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November 30, 2010

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Via Steve Benen at WM, I found this to be probably the strongest argument for why this latest document dump was a bad thing.

I supported (and still support) the Afghanistan doc dump, and was leaning towards supporting this one as well, but the argument Anne puts forth is very persuasive.

If I were to be pointed about this observation, I would ask why you and the other ObWier front pagers haven't released all your behind the screen discussion along with your observations about various people on the list.

When the sole motivation is to embarrass, it should really indicate that one has gone too far, and I think this does that. The real message is not that much of what is secret is harmless, it is that nothing is secret, not your wry observations to a colleague, not your rant after dealing with some idiot and oh, wouldn't you like to work for us, even though nothing you do will be secret? Failure to give the context, such as the person writing it, the situation they are in, and a billion other things, changes these observations from expressions of opinion to some sort of expression of considered policy of the US government.

It will be very interesting if Assange does have the communications of a major bank and will drop them on Wikileaks and it is interesting to wonder why he didn't release that first.

These articles and interviews are required reading.

http://www.forbes.com/2010/11/29/julian-assange-wikileaks-business-media-assange_lander.html?boxes=Homepagemostpopular

I wasn't aware of Wikileaks' history before the recent dump of State Department stuff.

I can't wait for the dump of documents from a major bank next year.

Wikileaks and like-minded enterprises should go after leaks from health insurance companies, hospitals (why don't they wash their hands?) the entire financial industry, the Koch Brothers empire, and any and all corporations who operate under the new Citizens United regime and the organizations who funnel that money to political parties. I want every cocktail napkin with scribbling on it from Chinese government officials, Pakistani government officials, and Dick Armey's Freedomworks.

I want Grover Norquist's kinky favorites list alongside Osama Bin Laden's kidney dialysis records, just to name two fascist vermin who need to be destroyed. Of course, they'll be two of the prominent fascist vermin in the world as well who will cooperate to murder Assange. Maybe we'll see their cell phone records and maybe even transcripts of their communications with each other planning the murder.

In fact, I want the documents from planning meetings and communications Stephen Forbes has had over the years to destroy the Democratic Party.

EVERY Organization on the face of the Earth should have a leaker. EVERYONE should leak. If organizations of any kind, private and public, don't like it, they can fire EVERYONE, or just become ultra-secretive fascist regimes unto themselves, spying on and punishing their own employees.

There's a rich, varied consortium of entities that want Assange murdered or otherwise neutralized, most vocal among them the Republican Party and their , though as usual, Barack Obama and the Democratic Party will be along soon. But Wikileaks has no national home and can't be prosecuted effectively. It will have hundreds of copycat enterprises.

Wikileaks is a big funhouse of trouble.


I found this to be probably the strongest argument for why this latest document dump was a bad thing.

I didn't find Applebaum's overwrought claims to be terribly persuasive. She ignores the fact that people adapt very quickly and that basic human behavior like gossiping is difficult to staunch. I mean, really, the notion that no one is ever going to have a candid conversation with a State Dept official is just silly. Silly ideas like that appeal to professional contrarians at Slate but there's no reason for us to take them seriously.

If I were to be pointed about this observation, I would ask why you and the other ObWier front pagers haven't released all your behind the screen discussion along with your observations about various people on the list.

The United States government started a war for no reason that ended up killing a million people. The United States government has a long history of working to covertly overthrow legitimately elected democratic governments. Do you believe that Jacob Davies and Eric Martin and friends have done anything even remotely like that? I really don't think the idea that different groups of people should be afforded different degrees of privacy based on their past behavior is a shocking moral principle...do you?

When the sole motivation is to embarrass

How do you know that's the case?

How do you know that's the case?

Because, as Churchill once said about a speech in Parliament 'this pudding has no theme'.

I agree that Anne Applebaum's piece is overwrought (her writing usually is), but I didn't expect you to give the 'well, people will get used to it' line. People can and do get used to a lot of things, that doesn't mean it is the best way to do something or that it justifies doing it.

Jacob seems to be making the case that he has a right to know what every US diplomat says because he is an American citizen. I'm in the process of giving up that right now, but I would prefer to think that everyone has a certain right to keep their observations among their peers unless circumstances dictate otherwise. You obviously don't so we'll just have to disagree on that.

I would prefer to think that everyone has a certain right to keep their observations among their peers unless circumstances dictate otherwise.

