US Politics

If you didn’t notice, I’m not a big Wikileaks fan


Don’t get me wrong – I do think that some transparency is necessary, and that some material provided by WikiLeaks has been helpful. And I’m quite certain Julian Assange has not violated any US laws.

Bu the indiscriminate nature of WikiLeaks has again weakened global diplomacy and made the world overall less peaceful. Ecuador and the United States have each expelled the ambassadors of the other country. Why? Because it was leaked that the US ambassador to Ecuador informed her home government that the Ecuadoran police are corrupt. I’m no expert on the Ecuadoran criminal justice system, but this doesn’t sound impossible, given the criminal justice situation in Ecuador.

And here’s the dark side of complete transparency – I’m pretty sure Correa understands that his police force has corrupt elements, and that the ambassador has the right and indeed the responsibility to report that information. But, because this information is public, he has to save face and cause a diplomatic scandal.

This is not the first time this has happened – our ambassador to Mexico resigned after (honestly) relaying his impression that the Mexican government was not capable of handling the organized crime in the country.

International diplomacy cannot be effective if diplomats cannot communicate honestly with their home governments, and Julian Assange’s leaking of diplomatic cables is not having the effect of increasing transparency but in making diplomacy more difficult. Given the role of diplomatic failure in violent conflict, WikiLeaks’ indiscriminate attitude towards leaking diplomatic cables is highly irresponsible.

About the author

The Polish Wolf


  • but you are a fan of covert operations, presidential deceit, reflexive government secrecy, and humanitarian wars. good stuff.

  • Do you disagree with the post, or would you like to argue about conversations we’ve had on your blog weeks ago? Either one works for me.

  • i don’t think Correa expelling our ambassadors is some momentous event that justifies your condemnation of what you depict as the “indiscriminate nature” of wikileaks.

    Assange & Co. have held back plenty of material, and redacted names to protect people. that’s what i call discretion, and directly undermines your negative depiction.

    but i agree wikileaks has made diplomacy more difficult because some of these leaks expose how deceitful governments and some corporations are being.

    but you know what? serves them right. if i can be spied on, and my e-mails read through the draconian measures of our creeping domestic police state, then i support any effort to do the same to them.

    • “but you know what? serves them right. if i can be spied on, and my e-mails read through the draconian measures of our creeping domestic police state, then i support any effort to do the same to them.”

      That’s it lizard, spite, that’s the answer.

      And no, WikiLeaks isn’t making diplomacy more difficult because it is exposing how deceitful governments are being. It is making diplomacy more difficult because diplomacy relies on governments being able to communicate between branches without having the whole world reading everything.

      I get that you hate the American government, though I don’t agree with your reasons. But there is a difference between spitefully embarrassing them and being helpful. If US diplomats cannot transmit their findings securely, that isn’t helpful, it is in fact destructive.

      Imagine if US diplomats simply stopped sending back negative reports about the countries in which they were stationed, for fear of being leaked and causing an incident. What would be the effect? Well, foreign governments could more easily hide their misdeeds (and in fact, our government could as well, because leaking diplomatic cables goes both ways) from one another, facilitating underhanded dealings and duplicity. How does that support transparency, lizard? How does that support a more open and peaceful global society?

      It doesn’t. It feeds Julian Assange’s need to feel important (while I admit that other leaks have in fact been in the best interest of global peace and security) and favors spite over rationality.

      • spiteful? no, our world views are just totally incompatible. and i don’t “hate the American government”. but i do despise imperialists, and it doesn’t matter if they are of the neo-liberal or neo-conservative strain.

        • No, Liz. It’s not the incompatibility of our worldviews, and accurately relaying information about the ability of the Mexican government to combat crime is not being imperialist. You are angry at the US government, I am not as angry. This difference is caused by our ‘incompatible’ worldviews. However, there are plenty of governments I also despise. And as satisfying as it would be to see them embarrassed by these leaks, I don’t cheer it on if it does harm to global diplomacy. You, on the other hand, do. Suppose the Russian ambassador to Ukraine informed his home government that the Ukrainian state wasn’t strong enough to combat organized crime, and as a result the two countries recalled their ambassadors. Much as I dislike the Russian government, and would like to see them embarrassed, I also recognize that an action like that would have negative repercussions on the stability of the region and the well being of the people there.

