Shock! Horror! Diplomats say things to each other that they wouldn't say to the foreigners they're talking about!
And having this shown to us will change the world how, exactly?
The Pentagon expects Wikileaks to expose a huge cache of classified diplomatic communications by as soon as Friday, it has warned politicians. An official told the Senate and House Armed Services Committees the whistleblowing site is working with its regular press partners, The New York Times, The Guardian and Der Spiegel on …
They're going to release items that are candid commentary, which means US representatives talking privately behind the backs of their worldwide counterparts. That's not a matter of hiding something you're afraid of. It's about foreign relations, you idiot. Same reason none of us tell you to your face that we enjoyed your mom.
Yes, of course there's stuff they have good reason to keep private. That's presumably the point of that comment - that the claim that "if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear" is complete garbage.
But it's what we are told when we want to keep things private from government. So they are showing obvious hypocrisy.
I don't know why Wikileaks even bothered to redact some of the info - they should have just outed the lot.
At least the U.S. government would treat Wikileaks with respect.
Why, in the first place, would the military need this stuff, anyway?
"The publication of this classified information by WikiLeaks is an irresponsible attempt to wreak havoc and destabilize global security. It potentially jeopardizes lives."
It's not like bombing and invading random countries or torturing some random dudes to death potentially jeopardizes lives.
"The publication of this classified information by WikiLeaks is an irresponsible attempt to wreak havoc and destabilize global security"...
More likely it will destabilise some government officials or politicians when it becomes even more apparent how corrupt / incompetent they are, and how they are using the classifiction system to hide their dirty laundry.
No doubt there'll be a few red faces all round, but lets not kid ourselves. All diplomats know it's a game they all play, they all know that what they say about each other in public is different from what they tell each other in private, or what they tell themselves about each other behind teh other's back
You do have a point, but there is a big grey area between private (as in private to me) and public (as in published).
The 'nothing to hide nothing to fear' defence for governments infringining privacy certainly is overused, but deep down most people also accept that there isn't absolute privacy - we can sometimes be expected/require to give information to the state when we'd rather not.
That could be either for some common good (like witnesses being expected to give evidence in criminal enquiries, or at trials), or more directly in return for something we want (privacy infringement in security checks, etc)
The thing is, even when we've been forced to give up information/privacy (or effectively forced by not getting something we want from the state if we don't), we might at least have some expectation of discretion - if it's not relevant for a prosecution (or defence), we'd hope/expect that evidence we give in an investigation wouldn't be published just for the hell of it, and we'd hope/expect that any amount of other information the state requires us to give up would be treated similarly.
If, in the course of some investigation, we were required to let the authorities look at our computer[s], we'd hope/expect that if there wasn't evidence of criminality on it, no more than a handful or people would have ended up looking at it, most of whom didn't know us or care about us, and they wouldn't be uploading stuff they found on it at will all over the internet.
What I think is unsettling about Wikileaks is that there /appears/ to be a presumption that publishing everything is automatically good even if that might well infringe the privacy of any number of innocent individuals, rather than just publishing maturely selected stuff that actually has meaningful journalistic value.
Either that, or it's a case of more publication being done principally because it's likely to be more of a pain for a government, even if nothing more positive is actually achieved.
>>"So there's a fair argument then, that the public has the right to know what these people are doing."
As far as government is concerned, there is certainly legitimate interest in knowing what is generally being done in the people's name, or if officials are lying to the public, or if the state is breaking laws or otherwise misbehaving, but surely there are also things (like diplomacy) where if there's an expectation of publication of things said and written down, either things won't be said (so we may end up less well-informed) or things will still be said, but just not written down, so in the medium term, even within government, more reliance ends up being placed on fallible memories or vaguer written notes than would otherwise be the case, and in the long term, no-one can find out what was actually said.
The problem is that sometimes, openness and honesty can be in opposition.
If one of the functions of a diplomatic service is to find out what people in a particular country really think, is it likely that someone is going to be as honest in a conversation with a diplomat if they're wondering how long it will be before their conversation ends up published on the internet?
If someone wonders whether some local they're working with is a crook, is it better that they keep that to themselves rather than passing the information on to other people?
What there's a real public interest in knowing surely depends hugely on the nature of the information and how it affects people, not on who's paying someone's wages, or who's part of the state.
I'd have thought that a decent journalistic summary of leaked documents would actually be rather more interesting and powerful than a mass release which seems to be motivated as much by a dislike of the idea of government as by a desire to actually illuminate misconduct.
I'd I'd also have thought that a good journalist's summary would also be massively less likely to risk damaging individuals mentioned in or identifiable from the sources.
As far as I can see, recent releases seem to have attracted rather more press attention for the fact they were about to happen, or the sheer quantity of documents, than for the actual content.
To the extent there has been coverage of content, that could have been achieved equally well by selective release of things actually considered important.
I may well not entirely trust the government with my private information, but I might trust them rather more than some self-appointed anonymous person on the internet making guesses about whether a document they're reviewing actually deserves to be published, or needs editing to protect anyone's privacy.
