Loving Leaks, Questioning Assange

Interviewing a handful of experts about the Wikileaks document dump this morning—a few former State Department employees, an expert in government secrecy, a national security journalist—all agreed that the United States government overclassifies and that this first wave of diplomatic cables contained a number of interesting, though unsurprising, insights. The attitude towards Wikileaks founder Julian Assange was slightly more complicated—most doubted that the Wikileaks founder was interested only in exposing corruption and government malfeasance, for instance. Stay tuned for the forthcoming Reason.tv video featuring the interviews.

But the idea of Wikileaks and greater government transparency should be separated from the vainglorious figure of Julian Assange. There is an emerging consensus amongst the more partisan Wikileak supporters that any criticism of Assange—no matter how much one protests that they support the idea and mission of Wikileaks, just question the group's leadership—must mean that you have a back tattoo of John Bolton or want to turn Kyrgyzstan into a Walmart. But read this New York Times piece and this Mother Jones profile of Assange (and this old column of mine) and you’ll see what I’m getting at.

There are plenty of problems with the way Wikileaks handled the last few batches of material, but the biggest irritant is Assange’s insistence that anyone who questions his methodology is a corporate/government/American/CIA stooge. Take, for example, this forum in today’s Guardian, during which readers submitted questions to Assange. A former British diplomat raises a serious point:

Julian,

I am a former British diplomat. In the course of my former duties I helped to coordinate multilateral action against a brutal regime in the Balkans, impose sanctions on a renegade state threatening ethnic cleansing, and negotiate a debt relief programme for an impoverished nation. None of this would have been possible without the security and secrecy of diplomatic correspondence, and the protection of that correspondence from publication under the laws of the UK and many other liberal and democratic states. An embassy which cannot securely offer advice or pass messages back to London is an embassy which cannot operate. Diplomacy cannot operate without discretion and the protection of sources. This applies to the UK and the UN as much as the US.

In publishing this massive volume of correspondence, Wikileaks is not highlighting specific cases of wrongdoing but undermining the entire process of diplomacy. If you can publish US cables then you can publish UK telegrams and UN emails.

My question to you is: why should we not hold you personally responsible when next an international crisis goes unresolved because diplomats cannot function.

To which Assange replies :

If you trim the vast editorial letter to the singular question actually asked, I would be happy to give it my attention.

So no, I won’t answer your question—because it was preceded by a statement with which I disagree. And this, alas, is one of the big problems with Assange as spokesman of Wikileaks—a problem acknowledged by some of his former comrades. If he’s going to consider (and refer to) himself as a journalist, he should act more like Bob Woodward and less like Sarah Palin. This is not, as some hyperpartisan bloggers insist, a binary issue—you either like Assange and government transparency or you hate leaks and want him assassinated (or put on trial). These leaks are an amazing resource and contain, so far, an enormous amount of fascinating material. Unfortunately, Assange’s grandstanding and self-righteousness is detracting from the real story.

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  • ¢||

    less like Sarah Palin. This is not, as some hyperpartisan bloggers insist

    You are bad at your job.

  • ||

    Are you saying knee jerk unexplained hatred of Palin is hyperpartisan?

    Cuz yeah I agree. Why do I need to know the lexicon of DC cocktail party hatred hatred of the woman from Alaska to read about Wikileaks?

    Also every other Reason staffer writes rebuttals in the comments. Even Weigel tries to explain himself. Why is Moynihan so reclusive to us rabble?

  • Frank||

    It's easy to undrestand Moynihan's view when you understand that he, like many people, can't imagine a world, nor do they want a world without authority. As Arthur Silber stated, he hates authority, except for his authority.

    WikiLeaks' primary purpose is to make information available to everyone. Each one of us can make our own judgments as to what should be done with that information, if anything, and what course of action might be indicated or not. But the kind of complaint conveyed by this Corrente post is precisely the issue I previously addressed: the complaint is that providing vast amounts of information freely to everyone isn't a good idea and might even be a very bad idea -- unless a particular outcome can be assured.

    Despite the poster's kind comments about me personally, I will state the conclusion plainly: this completely misses what is most fundamental about WikiLeaks and why its work challenges established authority so profoundly. This particular Corrente poster may want authority to prevent rather than enable further war -- but he still wants some authority to guarantee the result he prefers.

    And, the former British diplomat's question shouldn't be answered. It's one big logical fallacy. If you can read that question and not see the utter silliness of it, I question if you have an anti-state bone in your body.

    A world without diplomats would be a world without states which would be a much, much, much better place.

    Who cares who leaks the docs or whether or not they have an ego, they're f'k in the head or just want to get laid. Not me. Just leak them. The state should have NO secrets.

  • Cytotoxic||

    Way to prove this article's point.

  • Jeffersonian||

    So if you come into possession about a ring of thieves and muggers operating the next block over and you decide to tell the police about it, they should immediately publish your name and what you told them?

  • John F.||

    "A world without diplomat would be a world without stats which would be a much, much, much better place...The state should have NO secrets."

    I am sorry, but these are utterly meaningless statements. You could just as easily write that a world without rape or a world without murder is a much better place. Even if you believed that eliminating "the state" was a good idea, there is no coherent, realistic means for achieving such a goal. So, as usual, you're stuck with a cost-benefit analysis. And I don't think the benefits of this most recent WikiLeaks dump outweigh the possible costs.

  • ||

    So, as usual, you're stuck with a cost-benefit analysis. And I don't think the benefits of this most recent WikiLeaks dump outweigh the possible costs.

    So we need an economist to do a study in order for us to get information from our own government?