I really don't understand this line of thinking. Diplomats are paid to produce cables. Such writing is part of their job; the cables are their work product. And they're not particularly private: the cables are made available to several million people through government computer networks.

So I really don't get how one could see a privacy issue here. Now, there might be other problems, but the privacy of diplomatic staff doesn't seem like one.

Secrecy and privacy are two different things. Both are entitled to protection to varying degrees in different contexts. The indiscriminate leak of government communications probably violates legitimate interests in both.

It's unfortunate that people's concerns about government abuses haven't been adequately investigated in the courts (Bush crimes, etc.). In the private sphere, that's where a disinterested third party (a judge) can look at documents and make a determination about whether they should be made public. People need a certain amount of confidentiality to conduct any kind of relationship. Secrecy should extend to real national security concerns.

I'm concerned about wikileaks because embarrassing diplomats and public officials (both foreign and domestic) doesn't further the cause of diplomacy - something that's way preferable to war.

I look forward to the release of corporate information, but not because I'm entitled to it. These corporations though should be in court, and these documents discovered in a legal proceeding.

A privacy issue puts too much of a point on it. What if you worked in company where every work related email you sent to your colleagues and contacts were on public view? It's not that someone has a claim to keep them private (they are, after all, work product, so if the management wants to put them all on display, who is to complain?) However, it is problematic to the workings of group communication. If we want diplomacy to work, we can't subject them to a regime that we wouldn't subject any other similar group to and expect them to get the results we want.

Going back to Assange's motivation, he's been quoted that the cables are directed at exposing a "lying, corrupt and murderous leadership from Bahrain to Brazil." That seems, especially given the content of the cables, more like an urge to embarrass rather than any sort of directed attempt at dealing with a specific situation.

What lj said, all of it.

And I would go further and classify Assange a terrorist spy. Obama has a list as I recall. His source for this leak seems to have committed treason.

But I will settle for what lj said.


What if you worked in company where every work related email you sent to your colleagues and contacts were on public view?

It wouldn't trouble me overmuch. I mean, I already assume that every work-related email I've ever written can be reviewed by my employers at any time.

However, it is problematic to the workings of group communication. If we want diplomacy to work, we can't subject them to a regime that we wouldn't subject any other similar group to and expect them to get the results we want.

I'm confused...what is the precise issue here? Before Wikileaks, diplomats lived in a world where the communications were scrutinized by at least a few people and were made available to millions of people. After this Wikileaks dump, what exactly has changed?

Going back to Assange's motivation, he's been quoted that the cables are directed at exposing a "lying, corrupt and murderous leadership from Bahrain to Brazil." That seems, especially given the content of the cables, more like an urge to embarrass rather than any sort of directed attempt at dealing with a specific situation.

Is it possible that your perspective is a little bit too focused on the US? I mean, the cables pretty clearly demonstrate that a bunch of non-US governments are at the very least lying. And while people may have believed those governments were lying before, providing evidence seems to be a real improvement on the status quo.

His source for this leak seems to have committed treason.

Why should Assange be punished then? Assange did not commit treason.

lj: I would ask why you and the other ObWier front pagers haven't released all your behind the screen discussion along with your observations about various people on the list

Well, a few points:

1. There isn't much discussion behind the scenes here, and what there is is pretty boring. For my part I wouldn't care if it happened in public, but I'm not the only one on the discussions (plus, did I mention, it's boring). I don't really talk about people behind the scenes. If I have a problem with someone, I say so here.

2. The expectation of privacy in a personal 4 or 5 way email conversation and the expectation of privacy in a diplomatic memo available to perhaps hundreds of thousands of government employees are very different.

3. In the exceedingly unlikely event that there was anything relevant discussed in my private conversations, their contents could in fact become public through subpoenas. The same is decidedly not true of diplomatic communications, no matter how useful that would be.

4. I write everything, and I mean everything, with the expectation that it might become public at some point. If I couldn't live with the consequences of that happening, I don't write it down. Though the released cables were mostly boring, there were a few things in them that should never have been written down, or at least never written down and not classified top secret instead of sitting on SIPRNet. For instance, the orders for diplomats to spy on foreign officials.

One of the reasons I post & comment almost exclusively under my own name is to make sure I remember that everything I write could potentially be tied back to me. Pseudonymity or anonymity are sometimes good choices, and for some people they're essential, but using them extensively can get you into a lot of trouble when the truth comes out. Easier for me just to know that it was under my name in the first place. (The other reason is to make sure I try to post only things I can be comfortable with for the rest of my life, rather than something I can quietly disown without consequence.)

