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December 03, 2010

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I think that diplomats might argue otherwise.

But clearly, these aren't private rights- diplomats would have no recourse if the US government declassified and published these documents, or deleted them. Not that there may not be laws against eg deleting this info, but it would be being preserved because of that law, not because of the violation of some individual right.

Another wikileaks revelation, this time regarding the racist contempt America and Great Britain have shown to the people they ethnically cleansed from Diego Garcia.

link

Thank goodness the Obama Administration isn't wasting any time investigating the crimes of the powerful, with dastardly villains like Assange on the loose.

Sorry for the anonymous post, but I could get into serious trouble if somebody were to figure out I wrote this...

I am of many minds when it comes to this, but I am only going to speak to the issue of discretion and keeping face when it comes to international diplomacy. While I am not a government employee, I do manage a large international committee composed of 56 nations. I'm in a unique situation in that I run both the US Delegation and serve as the international secretary – I'm often privy to very “difficult” communications from everybody.

I can assure you that if all private thoughts were made public; it would be almost impossible for us to carry out our work. We all know that, privately other delegations may not have the kindest of words for each other, but we all realize that people are people and we react very negatively when hearing truly candid assessments of our actions and/or positions.

If somebody in my committee were to “leak” (nothing we do would ever be classified) an email to show wrongdoing true wrongdoing, or genuine bad faith; I would understand. If they hacked my email account and just wanted to embarrass all of us; I'd never forgive them. Most of us count on some degree of discretion/tact to do our jobs.

I think Assange may be blurring the lines here, but I reserve the right to reverse my opinion as more information becomes available.

Again, these are just my instincts, but I do also understand the need for transparency and accountability.

I mean, assuming that "untold" means something like "no evidence exists to support this". That's what you meant, right?

No, Jacob. It means that I don't know the exact number of lives that have been imperiled. The release alone is enough to put them in danger. The Taliban have a record of killing "collaborators". In the Afghan dump, dozens of names were found after just a 2-hour search. Those lives were put at risk by what Assange did. I find your attempt to guess my position on drone strikes interesting.

That story is from July.

Got any actual evidence since then that anyone was killed as a result of the Afghanistan release?

Thank you, Anonymous. There are a lot of people in our society (especially, but not only, in foreign relations and diplomatic positions) who realize that bringing very different people together to come to agreement on issues that they'd not be naturally inclined to agree on is an extremely sensitive and difficult task involving saying things frankly that aren't necessarily popular to all. Sure, it would be fantastic if all of this could be done in a glass house with megaphones, but that's not the way it usually happens.

Jacob, how does one prove cause and effect in Afghanistan? I realize that some government officials tried to determine whether there was any damage, but is there really a good way to trace the effects of the leaks on the deaths that may have ensued? Who knows this? Do you totally discount the opinions of people who have spent their careers doing this work?

The Taliban have a record of killing "collaborators". In the Afghan dump, dozens of names were found after just a 2-hour search.

But the Taliban have already heavily infiltrated social institutions in areas where they have power. What do you think is easier for a local Taliban operative: plowing through thousands of english language cables on the internet or just asking their intelligence network who the collaborators are?

I mean, your whole argument presupposes that the Taliban are mostly ignorant of which Afghans are helping Americans. That assumption seems...incorrect.

I can assure you that if all private thoughts were made public; it would be almost impossible for us to carry out our work.

And I can assure you that if all the water in our bodies suddenly evaporated, we would die immediately. Both assumptions are equally likely to happen. Which is to say: not very.

Look, Wikileaks is not magical. Yes, Wikileaks has some technology, but it does not have the capability to publish all private exchanges in the entire world. The truth is anonymous that no one cares enough about your little group to leak information about it. It is not important enough.

The US government started a pointless war that exterminated a million people. That sort of behavior tends to motivate people to action, like leaking lots of data. Your little group presumably hasn't done anything remotely like that, so it probably has little to fear.


Jacob, how does one prove cause and effect in Afghanistan?

When the US government feels like making a case that even a single person was harmed, I think we can evaluate it at that time. But so far, the US government has not saw fit to assert such a thing. If they, with all their resources, don't feel like making such a case, I see no reason to do it for them.

"But the Taliban have already heavily infiltrated social institutions in areas where they have power. What do you think is easier for a local Taliban operative: plowing through thousands of english language cables on the internet or just asking their intelligence network who the collaborators are?"

And at this point we are now just finding any counter argument to win the debate. What the H does this have to do with this point:

The Taliban have a record of killing "collaborators". In the Afghan dump, dozens of names were found after just a 2-hour search.

I mean really? They already know who a lot of them are so telling them some more isn't a problem?

If we can't agree that identifying targets for the Taliban to kill is bad then there really is not a lot more to discuss. It also means future righteous anger about civilian casualties gets called BS because we can just tell the Taliban they are collaborators, they die and we didn't even do anything wrong.

If we can't agree that identifying targets for the Taliban to kill is bad then there really is not a lot more to discuss.

Everything in life is dangerous to some extent. What matters is how dangerous. I truly believe that giving the Taliban information that they already have is not dangerous. How can it be?