    Also when you say costs and benefits you are talking about community costs and individual benefits. In other words community rights over the rights of an individual.

  • John F.||

    This has nothing to do with an economic study. I would hope that when any individual came into possession of confidential information, they would weigh the costs of releasing such information versus the benefits. If there is a desire to leak for its own sake, then why not individual medical or mental health records or information on criminal informants? Let's say, for example, that a state was providing secret logistical and financial assistance to pro-democracy activists in Burma. I do not believe that the benefit of releasing that information would outweigh the costs. I accept that the state requires some capacity to operate in secret, while believing that we should takes as many steps as possible to prevent abuse and provide oversight, including allowing individuals to publish leaked information that exposes government malfeasance.

  • N. Deferant||

    "I accept that the state requires some capacity to operate in secret..."

    Does it surprise you that those who don't accept the legitimacy of any state disagree? You want an authority, you just want an authority that does what you perceive is "good" (your example was "a state [that] was providing secret logistical and financial assistance to pro-democracy activists in Burma" or, in other words, [a gang that was stealing money from individuals that reside in the geographic region where that gang claims a monopoly on aggression and providing that stolen money to help a gang come to power in another geographic region because the gang in question claimes it will allow the people it rules to cast a vote for their rulers]).

    You'd think that if you were going to come up with a hypothetical to support your argument, you could do a little better.

  • John F.||

    I have conceded that if your goal is the end of the state, then there is probably very little for us to talk about. The fact of the matter is that we have states, and the vast majority of us will likely be living in states for the rest of our lives, so it seems reasonable to confine my remarks about WikiLeaks/Assange within the context of how the world actually exists. Those seeking the end of the state are welcome to continue tilting at windmills 'til their heart's content.

  • ||

    A world without states would be a much better place? Say what?

  • ||

    Michael,

    Your petty sniping at Assange makes you look like an asshole. Knock it off.

    -jcr

  • Tman||

    Aside from the fact that I still expect the US government to react to these leaks by creating new heavy-handed and speech curtailing legislation, the biggest problem with Ass angel is that he appears to believe that he is immune to the consequences of his actions.

    I'm quite sure that he sees his work as a shining beacon of freedom and truthiness, but as the British diplomat details the consequences of these leaks were clearly not thought through at all by the Wiki folkls and Ass angel himself. There are most certainly some extremely negative potential consequences, and from what I heard from Assangel he doesn't appear to give a damn either way.

    Already trouble is brewing in Lebanon because of the leaks, and who knows the outcome will be.

    http://www.naharnet.com/domino.....E001F6305;

  • ||

    Already trouble is brewing in Lebanon because of the leaks, and who knows the outcome will be.

    Ummm did the leaks cause the trouble or did governments keeping secrets cause the trouble?

    Me? I blame the ore miners whose products were used in the wires that transmitted the leaked cables.

    I know the blame is misplaced but it makes a hell of a lot more sense then blaming it on leaks.

  • ||

    You don't understand, joshua. "Ass angel" has gotten under Tman's skin (partly as evidenced by the constant use of the idiotic "Ass angel"), and therefore he is responsible for anything that happens, even if he isn't the one actually doing it.

  • Tman||

    We covered this the other day Epi, I didn't say he is "he is responsible for anything that happens, even if he isn't the one actually doing it."

    I said -and continue to say- he clearly has not thought out the potential consequences of his actions.

  • cynical||

    I think it's apt name, even unintentionally. He's definitely working for the side of light, but he's also an ass.

  • Tman||

    Ummm did the leaks cause the trouble or did governments keeping secrets cause the trouble?

    The leaks. No leaks, no trouble. Certain diplomatic communications are kept secret and classified for a very good reason. Exacerbating the tension in Lebanon especially in light of the results from the Harriri assassination investigation helps no one.

    And again, Assangel clearly could not care less.

  • ||

    You do realize you're essentially advancing the "she shouldn't have walked down the street dressed like that" argument, right?

    You have become fucking obsessed with Assange to the point of irrationality. He is responsible for everything, it seems...even if he's not. He's your boogeyman. HE IS LEGEND.

  • Tman||

    Because I write some comments on a message board I am somehow "obssessed " with him?

    That an interesting evaluation.

  • ||

    Let's see: commenting repeatedly, on every Wikileaks thread (that I have seen) about how he will fuck everyone everywhere by doing what he did, and that it's his fault; giving him an idiotic nickname that wasn't even funny at least; and absolutely refusing to back down about how Assange is solely out to get the US until you were shown that Wikileaks is going after China and Russia too.

    I'd call that obsessed, but hey, maybe it's just me that sees that.

  • Tman||

    Let's see: commenting repeatedly, on every Wikileaks thread (that I have seen)

    I haven't, but I didn't know you were monitoring my comments. Go check again, I'm hardly commenting on every Wiki thread.

    how he will fuck everyone everywhere by doing what he did, and that it's his fault

    I JUST SAID that he will not be responsible for the actions taken as a results of the leaks, but more specifically that he clearly does not care of the potential negative consequences of his own actions. Stop making my argument for me.

    giving him an idiotic nickname that wasn't even funny at least;

    It's not supposed to be funny. I think he's an ass, thus ass angel works for me.

    and absolutely refusing to back down about how Assange is solely out to get the US until you were shown that Wikileaks is going after China and Russia too.

    Um, he did? How did he "go after" China or Russia? The stuff I've seen is tame at best. Wake me when he "exposes" something of value for China and Russia.

    I'd call that obsessed, but hey, maybe it's just me that sees that.

    You appear to be obssessed with my non-obssession.

