to swallow up informed public discourse in this country about America's wars. The 250,000 cables that Wikileaks published this month represent only a drop in the bucket that holds the estimated 16 million documents that are classified top secret by the federal government every year. According to a three-part investigative series by Dana Priest and William Arkin published earlier this year in The Washington Post, an estimated 854,000 people now hold top secret clearance - more than 1.5 times the population of Washington, D.C. 'The top-secret world the government created in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has become so large, so unwieldy and so secretive,' the Post concluded, 'that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs, how many programs exist within it or exactly how many agencies do the same work.' The result of this classification mania is the division of the public into two distinct groups: those who are privy to the actual conduct of American policy, but are forbidden to write or talk about it, and the uninformed public, which becomes easy prey for the official lies exposed in the Wikileaks documents: The failure of American counterinsurgency programs in Afghanistan, the involvement of China and North Korea in the Iranian nuclear program, the likely failure of attempts to separate Syria from Iran, the involvement of Iran in destabilizing Iraq, the anti-Western orientation of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and other tenets of American foreign policy under both Bush and Obama."
  • WikiLeaks helps journalists do their job. David Samuels. "The Shameful Attacks on Julian Assange." The Atlantic. December 3rd, 2010: "It is a fact of the current media landscape that the chilling effect of threatened legal action routinely stops reporters and editors from pursuing stories that might serve the public interest - and anyone who says otherwise is either ignorant or lying. Every honest reporter and editor in America knows that the fact that most news organizations are broke, combined with the increasing threat of aggressive legal action by deep-pocketed entities, private and public, has made it much harder for good reporters to do their jobs, and ripped a hole in the delicate fabric that holds our democracy together. The idea that Wikileaks is a threat to the traditional practice of reporting misses the point of what Assange and his co-workers have put together - a powerful tool that can help reporters circumvent the legal barriers that are making it hard for them to do their job. Even as he criticizes the evident failures of the mainstream press, Assange insists that Wikileaks should facilitate traditional reporting and analysis. 'We're the step before the first person (investigates),' he explained, when accepting Amnesty International's award for exposing police killings in Kenya. 'Then someone who is familiar with that material needs to step forward to investigate it and put it in political context. Once that is done, then it becomes of public interest.' Wikileaks is a powerful new way for reporters and human rights advocates to leverage global information technology systems to break the heavy veil of government and corporate secrecy that is slowly suffocating the American press."


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."[9]
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the Wikileaks disclosures "an attack on the international community."[10]
  • 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."[12]
  • WikiLeaks release will shift specialized diplomats. Maria Ressa, former head of ABS-CBN News and Current Affairs (NCAD): "The US is going to be moving diplomats around now... The impact is, you have specialists in each region. These specialists have written these cables. Those specialists will have to move since they won't be effective in these posts. You'll have more inexperienced US diplomats in each of the posts they're in now."[13]
  • WikiLeaks release is rooted in anarchist objectives. Editorial in a US newspaper: "like small children playing with fires, fascinated with their own power to destroy, Assange and company are setting the world aflame merely to watch it burn. They are not crusaders for a better society. They are nihilists. They are anarchists. And they are enemies of the United States."[14]
  • WikiLeaks' release is an effort to undermine the US. Daniel W. Drezner. "Why WikiLeaks will be bad for scholarship." Foreign Policy. December 6, 2010: "Assange expects the U.S. government to become more insular and secretive, and therefore contribute to its own downfall. Glenn Greenwald is correct to observe that Assange and Osama bin Laden really do have the same political strategy -- goad the United States into overreacting, expose the U.S. government as an imperial authoritarian power, and then watch the hegemon rot from within."


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."[15]



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."[16]



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