Monday 29 November 2010

Leaked documents fail to impress

Once again, following the latest batch of leaked documents - this time official US diplomatic cables - released via approved newspapers on behalf of the Wikileaks site, I am forced to conclude that there is little to get excited about. The King of Saudi Arabia wants to bomb Iran? US diplomats spy on other diplomats? Iran gets missiles from North Korea? None of these stories would normally make the news list even on a quiet day. Perhaps they are saving the best stories for later.
In the meantime, Nicolas Sarkozy has a "thick-skinned and authoritarian personal style", Kim Jong-il is a "flabby old chap" and Dmitry Medvedev "plays Batman to Putin's Robin". It's all a bit like reading school reports. The Guardian has had 20 journalists working on this stuff for weeks and still there is nothing in their coverage that would rank as earth-shattering or even dramatic. Presumably if there was we would have heard something previously from the three million or so US citizens that have access to all this guff via the siprnet network where it is all stored.
Like the US Army combat reports that were previously leaked via Wikileaks, most of the reports here are of interest to geeks and academics only. Can you remember any of the stories connected to these previous leaks? Soldier Bradley Manning, who passed them all to Wikileaks, has a lot to answer for - in terms of hours wasted globally by mankind in reading less-than-fascinating speculations by bored diplomats. 
Of course it is occasionally interesting, diverting even, to read the stuff that the US intelligence agencies thought was so boring that they merely categorised as 'secret'. The colour of the wallpaper at the CIA headquarters in Langley is officially a secret. In fact out of the 250,000 documents leaked, only 4,330 are even in the category of Secret/Noforn, which means they should not be disclosed to foreign intelligence agencies. The rest are mostly unclassified or confidential.
If the rest of this material is of the same level of interest this will be one of the largest damp squibs in recent times. Compare this leak with the leak of UK Parliamentary expenses, for example. That led to the mass resignation of MPs, prosecutions and revelations of extraordinary details of the lives led by British lawmakers. The Wikileaks stuff is banal in comparison.

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