  • ||

    Maybe I'm obsessed with showing you you're obsessed.

  • Tman||

    Give it rest Epi. We disagree about this, it's not the end of the world.

  • Wind Rider||

    AW FUCK! I guess I shouldn't have sold everything and gone on that crime spree cause I just thought we were all about to die over this shit. Thanks, fuckers!

  • -||

    "Obsessed" is arguing with strangers on blogs.

  • ||

    We live in the real world. Diplomacy requires confidentiality to be effective in the real world. If inter-government negotiations are open for all to see peace treaties don't fucking happen. Surely there is nobody here stupid enough to believe that the Camp David accords would ever have happened if the negotiations were on the evening news in Cairo and Tel Aviv. How about Cafta and Nafta? Nope, complete non-starters if every concession, every bargaing tool, were laid out for all to see during the negotiations.

    This ain't the end of the world, the US will revamp some obviously lacking security procedures (need to know, anyone?) but the assertation that diplomacy should be conducted in public diplays an astonishing ignorance of reality.

  • ||

    I don't recall mentioning even once an opinion on whether diplomacy needs to be done in secret, or if I even fucking care about diplomacy. I don't even believe in nation states.

    So please explain to me what you were responding to, because it sure as fuck wasn't me.

  • Kolohe||

    I don't even believe in nation states.

    Just a conspiracy of cartographers?

  • Xenocles||

    Don't worry, Epi, nation-states believe in you.

  • ||

    +1000. Epi is just not a serious person on this.

  • cynical||

    "We live in the real world. Diplomacy requires confidentiality to be effective in the real world. If inter-government negotiations are open for all to see peace treaties don't fucking happen."

    The real world is a product of circumstance. If someone invented a technology that made secrecy almost impossible, diplomacy would adapt. Things would be ugly at first, of course, but eventually they would settle into a new order.

  • Ebeneezer Scrooge||

    the assertation that diplomacy should be conducted in public diplays an astonishing ignorance of reality.

    Anarchists are like that.

  • ||

    the assertions that diplomacy should be conducted in public diplays an astonishing ignorance of reality.

    you are beating a strawman...in fact a couple strawmen. Gratz on that.

    Anyway the negotiations at camp David are not secret. In fact there are probably a couple of books on the subject and second no one is saying the negotiations need to be broadcast live or put on the news before the negotiations are done.

    Third these cables are not negotiations.

  • ||

    You've got that backwards. It's a "situation vs actor" issue such that the existence of secret documents corresponds to the provocative costume as the publisher of those secrets corresponds to the rapist.

    To wit, claiming that Assange is blameless because someone else created the secrecy corresponds to claiming the rapist is innocent because someone else dressed provocatively. Hmm... conflating Assange and a rapist is completely accidental, surely.

  • ||

    You do realize you're essentially advancing the "if you don't have anything to hide, why not go through the nudie scanner and the enhanced grope" argument, right?

    You have become obsessed with leaking illegally obtained information to the point of irrationality. It can never be responsible for anything, it seems...even if it is. It's your redemption. IT IS FREEDOM.

  • ||

    Your petty sniping at Assange makes you look like an asshole.

    No Moynihan is right about Assange. I don't know much about journalism or how they should behave but seeing his display when he talked about Climategate was pretty bad.

    He took credit for the CRU leaks and lied about it. I can only guess because it would increase his prestige.

    Anyway i love these leaks and i love that he fights to keep them on the internet. Still he is a little prick who lies.

  • H&R Anarchists||

    "Diplomacy cannot operate without discretion and the protection of sources."

    If you're not guilty of something, you have nothing to hide. Douche!

  • ||

    This is what the government says to the people all the time, authority fellator.

    If you're a good cocksucker, maybe they'll invite you to the policeman's ball and you can take coats at the door.

  • H&R Anarchists||

    You're a caricature of yourself. It's funny.

  • ||

    You don't see the irony in what you just posted. It's even funnier.

  • H&R Anarchists||

    Stop, you're killing me!

  • Episiarch||

    If you dare dissent from what I have to say and even acknowledge the need for government, then you are nothing but another knuckle-dragging zombie like EVERYONE ELSE BUT ME OKAY?!?11

  • ||

    I'm very late to the party, but I never let that stop me before.

    Here's the deal: States are going to be States. They are going to seek to expand in both territory and influence to the limits placed on them by geography and the interests of other States.

    This means conflict. The begged question is: would you rather that they resolve their conflicts through bartering and negotiation, or war?

    Diplomacy is the equivalent of middle school girls being nice to each other's faces, and then talking trash on each other when they think no one else can hear. Silly as hell, yes.

    But, if you intercept and post their snarky text messages commenting on the size of Becky's ass, then the alternative is a South-Central style throwdown.

    Who wants that?

  • cynical||

    You're assuming that Becky doesn't already know.

    States are going to be States, which means they have professionals on their payroll to cultivate "leaks" for their own purposes. The unique thing here is not necessarily that the Iranian government found out what other states thought about them (though there's no guarantee they knew, of course); it's that ordinary people, Americans, Yemenis, and Iranians alike, find out.

    What they don't want is for all the boys to see them as the petty, shallow bitches they are, or they might not be able to land the sensitive guy with the guitar or whatever. Maybe even the bad boy with the sweet car would be repulsed, who knows?

  • ||

    Oh, Becky knows alright. She just doesn't much appreciate public proof for everyone else to laugh over.

  • H&R Anarchists||

    No government is good government!

  • Christians||

    No people are good people!

  • H&R Anarchists||

    There's no such thing as property.
    Or privacy.

    Douche!