---

I don't expect diplomats to act as if every communication is going to become public. I expect them to understand the context in which their remarks will be published and understand that on a network that hundreds of thousands of people have access to, there is some chance of leaks. That is true of private email, true of corporate email, it's true of things you write on the wall in the bathroom.

Well Turb I think we punish spies who turn citizens to their purposes in obtaining classified information. It pretty much defines spying.

Now this is just silly. Keeping diplomatic cables confidential doesn't have anything to do with a "national security state"; it's a basic ingredient of a functioning diplomatic apparatus.

Well Turb I think we punish spies who turn citizens to their purposes in obtaining classified information. It pretty much defines spying.

By that logic, a large number of award winning journalists should be executed by the government. Do you really believe that we should imprison or execute James Risen?

In any event, James Risen has not been imprisoned or executed. I believe that's because the Bush DOJ thought it was legally impossible. Do you agree? Or do you think they refused to prosecute him out of the goodness of their hearts and deep-seated belief in the necessity of a free-press?

Marty: I would go further and classify Assange a terrorist spy

Oh please. He's an Australian who published some mildly embarrassing information passed to him by a US citizen. The US citizen passing it is probably punishable under espionage or military law; Assange is no more or less entitled to publish it than the New York Times, who - by the way - did so.

lj: Jacob seems to be making the case that he has a right to know what every US diplomat says because he is an American citizen.

Couple of things:

1. I'm not an American citizen - I'm a UK citizen, a US Permanent Resident, I am married to a US citizen and the father of a dual US/UK citizen, and I will naturalize in about a year when eligible - but I would claim no right to read US diplomatic cables in any case.

2. I'm saying it's problematic to have a democracy in which significant information about the actions of one's government are held from citizens. Period. Regardless of the need for secrecy, it is hard for Americans to make decisions about who to elect if significant information is unavailable to them. Some things clearly should be secret anyway, but does it really do the US any good for a select group of people to know that the king of Saudi Arabia doesn't like Iran but doesn't want to say so in public? If something is truly important, we should keep it more secret than publishing it to SIPRNet. If it's not, why are we even writing it down?

(Yes, I recognize the use of "we" can be confusing given I just stated I'm not a citizen. Sorry.)

Jacob, Interpol seems to disagree, they have now issued a warrant for his arrest. See breaking news on cnbc.

The Interpol warrant is for accusations of sexual assault in Sweden, not for espionage, treason, state secrets or any other damn thing related to his journalistic activities.

He is not an American. He does not owe the US a duty of protection to its state secrets. Incidentally, in my opinion, neither do ordinary US citizens except in very, very extreme cases like the detailed designs for nuclear weapons.

Some things clearly should be secret anyway, but does it really do the US any good for a select group of people to know that the king of Saudi Arabia doesn't like Iran but doesn't want to say so in public?

It does the US some distinct harm if the king of Saudi Arabia refuses to talk to US officials because anything he says is going to end up on the Internet.

Incidentally, in my opinion, neither do ordinary US citizens except in very, very extreme cases like the detailed designs for nuclear weapons.

Out of curiosity, Jacob, how do you justify carving out the latter exception? Compared to a blanket disruption of the diplomatic efforts of the US government, in terms of harm to the republic it seems only a quantitative difference, not a qualitative one.

It does the US some distinct harm if the king of Saudi Arabia refuses to talk to US officials because anything he says is going to end up on the Internet.

The King of SA will continue speaking with the US government, even if doing so requires his complete abasement. SA depends on the US for its defense and relies heavily on American subsidies.

I think this whole episode has demonstrated a lot of naivete. I mean, historically, the US has been pretty awful when it comes to counterintelligence. Such insignificant American entities as the CIA and the Manhattan Project were compromised from the very beginning. Given how widely available the cables were within the US government and given how bad the US is at counterintelligence, it seems likely that a number of other governments already have access to this data. In which case, the only real issue is that the American public has found out. You know, just like the secret bombing of Cambodia that was not secret from anyone except the American public.

First of all, I'm looking at this from a functional point of view and making no claims about trying Assange, etc etc. I'm just pointing out that this sort of thing prevents an organization, especially a large organization, from functioning. And if you have an interest in having a large organization function, you might not think that this is a good idea.