          But I guess I often overestimate your devotion to peace vs your desire to see the government get what it deserves.

          • there are lots of wars going on right now. imperial wars, class wars, a war against drugs, an alleged war against terrorism, etc.

            then there’s the information war, which is a conflict many of us are directly involved in. Bradley Manning is a casualty of that war.

            i don’t get why you don’t have a problem with our government forcing its way into our private lives with draconian police state intrusions, while at the same time you defend the ability of our government to carry out diplomacy in total secrecy.

            the main problem i have with your world view, wolf, is you seem to think that our diplomats and elected officials are acting on behalf of the American people. they are not. i hope someday you’ll figure that out.

          • “i don’t get why you don’t have a problem with our government forcing its way into our private lives with draconian police state intrusions”

            I didn’t say that. I did say the government has a right to carry out its diplomacy in secret. Prying into those secrets will, if anything, lead to greater abuses and less privacy.

            Diplomats and elected officials may have a variety of goals, I’ll give you that. And we can argue whether they are motivated more by serving the country or other interests, and we’ll never come to a conclusion because we’re arguing about motivations (though the discussion may nonetheless be worthwhile).

            But what you’ve provided no evidence of is that somehow crippling our diplomatic ability will be better for us. Bees do not pollinate plants for the benefit of the plants, nor for our benefit, and yet without them being able to do their job, both we and the plants suffer. Similarly, even if you and Mark are right and the government is not in the slightest motivated by our well being, crippling the government can only hurt us.

          • if i already think our diplomacy isn’t serving the interest of the American public, then obviously i’m not going to think a little transparency is going to make things any worse than they already are.

            that is a core impasse of our back and forth.

          • “if i already think our diplomacy isn’t serving the interest of the American public, then obviously i’m not going to think a little transparency is going to make things any worse than they already are”

            Then you are incapable of seeing even the crudest subtlety. I agree that it could do better, but you’ve provided zero evidence that American diplomatic efforts are hurting us currently. And even if you did, that doesn’t mean that being crippled is better. It’s like this – your way of life, my way of life, and the ways of life of most people on earth would be profoundly affected by the disappearance of US diplomacy, and most of the effect would be negative. If you’d like to argue that is not the case, I’ll gladly state my reasons.

    • Lizard, Time magazine has an article explaining your repeated display of tinfoil hat conspiracy paranoia:

      The findings, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, suggest that activity in the basolateral amygdala is involved in marijuana-induced paranoia (the state of becoming afraid of things that wouldn’t normally trigger fear). That means marijuana is actually enhancing a type of learning about fear, leading the brain to jump to conclusions about mild experiences involving particular places or things, and to perceive them as scarier and more strongly connected than they are.

      This increased fear-based learning helps explain why stoners tend to see patterns in events that aren’t real, such as conspiracies. (Of course, to be fair, the rats in this experiment were justifiably paranoid: they were being experimented on!)
      ===end quote===

  • Well, you don’t have to be a big WikiLeaks fan. I’m not sure I am either.

    The real question is, however, whether or not Assange deserves to be prosecuted, and under what standards. And I think whether you like what he does or not, the answer should be a resounding “NO.”

    • Oh absolutely not, not in the US at least. And actually watching his interviews has caused me to understand his point better. I agree that some of the leaks were necessary, and that the reaction to them has been in many cases more disruptive than the leak itself.

      Indeed, I think prosecuting Julian Assange in the US is entirely impossible under US law, as he is not a US citizen and none of his nominal crimes have taken place here. For that reason I find all his bluster about being afraid for his life because he was extradited to Sweden to be quite silly.

        • An AMERICAN soldier. It’s not as though Bradley Manning has some secret information about Julian Assange; he just leaked a video. Manning, however, is still in the US, is an American citizen, and thus is subject to our laws (though apparently not protected by them). Any other American who leaked classified material? Also a criminal under US law and, given the treatment of Manning, also well justified in being afraid for their well being (and frankly, given the treatment of Manning, eligible for asylum). But an Australian going on about how Sweden is going to extradite him tot he United States to be executed for a crime he is incapable of having committed? Yes, that’s very silly.