  • Shana Ting||

    Typical of the media and society today--everyone has to either demonize or deify him. He's just the messenger, folks...He's fascinating, odd, eccentric and megalomaniacal but he's clearly (albeit in a radical, anarchistic manner) brought up something relevant. It's relevant enough that it's made us all get up from our opium dens--our TV rooms--to fervently discuss transparency, journalism ethics and government ubiquity.

  • ||

    It's relevant enough that it's made us all get up from our opium dens--our TV rooms--to fervently discuss transparency, journalism ethics and government ubiquity.

    Wait what?!?!

    One sec i will be right back...

    ...

    HOLY SHIT I HAVE A TV ROOM!?!?!

    I must have forgotten about it while spending all my years in the computer room.

    Note: I don't have a TV or a room for it.

  • Irresponsible Hater||

    "the biggest irritant is Assange’s insistence that anyone who questions his methodology is a corporate/government/American/CIA stooge. Take, for example, this forum in today’s Guardian, during which readers submitted questions to Assange. A former British diplomat raises a serious point:"

    This is a joke, right?

  • Sudden||

    What about those of us who support Wikileaks and still want to see Kyrgystan turned into a Walmart?!?!?!

  • ||

    SPLITTER!

  • Wind Rider||

    Oh please sweet Beelzebub, do NOT turn Kyrgystan into another fucking Wal-Mart, cause sure as shit the ole lady will want me to 'just drop by' to see if that one carries fucking Green Onion (not FRENCH onion, hoo boy there's a WORLD of difference) Dip. ARRRRGH.

  • ||

    Tyrants are always quick and good with explaining why they need secrecy and anonymity, especially "in this particular case", and I'm always quick to throw the bullshit flag on that...

  • Jesse Walker||

    The diplomat writes:

    In the course of my former duties I helped to coordinate multilateral action against a brutal regime in the Balkans, impose sanctions on a renegade state threatening ethnic cleansing, and negotiate a debt relief programme for an impoverished nation.

    So he helped organize a war against one country and helped impose sanctions on another. What are the chances that Assange thinks either of those is a good thing? (And why should debt relief be negotiated in secret?)

  • Tman||

    Let's put it this way Jesse.

    If the only way to organize a multinational force in which to stop a brutal regime from ethnic cleansing is through classified and secured communications, are you saying that we should maintain the principle of NO SECRETS and let the unfortunate ethnicity get cleansed?

  • H&R Anarchists||

    Fuck secrecy. Let's throw the baby out with the bathwater.

  • Jesse Walker||

    I've never been one to call for humanitarian wars, Tman. But more to the point -- since my comment was about Assange's opinions, not mine -- I really strongly doubt that Assange is a pro-sanctions or pro-war sort of guy either. I can't imagine the diplomat's examples impressing him.

  • Tman||

    Jesse,

    I think it's pretty obvious that the diplomats examples did not impress the assangel.

    I realize you were commenting on his opinions, but may I clarify your own personal opinion by asking what your answer is to the question? I understand if you don't want to answer and you shouldn't feel obligated, but in the context of the leaks I'm curious whether or not you believe that secured and classified communications should ever have a reason to remain secret if the goal is to stop a genocide.

    If you want to answer "I don't ever think genocide should be stopped with war" I understand, and I suppose that would answer the question.

  • Jesse Walker||

    War is not my preferred instrument for stopping a genocide, but even so, there are indeed secrets which I think it's best not to spill. Including -- lest you think I never criticize Assange's editorial decisions -- the names of those Afghan informants and the technical details of the jammers used against IEDs in Iraq.

    Even so, I prefer the risks of a free press to the risks of censorship. I hope you agree.

  • Tman||

    War is not my preferred instrument for stopping a genocide, but even so, there are indeed secrets which I think it's best not to spill.

    Sounds reasonable and logical.

    Including -- lest you think I never criticize Assange's editorial decisions -- the names of those Afghan informants

    That was the leak that really pissed me off. I have friends who work security in Afghanistan for some of these people. It was double-plus ungood when this happened. Enhanced security raises the chances of mistakes and innocent lives getting lost.

    Even so, I prefer the risks of a free press to the risks of censorship. I hope you agree.

    I completely agree with your conclusion if that's the question, but I believe it's not necessarily an all-or-nothing choice. The FOIA is an indication that the US is committed to open government despite the fact that the act itself has its own problems.

    This is what annoys me about ass angel. He sees it as an all or nothing choice because he's being intellectually lazy. He refuses to examine the context in which his choices affect others.

  • ||

    The FOIA is an indication that the US is committed to open government despite the fact that the act itself has its own problems.

    You are funny.

    Control Number 2011-53-017-00001

    Joshua Corning

    This responds to your Freedom of Information Act (FOIA request email attached) dated October 7, 2010 and assigned control number 2011-53-017-0000.

    In response to your request, we located no documents available to be disclosed. With respect to these pages, we are withholding all information in full, pursuant to 5 U.S.C. § 552 (b)( 3) and 5 U.S.C. § 552 (b)(6) of the FOIA.

    Exemption 3 -- 5 U.S.C. § 552 (b)(3):

    Exemption 3 protects information included in FSA’s records specifically exempted from disclosure by another Federal Statute. Pursuant to exemption 3, all information regarding a list and map of acreage located in the SAFE program has been withheld in full.

    A. Section 1619(b) of the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008:

    In this instance, Section 1619(b) of the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 prohibits disclosure of the information requested.