To address Jacob's points as a group, one of your predecessors here was outed, so your argument that people should write with the expectation of it becoming public rings a bit hollow. Go here and here for some background. As for the behind the screen stuff being minimal and boring, that is as much an argument for keeping it private, because it becomes far to easy to pull out a misrepresentative quote and manufacture an outrage (cf Tucker Carlson and the Journolist) As for SIPRNet, don't we want a resource where people with a certain level of access can look at some unfiltered thoughts by people on the scene, or do we want to send people off with simply a link to the CIA Yearbook?

And apologies for the assumption on your citizenship, I remember you noting it previously. But if it is difficult for Americans to make decisions about who to elect, isn't the task even more difficult in the England, where the State Secrets act results in things like the Spycatcher case?

And I would go further and classify Assange a terrorist spy.

And a slithy tove as well!

I'm just pointing out that this sort of thing prevents an organization, especially a large organization, from functioning.

How? What is the precise mechanism?

Do you believe that no one will speak with American diplomats now? Do you believe that American diplomats who knew that their cables were previously accessible to millions of people will write very differently knowing that their cables might be accessible to a few billion people? Or what? Please specify a causal mechanism.

The King of SA will continue speaking with the US government, even if doing so requires his complete abasement. SA depends on the US for its defense and relies heavily on American subsidies.

And how about government officials from China, which does not, ahem, rely heavily on American subsidies?

"Refuse to speak" is, by the way, shorthand for "refuse to speak as frankly as he otherwise would".

I don't think anyone's arguing against the fact that a leak can be a good thing---when it serves to inform the public about a specific scandalous action of a government. But indiscriminate leaking like this latest Wikileaks dump represents nothing of the sort.

Do you believe that no one will speak with American diplomats now?

Well, I might be willing to tell them what the weather is like outside my window...

Turb, if you believe that a large organization will suffer no significant damage because the management puts up everyone's total work product on public view with the capacity to be searched by keyword within a relatively short time period of being sent, that's your business. I just don't think that is the case. As far as specifying a causal mechanism, when a complex computer program doesn't work, do you always believe that there is one and only one cause? That seems a bit reductionist to me.

The rationale for keeping the (thermo-) nuclear weapons secrets is:

1) They are actually secret. As in, only a very, very small group of people know them and only on a need-to-know basis. This is not true for the design of the Fat Man/Trinity device, which is mostly public now. There's no reason to suppress information that's already public, as much of this diplomatic information was.

2) They are truly dangerous, in that possessing them might enable a nuclear weapons state that has only been able to build hundred-kiloton-range weapons to build multi-megaton bombs. The difference is very significant - compare the green, purple, and orange circles here.

3) There is nothing useful for the public to learn from knowing them. We know that it is possible to build a 50Mt bomb (or very probably, a bomb of almost any size whatsoever). We don't need to know how to understand the consequences of that.

And how about government officials from China, which does not, ahem, rely heavily on American subsidies?

China and the US are heavily interdependent. China needs the US. The US needs China. The US and China are not going to stop talking to each other. That's just nutty. Look, the fundamental problem with all diplomats is that you never can tell how much you can trust what they're saying. That suggests that any damage from these cables is minimal: there's no reason to believe they represent the truth, so there's no great loss to their publicity.

I don't think anyone's arguing against the fact that a leak can be a good thing---when it serves to inform the public about a specific scandalous action of a government. But indiscriminate leaking like this latest Wikileaks dump represents nothing of the sort.

I must ask, isn't it possible that you are too heavily focused on the US? Because this dump does represent a scandal for a number of governments, just not the US government. I think citizens of Saudi Arabia are entitled to know that their government is lying to them. I think that's important. Don't you?

Turb, if you believe that a large organization will suffer no significant damage because the management puts up everyone's total work product on public view with the capacity to be searched by keyword within a relatively short time period of being sent, that's your business.

Um, I know no significant damage will result because the situation you're describing is the status quo before Wikileaks. Back in the day, diplomats published their work product to computer networks where any one of millions of people could read their work and search for it using key words. And that was fine. That didn't destroy group dynamics in the diplomatic corps at all, did it?

LJ, I listed two possible causal mechanisms. Do you reject both of them?

We know that it is possible to build a 50Mt bomb... We don't need to know how to understand the consequences of that.