I mean, in areas where the Taliban have the capability to effect reprisals, they already have incredibly strong intelligence networks. Haven't you ever wondered how a few thousand losers that live in caves have managed to survive when faced against a hundred thousand American soldiers and tens of thousands of Afghan forces? I mean seriously, how do you explain that? Do you just believe that the American military is weak and inferior to the Taliban? That they have super powers?

I'll tell you how they do it: they've compromised damn near every institution. They have informants placed at every level of the Afghan government. We don't have secrets from them: they know damn near everything. They don't need Wikileaks to effect reprisals.

During the early years of the CIA, practically every covert action mission behind the iron curtain failed, horribly. This uninterrupted record of failure went on for years. It happened because idiot Americans didn't realize and refused to accept the fact that the CIA had been compromised from day one. Soviet intelligence knew everything. And we had no clue. We didn't know what we didn't know and because America is Awesome! we didn't bother find out. Seems like the same thing is happening with Afghanistan.

Look, we don't need to speculate. If you think some innocent civilian informant has been exposed, find some evidence. But until you do, claims that lots of informants have been killed by Wikileaks are just unsubstantiated bilge.


It also means future righteous anger about civilian casualties gets called BS because we can just tell the Taliban they are collaborators, they die and we didn't even do anything wrong.

No Marty, you're going to call BS about civilian casualties in the future because you don't care about dead people unless they look like you. Take responsibility for your own pathologies.

"No Marty, you're going to call BS about civilian casualties in the future because you don't care about dead people unless they look like you. Take responsibility for your own pathologies"

The rest of what you said is longer BS. I don't have to find someone dead to know that telling the Taliban about them puts them in danger. But this is your default when you are wrong, calling names, and it is out of line.

The rest of what you said is longer BS.

Name calling is not sufficient to disprove arguments. If you want to argue about the facts and learn something about the nature of the war in Afghanistan, you're more than welcome too, but I don't have time to deal with mere name calling.

"Look, Wikileaks is not magical. Yes, Wikileaks has some technology, but it does not have the capability to publish all private exchanges in the entire world. The truth is anonymous that no one cares enough about your little group to leak information about it. It is not important enough."

True enough, but that's the not the point. Also; how do the previous bad acts of the United States have anything to do with GLOBAL diplomacy? Remember; it's about more than just the Americans.

I do see some utility in what Wikileaks is try to do and that's why I said I am of many minds about this. This is just instinct talking.

Marty: If we can't agree that identifying targets for the Taliban to kill is bad then there really is not a lot more to discuss.

I think it's bad. On the scale of badness, there may be other reasons to release the information that will result in fewer people being killed overall and those people being even more innocent than those on the list of people who've worked with ISAF or the Karzai government. But I'm willing to stipulate that it's generally bad.

However, just how bad requires an assessment of what the actual consequences of the release were. It's being deployed as a morally absolute argument, that we cannot put anyone's life in peril under any circumstances. So to evaluate whether that statement is true, we have to know how real that peril is. If in the six months since the docs were released nobody has actually been killed as a result I think that contemporary ideas that it was a death sentence for hundreds of people can be shown to be wildly overblown.

And it's also something that Wikileaks worked pretty hard to avoid with the last set of releases.

My problem is that the secrecy surrounding the two wars that the US is involved with and the foreign policy of the US in general are absolutely, determinedly resulting in a lot, really a lot, of dead people right now. And if piercing some of that secrecy can reduce the number of people being killed in the name of the countries I variously reside in and am a citizen of, then even if that also results in some potential threat of harm to a small number of people, it may be the lesser evil.

My most serious concern is about the prospect of a war with Iran, which these cables did directly address in several ways. One important way was direct proof that we will once again be doing Saudi Arabia's dirty work for them, contrary to what they say in public.

(Nothing against Saudi Arabia, except for it being an repressive absolute monarchy that degrades women, the poor, and foreigners, funds terrorism against the West, and lies to everyone, of course.)

Not killing several million Iranians is the most morally compelling foreign policy question that the US faces in the near future. Generally one would think that another totally illegal, unprovoked war on a far-off country would go over about as well as a suggestion that we char-broil and eat all of our first-born children, but clearly that is not a safe assumption after 2003.

Turbulence, aren't you the one who earlier was suggesting hypothetical worse espionage than Ames that hypothetically ended in death as support for your contention that oceanographers had to watch in sorrow as their compatriots wasted their work, on pain of death?

Marty appears to have stories like this and this behind him.

:) I really don't have time to discuss your explanation of Afghanistan based on how stupid Americans where 60 or 70 years ago. Did that really have anything to do with Afghanistan except to just lay the groundwork for your "the US is stupid" standard argument?

Turbulence, aren't you the one who earlier was suggesting hypothetical worse espionage than Ames that hypothetically ended in death as support for your contention that oceanographers had to watch in sorrow as their compatriots wasted their work, on pain of death?

Did you read my comments? I said that reasonable civilians at the height of the cold war might conclude that publicizing classified information relating to the protection of the US from nuclear attack might get you executed. I see no contradiction here: what reasonable civilians might have believed in the middle of the cold war is not identical to what we now know has happened based on recently declassified CIA reports.