    The records you have requested include information that FSA has obtained from (an) agricultural producer(s) or (a) landowner(s) that concerns their farming or agricultural operation- including production and marketing of agricultural commodities and livestock, farming practices, conservation practices, or the land itself. The type of information withheld includes information you requested. This information is required to be provided to FSA in order for the agricultural producers (and/or) landowners shown on these records to participate in FSA’s farm programs.

    Exemption 6 -- 5 U.S.C. § 552 (b)(6):

    Exemption 6 protects personal information affecting an individual’s privacy. Pursuant to exemption 6, all the information you requested has been withheld in full.

    Specifically, exemption 6 protects personnel and similar files, the disclosure of which would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy. The courts have held that the phrase “similar files” involves all information that applies to a particular person. When disclosure of information about particular individuals is requested, the courts have decided that it is necessary for us to determine whether release of the information would constitute a clearly “unwarranted” invasion of the individuals’ privacy. To make this determination, we are required to perform a “balancing test.” This means that we must weigh the individual’s right to privacy against the public's right to disclosure. In this instance, we have determined that the disclosure of this information would shed little or no light on the performance of the agency's statutory duties and that, on balance; the public interest to be served by its disclosure does not outweigh the privacy interest of the individuals in question, in withholding it. The records withheld under this exemption include the list and map of acreage located in the SAFE program.

    If you believe this decision is in error. Please include a copy of your initial request letter in your appeal package, and clearly mark both your letter and its envelope with the words “Freedom of Information Act Appeal.” Mail your appeal package to the following address:

    Administrator
    United States Department of Agriculture
    Farm Service Agency, Stop Code 0570
    1400 Independence Avenue, SW
    Washington, D.C. 20250-0570

    The cost of processing your request is $_____0.00________, calculated as follows, as the cost of process is less than $25.00.

    Sincerely,

    /s/ Michel Ruud

    Michel Ruud
    County Executive Director

  • Irresponsible Hater||

    Interesting criticism from cryptome.org on why redacting names is bad for those whose names are redacted:

    http://cryptome.org/0003/wikileaks-coward.htm

    Name redactions are immensely deceptive -- like knee-jerk claiming there are valid grounds for some vital secrets -- they are used to hold hostages under guise of protection. Continue to obey or your name will be revealed. Redact or you will be pilloried in public. (Toot: The New York Times tried the "responsible redaction" scam on Cryptome with the CIA Mossadeq overthrow report.)

    Dozens, perhaps hundreds of people are being put at risk by believing they are protected by the phony redaction scam Wikileaks has cowardly joined under pressure to conform to authoritative demands to be "responsible." Far better to tell the truth that the names are already loose so the victims know what the cabal of secretkeepers knows.

    As if those who know the true names at redacting authoritatives, at Wikileaks and among the lawyers, editors and personnel at its new big media bedmates will never tell, will tightly control the original documents, will never be subject to betrayal or a burglary or a leak, will never have a trusted insider who acts to inform the world, will never write a tell-all best seller like Daniel Schmidt, will never aspire to be Time's Person of the Year, a Nobelist, a movie star, a sexual predator eager to cut a deal with the authorities.

    ...

    Never redact. No vital secrets. No deals with cheating dealers. No gulling of more Bradley Mannings.

  • MJ||

    There are things worse than war. What those things are is a matter for debate, but to describe someone thinking that war is a preferable action in some circumstances as "pro-war" is childish pacifist dogmatism.

  • zoltan||

    If the only way to organize a multinational force in which to stop a brutal regime from ethnic cleansing is through classified and secured communications, are you saying that we should maintain the principle of NO SECRETS and let the unfortunate ethnicity get cleansed?

    This sounds like the "Would you torture the terrorist who knows where the bomb in the public place is?" kind of bullshit.

  • Irresponsible Hater||

    Even better, the diplomat asks:

    My question to you is: why should we not hold you personally responsible when next an international crisis goes unresolved because diplomats cannot function.

    Which international crises were "resolved" by functioning diplomacy prior to wikileaks? All the ones where they averted disaster but decided not to tell us about?

    Actual diplomats have never been held criminally reponsible for failing when it was their own damn faults, let alone when they have broken the law, bargained away entire populations' lives and freedom, and colluded with dictators and warmongers before wikileaks. So, yeah, it's Assange's fault we can't have peace in the Middle East. Book him.

  • Kolohe||

    Which international crises were "resolved" by functioning diplomacy prior to wikileaks? All the ones where they averted disaster but decided not to tell us about?

    The coup in Honduras.

    The Hainan island EP-3 incident

    (TBD) The indepedence referendum of Southern Sudan.

    (also TBD and maybe OBE) The Cheonan sinking.

  • ||

    Do you mean the "coup" in Honduras where other countries tried to force Honduras's highest courts and law enforcement not to enforce a legitimate judicial order about a politician who violated one of the key tenets of the country's constitution?

    Having a whopping one clear, good example of defusing a crisis through diplomacy isn't very convincing. You might as well use extra-high-stakes poker, with the winner taking pink slips to the territory in question.

  • Kolohe||

    The scare quotes around 'coup' are fair enough. Either way, the 'situation' was resolved with little bloodshed- at least, much less than is typical for these sort of things in Central America (and the rest of the world)

    You might as well use extra-high-stakes poker, with the winner taking pink slips to the territory in question.

    Well, that's what international relations actually *is*. (But the paper is not literally pink)

  • zoltan||

    The scare quotes around 'coup' are fair enough. Either way, the 'situation' was resolved with little bloodshed- at least, much less than is typical for these sort of things in Central America (and the rest of the world)

    That's the fucking point--it wasn't achieved with diplomacy--diplomats were actually working against Honduras's relatively peaceful actions of deporting that dictator.