Quite so, but once again all this is a matter only of degree. The latest Wikileaks dump does not give the public any new information that it needs to learn. We already knew that the Arabs don't like Iran, that North Korea is becoming a pain in China's butt, and so forth. Revealing the *specifics* of what the King of Saudi Arabia or the Chinese vice foreign minister said serves only to undermine the channel through which they said it. It provides no more useful public knowledge than would a detailed engineering schematic for a nuclear weapon.

Do you think that there is no difference between an internal network of thousands of people (millions? Really?) and the internet? If that's the case, I'm not sure if there will be anything gained from discussing causal mechanisms. Furthermore, if you think that more opacity in our relationship with China, I invite you to trade places with someone living in the suburbs of Seoul right now.

The latest Wikileaks dump does not give the public any new information that it needs to learn.

This might be true if you're talking about the American public. But the world contains people who are not American. And those people have interests that must be considered in any cost-benefit analysis. Don't Arabs deserve to learn that their leaders have been lying to them? This is a very simple question that I've asked before which no one seems willing to answer.

We already knew that the Arabs don't like Iran

This is a very deceptive way of framing the issue. In the past, "we" heard unsubstantiated claims that Arab nations disliked Iran. We did not know that they were actively advocating for an American attack against Iran. What's more, we had no evidence that they were. Now we know and have evidence.


(millions? Really?)

From the Guardian:

This means that a diplomatic dispatch marked Sipdis is automatically downloaded on to its embassy's classified website. From there it can be accessed not only by anyone in the state department, but also by anyone in the US military who has a computer connected to Siprnet. Millions of US soldiers and officials have "secret" security clearance. The US general accounting office identified 3,067,000 people cleared to "secret" and above in a 1993 study. Since then, the size of the security establishment has grown appreciably.

So yeah, millions.

Do you think that there is no difference between an internal network of thousands of people (millions? Really?) and the internet?

I don't see how it would make a difference and you seem unwilling to say. I can see how having one's writing scrutinized by their peers might make a difference, but that's already the case. And these are observational reports, not fiction or creative work. I just don't understand how Wikileaks changes anything. And if you can't even speculate as to a causal mechanism, then, with respect, I don't think you understand how either. Magical thinking isn't enough.

Turbulence: In the past, "we" heard unsubstantiated claims that Arab nations disliked Iran. We did not know that they were actively advocating for an American attack against Iran. What's more, we had no evidence that they were. Now we know and have evidence.

Which is actually exactly the kind of important information that citizens of a democracy might like to know when electing their representatives, when those representatives have expressed opinions about attacking Iran one way or another.

What exactly it means that the king of Saudi Arabia is willing to lie to his own citizenry about his desire to attack Iran while pressuring us in private - and what it means that certain US politicians have advocated for that same policy without disclosing that they likely know the degree of secret support for it among authoritarian Gulf states - is a more complicated question.

And that's kind of the point of the article linked above. We (in either the US or UK) are not subjects of a monarch. We're citizens of a democracy. We should not create a large privileged class who know certain secret - but not very secret - things that the rest of us don't.

As for the UK, the Spycatcher thing was ridiculous. I've read the book, it's an amusing look into the paranoid mindset required to operate a spy agency and something of a warning against creating dangerous secrets. It's not dangerous. The UK takes the state secret idea much too far, although lately it hasn't meant all that much given the Internet etc.

From there it can be accessed not only by anyone in the state department, but also by anyone in the US military who has a computer connected to Siprnet.

Given the Grauniad's tenuous connection with truth, justice, and proper spelling, I wouldn't put too much weight to that.

Outside of Siprnet, you have to establish both clearance level AND need to know in order to access classified data. I haven't had the need to do anything with Siprnet, but it'd be odd if the rules were different there.

So: I'm not calling bullsh!t so much as looking highly askance at this claim.

My dad worked with classified information and yeah, what Slarti said. There's no way it was millions of people. Millions 'potentially' had access, just like the entire world 'potentially' has access to your personal records, but you wouldn't be happy if the public courthouse put up all your records on the internet, would you?

Outside of Siprnet, you have to establish both clearance level AND need to know in order to access classified data

A PFC had the need to know....everything?

And yes, the Spycatcher thing was ridiculous but it was ridiculous because the data set was constrained and pointed to a specific set of actions. A data dump, like this, does nothing to underline any problems with secrecy and so seems less like a good thing.