Marty appears to have stories like this and this behind him.

No, he doesn't, because he has refused to cite any articles.

However, I'm glad that you've finally produced claims that can be considered and tested! So let's test them. Regarding the Telegraph piece, there is nothing here but Taliban posturing. What did you expect? No evidence that anyone actually died. So the piece proves nothing except that the Taliban are adept at trash talk.

The Newsweek piece is more interesting. It is a dog's breakfast of poor reasoning. It claims that some Afghan leaders were taken by the Taliban even though there's no evidence those leaders were named in the document dump. I mean, if we're going to assume that all violence in Afghanistan is Taliban retribution even when the victims are not named in the Wikileaks data dump, why bother? Then we get some unverified claims by an alleged Taliban intelligence officer.


:) I really don't have time to discuss your explanation of Afghanistan based on how stupid Americans where 60 or 70 years ago.

I'm glad to see our refusal to learn from our past mistakes remains unabated.

Did that really have anything to do with Afghanistan except to just lay the groundwork for your "the US is stupid" standard argument?

Americans consistently underestimate how easily institutions can be compromised by other nations. That's been true for a long time and that's been true even for an extremely security focused organization like the CIA. That was the point of my comment on the CIA.

There are a lot of people in our society (especially, but not only, in foreign relations and diplomatic positions) who realize that bringing very different people together to come to agreement on issues that they'd not be naturally inclined to agree on is an extremely sensitive and difficult task involving saying things frankly that aren't necessarily popular to all.

Thank you sapient. Perhaps this is my bias talking, but I worked in East Asia for many years and the concept of "keeping face" (however badly I may understand this concept) is important.

That Taliban has awfully death-inspiring trash talk.

"bringing very different people together to come to agreement" is indeed a noble goal if pursued with fairness and the common good in mind - yet this is hardly an accurate description of US diplomacy, neither as far as the means nor the goals are concerned

Perhaps you should persuade your own countrymen to do a better job negotiating your preferred policies then, novakant.

I mean, assuming that "untold" means something like "no evidence exists to support this". That's what you meant, right?

No, Jacob. It means I don't know the number. In the Afghan document dump, a two-hour search unearthed the names of dozens of sources. Those lives are imperiled. If they are killed, then blood may very well be on Assange's hands. The Taliban has a policy of killing people they deem "collaborators".

I'm sure you worry just as much about all the innocent people in Afghanistan or Pakistan or Yemen that get killed every time we do another drone strike.

If you're suggesting that I approve the killing of civilian non-combatants, then you're mistaken.

Perhaps you should persuade your own countrymen to do a better job negotiating your preferred policies then, novakant.

Persuade? That can come in many forms. Perhaps Wikileaks has found one.

then blood may very well be on Assange's hands

Really? How far down the chain of causation do we go with this? And, what to do with him then?

I'd think a good hand-washing would be in order.

Yes, it's flu season and hand washing is highly recommended.

Charles, good to see you around here.

Interesting Newshour discussion on the Wikileaks issues:

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/video/module.html?s=news01s4602qff8

Perhaps you should persuade your own countrymen to do a better job negotiating your preferred policies

Oh, so the clout the US has had in international relations since WW2 is due to their superior negotiating skills and not their historically unparalleled military and economic dominance - yeah, right, that must be it...

Anyway, I do not identify with "my country", not to speak of "my government". This might have to do with the fact that I've been living abroad for a long time and that a good chunk of my family and closest relations are either living abroad or are "foreigners".

Even more importantly, I don't think your type of reflexive nationalism is ethically defensible at all, since it's at its root wholly contingent and flies in the face of the ethical universalism that has been a feature of mature thought since the Enlightenment.

Possibly to subscribe to a variation of the "Invisible Hand" theory, in that if every country only pursues its interests a common good will result. But just as in economics this is not applicable in international relations, not least because it presupposes a level playing field which clearly doesn't exist.

Since you are happy to let "your" country go about its business shrouded in secrecy and suspended checks and balances, what it boils down to is at its heart still "my country, right or wrong"

4th paragraph should begin with:

"Possibly you..."

Josh Foust has a good piece on the practical effects of Assange's document dump, one of those effects being to reduce transparency. In that regard, Assange's mission could be a net loss.

Josh Foust has a good piece on the practical effects of Assange's document dump, one of those effects being to reduce transparency.

I do like how this is all the fault of wikileaks and not, you know, that of PFC Manning and the security policies that allowed him to make off with several hundred thousand documents without anyone noticing.

Josh Foust has a good piece on the practical effects of Assange's document dump, one of those effects being to reduce transparency.

Wow, there is some hard core ignorance on display here. We can start with Foust's assumption that having the State Dept restrict access to diplomatic cables from one group of government employees using one particular method is not a loss of transparency. Transparency deals with public knowledge. Since this is the only justification for Foust's contention that Wikileaks had reduced transparency, the whole piece fails.


Charles, I'm glad to see that the quality of evidence you bring to our discussions has not changed appreciably given your long sojourn at Red State.

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