  • a||

    Exactly: this guy's idea of diplomacy is war, sanctions, and colonialism. And Moynihan probably didn't even blink when reading that.

  • ||

    And why should debt relief be negotiated in secret?

    Ask The Bernank. He would tell you but then he would have to kill you.

  • Paul||

    (And why should debt relief be negotiated in secret?)

    Debt relief will always be negotiated in secret.

  • Irresponsible Hater||

    I really don't get the hate for Assange as a person. It's almost comical all the gay-baiting and petty swagger people are mustering against him.

    If you had most major newspaper editorial boards, influential politicians, and "serious" political insiders publicly calling for your arrest and/or assassination, you might be secretive about your whereabouts, methods, and colleagues too. And besides, a former hacker taking up a mission to expose the powers that be... can you imagine how someone could look or sound, or conduct himself *more* the part than Assange? He's probably got a dragon tattoo on his back for f sake.

    The limit of this guy's personal eccentricities, as far as I can tell, is his hair and soft-spoken voice. Must be a fag. Let's give him a swirly in the toilet.

    The conventional journalists' arguments against him are like mad-libs for a generic upstart-shakes-things-up scenario. "As a long time and serious ____, I appreciate the need for more ____, but this new guy ____ is doing it all wrong... let's KILL HIM."

  • Um||

    I really don't get the hate for Assange as a person.

    Ad hominem is the language of the blogosphere, silly.=

  • cynical||

    "The limit of this guy's personal eccentricities, as far as I can tell, is his hair and soft-spoken voice. Must be a fag."

    He should use that as a defense in his rape trial, I guess.

  • alan||

    Two aspects of the story seem to me to be the most relevant.

    1) if a private with the lowest level of secrecy access obtained this info dump, than every nation on the planet already knew about it.

    Should we not be considering revoking the contracts of the Pentagon and State Department whose lack security made this possible?

    2) Though the diplomats in these cables sound like they know what they are doing to a greater extent than one would naturally expect, they do have a marked tendency to play with fire and treat international relations like a game played between bored debutantes of the various nations.

    Most of the cable pertaining to Russia should have never made it to written form, and seems to have been done to be seen and to goad.

    Given that, it seems silly to obsess over the personalities at Wikileaks. It is akin to making Bob Woodward volunteering to be an early test subject in hair transplants the focus of Watergate.

  • Um||

    if a private with the lowest level of secrecy access obtained this info dump, than every nation on the planet already knew about it.

    Wow, that's so dumb, in so many ways.

  • alan||

    and here I thought you were going to go after 'debutantes' when I meant 'dilettantes' though either would be insulting for the purpose used.

    I'm just shattered by your logic though. Never seen words quite put together in the fashion as you did there. I've little doubt the originality reflects on the precision to which you object to my statement. Please, by all means, proceed.

  • alan||

    Come on, you raised your head up, good man, what do you object to?

    A private with a mere Secret level of clearance having access to State Department cables? That is clearly the case.

    If a nineteen year old with little experience or reason to have but the lowest level of trust place upon him, has access to that the information available is available to hundreds like him who are just as easily bought and paid for? How is that anything but a logical extrapolation?

    Where did it go dumb?

  • Um||

    I think you meant to say: "to what do you object?"

  • Um||

    ^ This Um is an impostor. I am the Great and Powerful Um, and I have spoken.

  • alan||

    Here, I thought you were going to ding me for using 'lack' instead of 'lax', though both convey the underlying meaning. Instead, you make an irrelevant point.
    This isn't Latin we are communicating in where the placement of the preposition changes the meaning of the sentence in this case. If it were, you would have a point, and so would the grammarians who attempted to thrust the artifice of a dead language on one that was not syntactically related no matter the extensive number of words borrowed from it. Hence the reason English is a Germanic language in spite of that fact instead of a Romance language.

  • KingTaco||

    This is a common sense article. Yes, it attracts snippy comments, but that's not due to content. Like people who write long rants about how they 'don't believe in consumer models' to justify torrenting Team Fortress 2 or episodes of Strike Witches, there's always going to be a heady segment of 'libertarians' who confuse personal preferences with social legitimacy.

    I think it's perfectly apropos to see a millions shades of gray in this whole Wikileaks deal:

    -Julian Assange is a narcissistic huckster, and it's a shame such a douche is the face of a free-info movement.

    -too much info is classified

    -there is legitimate reason for some business of the government to stay classified

    - Not much is really that juicy in the current leaks, and if anything makes countries other than the US look bad

    -It doesn't seem outrageous that the cables were leaked, but it also doesn't really illustrate any wrongdoing or serve much of a higher purpose

    -Less classification is good; poor handling of releases by Assange may lead to the opposite result though, which is bad

    There's a lot of moving parts in all this, I don't get why this has to be a black and white deal.

  • ||

    Eminently sensible. What are you doing on HnR? :)

  • MNG||

    I think we live in a world of leanings. No one wants to see a total lack of the government being able to keep things secret, and I hope nobody wants to see a government making everything secret.

    So the thing is, where do your leanings fall? Mine falls on the side of folks who make government secrets public because I'm more worried about what government's are doing in secret than I am about people knowing too much about what government is doing.

    I see some people I know are quite principled defending secrecy (J sub) and opposing it (Epi). And I see some Hit and Runpublicans who just are like "You embarrassed the blessed mother USA, evil, evil, evil!!!"

    Would you like some freedom fries with that?

  • 0x90||

    Disclaimer: this is going to be a long post. It is not boilerplate, and it is not spam. I compiled it for you to read, if you care to.