  • LIZARD, tooooo funny. The first comment in this thread is yours. Own it, then follow your own advice: “why don’t you address the post or stfu”

    Trying to turn this into a discussion of comparative wrongs, in your mind, and asserting PW is a fan of those wrongs is not what the post was about. Transparency is not up to lawbreakers, which you have admitted to being one for 16 years, to decide what, when, and how.

    Allegedly, Julian Assange knowingly received stolen documents and did not return them to the rightful holder of those documents. He used those documents in a way contrary to the owner. Assange has not YET been charged with a crime. However the list of possible crimes is long.

    • wolf and i trade this thing back and forth. we’ve both been guilty of bringing past arguments into present ones. i don’t have to answer to you for how i choose to respond to the author of this post.

      so i do “own it”, craig. now, care to own the shit that makes you a hypocrite?

      • Lizard, you write under a nom de guerre, I use my real name. Sock puppets don’t own anything. I own everything I write. Always have.

          • Lizard, coming from you, a conspiracy driven regular weed smoker for 16 years (a pothead by most measures) your opinions and labels don’t much matter to me. Read the Time article on the matter from the link.

            If you want me to care, come out from behind your sock puppet nom de guerre and be a man.

  • PW, Senator Feinstein doesn’t share your certainty:


    When WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange released his latest document trove—more than 250,000 secret State Department cables—he intentionally harmed the U.S. government. The release of these documents damages our national interests and puts innocent lives at risk. He should be vigorously prosecuted for espionage.

    The law Mr. Assange continues to violate is the Espionage Act of 1917. That law makes it a felony for an unauthorized person to possess or transmit “information relating to the national defense which information the possessor has reason to believe could be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation.”

    The Espionage Act also makes it a felony to fail to return such materials to the U.S. government. Importantly, the courts have held that “information relating to the national defense” applies to both classified and unclassified material. Each violation is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
    ===end quote===

    • That’s outrageous, Craig. Why don’t we just indict Vladimir Putin while we’re at it? A non-American citizen, committing espionage? What a surprise! No, Assange oughtn’t visit America soon, but he never committed a crime in the US, nor is he a US citizen. He can’t be extradited, especially not by any civilized country, given our conduct towards Bradley Manning.

      • PW, the ability to assert jurisdiction over an alleged criminal and criminal act is broad. Do you remember Noriega?

        • I admit that Noriega is an interesting precedent for extraterritorial jurisdiction that could be cited in a case involving Assange. Somehow I don’t see us invading Sweden to get at Assange. Moreover, Assange differs from Noriega in at least 3 ways:

          1. The crimes which Noriega committed took place in the US. Assange never received classified material in the US, nor solicited it. It came into his possession while he was outside the US. Noriega ordered his crimes while in Panama, but the crimes themselves occurred as soon as drugs crossed the border into the US. But the situations would be comparable if you could prove that Assange had solicited information from sources in the US. He probably did, but I’m sure he took steps to make sure you couldn’t prove it.
          2. What Assange did did not differ substantial from what other journalists have done in the US; while it may have been technically illegal, precedent is to punish the leak rather than the journalist is well-established.
          3. Expanding extraterritorial jurisdiction to the espionage act is absolutely absurd, because we have lists of the thousands of people working in other countries whose job it is to violate the Espionage Act, and thousands of our people here are violating equivalent acts in other countries. We have all agreed that non-uniformed spies not attached to embassies or consulates are illegal and not protected, but those working within the intelligence sectors of their own countries are clearly not subject to the foreign laws they are breaking; otherwise, intelligence conferences would be nigh impossible.

          Lastly, the arrest of Noriega was in flagrant violation of international law, so while he may have been convicted legally in the US, it’s not much of a precedent as far as legally arresting a criminal.

  • PW- I think it is unreasonable to expect wikileaks to consider the possible ramifications for every single cable of the hundreds of thousands they release. they, like me, believe in the ideal of transparent government and FREE INFORMATION, and they dont have the time or the personnel to closely read each of the 300,000 documents and decide which ones the public should know about and which ones they shouldnt. thats NOT A CHOICE THEY SHOULD BE MAKING, and censoring their own releases, which are supposed to be freeing information for the public, would make them total hypocrites. They believe in FREE information which means that no one, not a government and not wikileaks, should be deciding what it is acceptable for the public to know about what a government is doing in THEIR names. Their is tyranny inherent in such a choice, no matter who it is made by.
    I think your argument is comparable to the argument that because some expressions of free speech are harmful, they should be censored. It doesnt matter who is doing the censoring; censorship of any speech means that speech is no longer free.

