Saturday 27 November 2010

Wikileaks disclosures threaten diplomatic mayhem

What will be the effect of the imminent publication of three million documents by Wikileaks, some of which are likely to be diplomatic cables that will highlight internal US opinions on close allies and enemies alike? Already, the UK's D-Notice secretary, Air Vice-Marshal Andrew Vallance, has issued a warning to British news outlets requesting that they check with him before publishing anything. The D-Notice, which is a kind of official self-censorship request, has been published by blogger Guido Fawkes and can be found here.
Over the last 24 hours as Wikileaks prepares to publish, US diplomats at embassies around the world have been calling on their host governments to explain that the next few days could be difficult. In some cases the publication of sensitive cables may well have a lasting impact on international relations. Not since Soviet Russia's publication of diplomatic cables and agreements after the 1917 revolution or the publication of thousands of documents by the Iranian regime after they were reconstructed from shredded documents found in the US Embassy in 1979 has such light been cast on the inner diplomatic machinations of a major world power.
Whether this is a good thing or not is harder to judge. The modern state cannot function without secrecy, and there is no logical argument - except anarchism - for complete transparency. There is something about the Wikileaks project as presently constructed that smacks of adolescent anti-authoritarianism. And as for transparency, why does Wikileaks itself refuse to publish details of where it gets its income and how it spends it? Is it a journalistic fighter for truth or simply a money-making machine for its creator? You decide.

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