    Please read it only if you are interested in more than the boring cult of personality obsession and fact-free pontification which makes up most of the reporting on this topic to date. Assange is not the story -- he is a player, but as with any group, one or another member will naturally gravitate to the forefront. Some members will appreciate that, and some members not. It does not really matter.

    Now, you will know well the story of Wikileaks if you have ever been involved in the development of a software (or any product, I guess) which has grabbed the public's attention in a way which far exceeds what had initially been envisioned. It is an easy mistake to make, and you find yourself short on staff, time, and plans. Wikileaks was intended to be -- you may have forgotten -- a wiki; as you will read though, time did not allow the implementation to materialize. Take it as a lesson: resist the urge to announce what you're working on too soon.

    In their own words, Wikileaks was founded "by chinese dissidents, mathematicians and startup company technologists, from the US, Taiwan, Europe, Australia and South Africa."It was not created to attack the US; as stated: "Our primary targets are those highly oppressive regimes in china, russia and central eurasia, but we also expect to be of assistance to those in the west."

    Following are portions of correspondences from the internal Wikipedia mailing list, spanning over a bit more than a month at the end of 2006 and the beginning of 2007. At that time, the domain wikileaks.org had only been registered for about a month (by John Young of cryptome.org). You can find the full collection which this was taken from at http://cryptome.org/wikileaks/wikileaks-leak.htm -- as you will read below, Young came to disagree with Wikileaks strategy and operation, and withdrew from the group. If you are so inclined, I would recommend perusing the entire collection there for better context.

    One can extrapolate from the state of affairs shown in this brief collection, on through the four years that followed, up to where we find ourselves today. I hope it adds to your general understanding of the situation; for me, it shows especially how even those who initiate a paradigm shift, often do so while being almost completely ignorant of the fact that this is what they are doing, or at least, of the ways in which it will actually be accomplished.

    ---------------------------------------

    "We are building an uncensorizable branch of Wikipedia for leaked documents and the civic institutions & social perceptions necessary to defend and promote it. We have received over 1 million documents from 13 countries, despite not having publicly launched yet!"
    - 9 December 2006, Wikileaks mailing list

    "WL [WikiLeaks] has developed and integrated technology to foment untracable, unstoppable mass document leaking and discussion. Our primary targets are those highly oppressive regimes in china, russia and central eurasia, but we also expect to be of assistance to those in the west who wish to reveal illegal or immoral behavior in their own governments and corporations. We aim for maximum political impact; this means our technology is fast and usable by non-technical people. We have received over a million documents of varying quality. We plan to numerically eclipse the content the english wikipedia with leaked documents. We believe that the increasing familiarity with wikipedia.org provides a comfortable transition to those who wish to leak documents and comment on leaked documents."
    - 13 December 2006, Wikileaks mailing list

    "In relation to timing; We intend to go live with a reduced system in the next month. Untill then we are publishing selected analysis in convential venues to get some material out and encourage assistance. We're gradually scaling up. At the moment we have certain asymmetries - e.g more leaks than we can store or index. It's just a matter of gradually inspiring increasing commitment and resources from generous people."
    - 29 December 2006, Wikileaks mailing list

    "The project is not yet fully under way. Membership of our advisory board is not yet settled. Website/editorial policies are not yet fully formulated. No agreed statement of principles is yet published. We are no friends of oppressive regimes, dictators, authoritarian governmental institutions or exploitative corporations. We fully intend to expose injustice and make the world a better place; this is our overarching goal and all policy will be formulated with this goal in mind."
    - 3 January 2007, Wikileaks mailing list

    "1. WL was founded by chinese dissidents, mathematicians and startup company technologists, from the US, Taiwan, Europe, Australia and South Africa.
    1.1 Our advisory board, which is still forming, includes representatives from expat Russian and Tibetan refugee communities, reporters, a former US intelligence analyst and cryptographers.
    2. There are currently 22 people directly involved in the project.
    3. We haven't sought public feedback so far, but dissident communities have been been very gracious with their assistance.
    "
    - 4 January 2007, Wikileaks mailing list

    "The hunger for freedom and truth is clearly so intense that despite having little more than "we're working on it" and a nice example (that few seem bother to read in their quest for the salacious) off it goes on its own exponential of media read, write and rewrite."
    - 5 January 2007, Wikileaks mailing list

    "This will not be the case once we release substantial material. That will invoke enemies with specific grievances. Our previous desire to splash forth only with a fully operational system with content would have generated both specific opposition and fears by example."
    - 5 January 2007, Wikileaks mailing list

    "What is WL’s present stage of development?

    WL has developed a prototype which has been successful in testing, but there are still many demands required before we have the scale required for a full public deployment. We require additional funding, the support of further dissident communities, human rights groups, reporters and media representative bodies (as “consumers” of leaks), language regionalization, volunteer editors/analysts and server operators.

    When will WL go live?

    We cannot yet give an exact date. We estimate February or March 2007."
    - 5 January 2007, Wikileaks mailing list

    "Some people may be wondering about the unusual names on this list. There are xxxxxxxxxxxxx people on this list. Everyone is personally known and trusted by, or is, the founding group.

    How much will YOU pledge to WL (in matched pledging or otherwise) for its next six months of activities? We can succeed at a slower / scale limited way with under $50,000 / year & volunteers, but it is our goal to raise pledges of $5m by July. Smaller pledges can be used in ways that will generate larger ones, so there's an amplification on any early contribution."
    - 7 January 2007, Wikileaks mailing list

    "Announcing a $5 million fund-raising goal by July will kill this effort. It makes WL appear to be a Wall Street scam. This amount could not be needed so soon except for suspect purposes. Soros will kick you out of the office with such over-reaching. Foundations are flooded with big talkers making big requests flaunting famous names and promising spectacular results.