>>"In your example of a diplomatic service for example, why do people not have a right to know what information has been gathered regarding something of interest to the country? Even if it discourages honesty that's arguably less of a price to pay than people not knowing at all, or worse, people in power being able to twist those words for their own ends because few people were ever able to verify the original comments in the first place."
If you were Our Person in Whatsistan, and you were sending reports home about locals you had to deal with, do you think you'd do a better job if you were expecting everything you sent home to be published in the near future?
Equally, if you were a local in Whatsistan, would you be likely to say much to Our Person if you were wondering how long it might be before other locals would be reading a transcript of what you said?
Personally, as a citizen, *as long as what was being told to me by my representatives about the situation in Whatsistan was basically correct*, I'd have thought there was little to be gained by my knowing all the details.
If you end up with a system where leaks are regular, and where people become more reluctant to write some things down, do you actually think we'll find it much easier to hold decision-makers to account?
>>"and if that data is a botched military operation, or a diplomatic message that has been twisted by those passing it on then there's no excuse for this not to be made public"
Indeed, but isn't that possible to do perfectly well by being selective, the way a proper journalist would be, rather than *bulk* publishing of documents, many of which can't realistically have been adequately checked to see if they might endanger individuals or violate someone's privacy, and few of which can actually be of desperate relevance?
A system where people doing things they know are wrong might think twice because of the risk of exposure is good.
Indeed, the risk of exposure of inaction against wrongdoers might even help get internal systems working to deal with transgressions even before other people find out.
A system where everyone starts covering their arses or not writing things down even when they're not doing anything wrong isn't necessarily the ideal one, as far as I can see.
I'm absolutely in favour of whistleblowers being protected when they're actually being mature about what information they pass on to other people, and who they pass it on to, but if, for example, someone in a state organisation found out people were being mistreated, and responded to that not merely by releasing the necessary information to show it was happening, but any internal communications they could find, and passed that on to someone likely to publish the lot, that could potentially be worse than if they'd done nothing at all, and easily worse than if they'd been selective.
Even if I thought the whistleblowing part of what they did deserved protection or even reward, if the rest wasn't actually achieving anything of value, and was possibly causing meaningful harm, I'd be tempted to look at it as a separate act of breach of confidence, possibly even a rather serious one.
wikileaks started off as a nice idea, but have devalued themselves by releasing so much technically classified, but ho-hum boring waste of space content. Just because its classified doesnt mean the world needs to know. They should save it for the real whistle blowing on serious issues, and then when they say something we'll take note. At the moment they come across as a bunch fools driven by their own egos.
It used to have huge amounts of documents from all over the world, some of them fascinating. I used to enjoy going on there almost daily and seeing the latest leaks.
Now it's just a load of "classified", but dare I say it - dull - information and memos about the Iraq War.
When are we going to get the (far more interesting) user-submitted content back?
I agree with what you're saying, but I can also see Wikileaks point of view, and unfortunately it's much more compelling. Whilst the vast majority of war documents are quite tedious and operational, Wikileaks HAVE to release everything they've got. If they start saying "This is boring, you don't want to read this" then they're going to leave themselves open to accusations of censorship and cover up, just like the Pentagon, however inaccurate these claims may be.
Ultimately, it would seem to go against Wikileaks purpose for them to start deciding what they do and don't leak, which is probably why you enjoyed the user submitted stuff in the first place. The way the Iraq war was (and is) conducted means there are an awful lot of documents associated with it, and releasing them all is obviously going to be their priority over user generated stuff at the moment. By releasing all of them it provides a complete picture of what happened, and I'm glad they're releasing all of them, not just the stuff they think I "need to know"
Big thumbs up for Wikileaks, keep up the good work, we need to know this stuff about what's being done in our name and the name of freedom and democracy, and we need to be able to hold to account the people who corrupt and pevert the principles we claim to be fighting for to further their own interests
>>"Whilst the vast majority of war documents are quite tedious and operational, Wikileaks HAVE to release everything they've got. If they start saying "This is boring, you don't want to read this" then they're going to leave themselves open to accusations of censorship and cover up, just like the Pentagon, however inaccurate these claims may be."
It's pretty obvious that to actually act /responsibly/, someone has to decide what information should and shouldn't be released.
Unless every document is checked before release by people who are actually sufficiently well informed to work out precisely what bits of every document might be damaging to an innocent individual if released (which could involve a /lot/ of specific or local knowledge), there's at least the potential for causing unnecessary harm.
Get enough documents, and the potential turns into a likelihood.
It's all very well for people to have some simple principle (information should be free, I have a right to know every single thing happening in any part of the state, all censorship is evil, etc), but there'll almost always be some kinds of information where release would bang up against some other principle, where it isn't possible to use the existence (or convenient invention) of a principle to avoid thinking or taking responsibility.
Given a real-world situation where blindly following a principle could lead to a bad outcome, that would indicate not that there's something wrong with the real world, but that the principle is not actually universal.
To me, this kind of situation illustrates better than anything why we actually need journalists, rather than crusading amateurs pissing about on the internet as if reality was a game where no-one was actually in danger, and where no-one needed to take responsibility for what they publish if they can find some excuse not to.
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