    When you, PW, argue that there are negative consequences to some leaks, you are probably right. free information does complicate situations for governments. it will make things difficult for governments in some ways. it will cause fall outs between governments. but overall, we’re far better off.

    You say that diplomacy needs secrecy to be effective. Diplomacy, perhaps in slightly altered and more accountable forms (forms governments and powerful people hate for obvious reasons) , can surely exists without government secrecy. Do you know what IS dependent on secrecy? to a far, FAR greater extent than diplomacy? Oppression, exploitation, genocide, war, torture, dictatorship.
    And you make it sound like diplomacy is all the same. like somehow its working for one, unified, benevolent interest. I simply do not have that much trust. maybe the meager amount of history that i do know is just too much for my own good. I would rather know what ends US diplomacy was serving than simply trust the ends of the US government and, by doing so, make more expedient a process that could be doing either good things or terribly destructive and harmful things.
    One more analogy: i think your argument is like saying “we cannot effectively fight the Iraq war if everyone demands to know why we invaded Iraq or if everyone knows what kinds of things are forces are doing in Iraq.” That may be true (to a far greater extent than your argument about diplomacy). but if people knew those things about Iraq, they might have realized that all the pretexts were utter lies, that hundreds of thousand of civilians were dying from US bombs, and that the WAR SHOULDNT HAVE BEEN FOUGHT.

    • Thanks for the thoughtful response, AJ.

      “PW- I think it is unreasonable to expect wikileaks to consider the possible ramifications for every single cable of the hundreds of thousands they release. they, like me, believe in the ideal of transparent government and FREE INFORMATION, and they dont have the time or the personnel to closely read each of the 300,000 documents and decide which ones the public should know about and which ones they shouldnt”

      Funny, because that’s what a JOURNALIST, which is what Assange is claiming to be, does. Remember, if Assange isn’t a journalist, then there is a good chance he is indeed a criminal (still not one that could reasonably be prosecuted, but a criminal nonetheless).

      And I still can’t agree with you that diplomacy can take place without secrecy. Again, how can the US operate without realistic assessments of the countries its working in? Correa is upset because wikileaks here as successful in unearthing his corrupt police. I like Correa’s policies, but his corruption also needs to be known by the US government. In the future, our ability to collect this information will be compromised.

      Transparency sounds great, in theory. But what has the leaking of diplomatic cables really revealed? It hasn’t revealed much about the motivations of the State Department, or US support for the dictatorships. That was all pretty much known. No, it has revealed specific communiques, destroyed international relationships, and ensured. That’s not like knowing why we went into Iraq or the scale of the destruction – it’s like knowing our military plans in advance. It doesn’t provide useful policy information, it merely reveals important secrets that hinder the funcionality of hte US. The best comparison would probably be the hackers that ‘exposed’ ‘climategate’ – the methods are illegal, and while it technically aids in transparency, the information gleaned is not actually useful to anyone except those looking to embarrass and obfuscate.

      • The latest release informs us that many of those scooped up and tortured who went to Guantanamo were just innocent people in the wrong place at the wrong time.

        We probably created some terrorists; people who now have good reason to hate us when before they didn’t even think about it.

        Wikileaks proved this and we should be forever grateful for the mirror it provides

        • I agree, WikiLeaks does some important work. However, their indiscriminate approach means they do at least as much harm as good. Believing that some secrets need to be revealed is not the same as arguing that the state ought have no secrets. Assange et al confuse the two, on purpose in my opinion, to justify their sloppiness and apathy towards the actual consequences of their actions.

  • The turnover of authoritarian govts in N. Africa, partly as a result of unrestrained transparency, is evidence that transparency is an effective tool for ensuring democratic governance. I have no beef with Wikileaks. I think they provide a useful function that was once monopolized by investigative journalists. My only complaint is that there isn’t enough transparency. The USG could go long way to neutralize Wikileaks if it ever endeavored to revamp it’s classification procedures and made it’s internal processes and decision making algorithms more transparent.

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