    The CIA would be the most likely $5M funder. Soros is suspected of being a conduit for black money to dissident groups racketeering for such payola. Now it may be that that is the intention of WL because its behavior so far fits the pattern."
    - 7 January 2007, John Young, cryptome.org, previously with Wikileaks

    "Advice noted. We'll polish up our sheers for cutting fleeces golden."
    - 7 January 2007, Wikileaks mailing list

    "Cryptome is publishing the contents of this list, and how I was induced to serve as US person for registration. Wikileaks is a fraud: Fuck your cute hustle and disinformation campaign against legitimate dissent. Same old shit, working for the enemy."
    - 7 January 2007, John Young, cryptome.org, previously with Wikileaks

    "Heh. John, please do not do that. If you're wondering about the WL, the list has grown and there were enough accidental wl mentions [e.g in the somali document and a cc] that not mentioning it became of little additional obscurity especially since you're receiving the mail. No one has bothered to change the warning which after all doesn't really hurt.

    Even if you think we are CIA stooges, you can't treat everyone on the list that way."
    - 7 January 2007, Wikileaks mailing list

    "J. We are going to fuck them all. Chinese mostly, but not entirely a feint. Invention abounds. Lies, twists and distorts everywhere needed for protection. Hackers monitor chinese and other intel as they burrow into their targets, when they pull, so do we. Inxhaustible supply of material. Near 100,000 documents/emails a day. We're going to crack the world open and let it flower into something new. If fleecing the CIA will assist us, then fleece we will. We have pullbacks from NED, CFR, Freedomhouse and other CIA teats. We have all of pre 2005 afghanistan. Almost all of india fed. Half a dozen foreign ministries. Dozens of political parties and consulates, worldbank, apec, UN sections, trade groups, tibet and fulan dafa associations and... russian phishing mafia who pull data everywhere. We're drowing. We don't even know a tenth of what we have or who it belongs to. We stopped storing it at 1Tb."
    - 7 January 2007, Wikileaks mailing list

    "John Young has leaked the content of this list, sans most identifying info to cryptome.org. It's clear from his recent messages that he's been losing it for some time. We should have checked his current mental state more thoroughly rather than relying on previous experience.

    The impact maybe positive. It's certainly very mysterious and exciting to read. I don't think there's much dissonance between our public and private positions."
    - 7 January 2007, Wikileaks mailing list

    "No idea what JYA was saying!

    It's clear to me however, that he was not trying to protect people's identities with his xxxxx'ing, but rather trying to increase the sexiness of the document. Perhaps he feels WL is a threat to the central status mechanism in his life? I think he just likes the controversy.

    He may have done us a great favor. There's a lot of movement in that document. It's a little anarchist, but I think it generally reads well and sounds like people doing something they care about."
    - 8 January 2008, Julian Assange, Wikileaks mailing list

    "On 8 Jan 2007, at 18:13, xxxx wrote:
    > 1) $5million is a bad idea. $1 million or less. This project will get
    > respect if it's shoestring -- not dotcom -- in financial dimensions.

    I agree. I think this is just an internal feel of what we could use for a full deployment, not what we need and not something to be quoted around the place.

    > 2) You MUST get a working site. The reporters will lose interest if
    > there is nothing to see -- ie, hot air/vaporware. wl.org doesn't seem
    > to have anything up...

    Absolutely. Can you help? The unexpected press coverage has completely diverted people from that task. That's a reality we can't easily change. We have more volunteers now, but this doesn't scale and in the short term reduces productivity as someone has to brief them. We could put up a few more dramatic leaks. One option is to take the thing unsecured (faster) and see what happens to it as we build the full version. Having it go down briefly might be useful to us."
    - 8 January 2008, Julian Assange, Wikileaks mailing list

  • MNG||

    A document dump!

  • -||

    Complete with Preamble.

  • MJ||

    What Wikileaks is doing with the diplomatic is analogous to someone going around pointing out all the polite lies one tells everyday are,in fact, lies. No, you really don't much interest in how your coworker Bob's weekend was. It just does not help the course of polite interaction.

  • Spur||

    Until wikileaks exposes the authoritarian governments of Estonia and Solomon Islands instead of attacking an easy mark like the US of A which has no power and would never do anything against Wikileaks and Assange because they are so damn cute I can't really pay any attention.

  • boomshanka||

    That's a piss poor example to use to critique Assange, which might say more about you than it does about him.

    The "former British diplomat" raises an interesting question on the role of confidentiality in diplomacy and then asks Assange to prove his innocence if anything bad happens in the world, ever. It's a loaded question that makes a huge leap from the original premise.

  • Train Nazi||

    Another thread to nowhere.

  • JB||

    The guy is a douche like most journoLists.

    A certain Weigel comes to mind.

  • ||

    "LOVING LEAKS, QUESTIONING ASSANGE"

    I hate boys; please send Menudo concert DVD

  • IceTrey||

    If the diplomats are so worried maybe they shouldn't make these types of cables available to disgruntled gay privates in a DADT army.

  • .||

    PFC Bradley's homosexuality and messy breakup with his boyfriend is being oddly under-reported by the mainstream media. Not that they have an emotional and political investment in seeing DADT repealed. Amid all the speculation over Assange's whereabouts and imminent arrest, Bradley himself is the invisible man in this story. If he had been a macho, heterosexual soldier who had just broken up with his girlfriend, would the reporting be any different? I suspect it might be.

  • Nike Dunk High Women||

    thanks

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