Millions 'potentially' had access, just like the entire world 'potentially' has access to your personal records, but you wouldn't be happy if the public courthouse put up all your records on the internet, would you?

WTF? If millions of people potentially had access, then...we agree. I mean, almost all the reports are boring and irrelevant to just about everyone so most reports were never scrutinized by more than a few people. That's still true today.

A data dump, like this, does nothing to underline any problems with secrecy and so seems less like a good thing.

I keep asking this question and you insist on not answering. The data dump reveals that the national leadership of several Arab countries are liars. I think their citizens have a right to know that. Do you? Yes or no? Why is this question so hard for you to answer?

" I think their citizens have a right to know that. Do you? Yes or no? Why is this question so hard for you to answer?"

Because their right to know is irrelevant. Their right to know doesn't excuse the broad theft and release of these documents, it is superfluous to this discussion.
.

Because their right to know is irrelevant.

That's a bit mimsy.

Marty, the question was directed at people who believe that Wikileaks is justified in publicizing leaks to reveal government malfeasance. Or, as cyd put it:

I don't think anyone's arguing against the fact that a leak can be a good thing---when it serves to inform the public about a specific scandalous action of a government. But indiscriminate leaking like this latest Wikileaks dump represents nothing of the sort.

By the way Marty, I'm curious if you have any response to my comment.

I have to say, what marty says. For someone who has written so fervently about the problems of US exceptionalism and 'knowing what is best', you seem to think that deciding what should be revealed is alright when you decide. If you think that the US should be going out of its way to prove which leaders are liars, don't you think that's going to cause some problems?

I don't know what the long term outcome would be of proving that Arab leaders lied (which you elide to 'are liars'), but bad outcomes are just as likely as good, wouldn't you say? But I do think that US-Turkey relationships will take the biggest hit they ever have, and at this point in time, it's not really a good thing. I also think that US-China relationships might be problematic at a time when making sure that there is a certain amount of trust is kind of essential. Balancing that off against some unspoken promise of good things in Arab countries seems rather silly.

I have to say, what marty says.

So, you think that James Risen and many of our best journalists should be imprisoned or executed? I mean, Marty drives a very fine car, but he also takes you to places you may not want to go. Or maybe you do.

For someone who has written so fervently about the problems of US exceptionalism and 'knowing what is best', you seem to think that deciding what should be revealed is alright when you decide.

No, I'm just skeptical of reactionary arguments made in service of the state, especially when there's no plausible causation mechanism.

If you think that the US should be going out of its way to prove which leaders are liars, don't you think that's going to cause some problems?

Eh? Why do you think I believe that?

We were talking about the ethics of Wikileaks' actions, not the ethics of the US unilaterally publishing all secret data.

Balancing that off against some unspoken promise of good things in Arab countries seems rather silly.

Do those good things include reducing the probability of a shooting war with Iran, a war that might destabilize the global economy?

Marty wrote:

I would go further and classify Assange a terrorist spy

Come on, now. That's completely disproportionate.

What strikes me, though, is how this ties in with the Fox News discussion. Yesterday I went to foxnews.com to compare its headlines to those at nytimes.com, cnn.com, etc., and the big banner at Fox asked if Assange is a terrorist. AFAICT, this meme was introduced by Republican Rep. Peter King, and spread through the right-wing media: Drudge, FoxNews, National Review, Santorum, Palin, etc.

Now, if I understood you in the other thread, Marty, you say you're a conservative who *isn't* strongly influenced by Fox. Where did you get this meme, then?

So, if Assange is murdered or neutralized, does this mean we don't get the big bank dump?

Doctor, your very incomplete list of Republican Rep. Peter King, Drudge, FoxNews, National Review, Santorum, Palin .. you know... the original wikileakers who lied, transmitted lies, continue to lie and worked tirelessly to destroy the State Department's mission of diplomacy under the anti-American Bush Administration and subverted this country's diplomatic establishment in the service of Rumsfeld's lying sh*t-f*ck murder of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, are now, what, a little sensitive about damage to the State Department?

Screw them.

They hate the State Department.

Assange is just finishing the job the filth Republican Party started -- the destruction of the American government.

But I want the bank-dump and more. I expect Goldman Sachs will pay Peter King personally to find Assange and put a bullet in his head.

And he will. He's nothing but a hired gun, the whore.

By the way, I think Marty's thoughts are his own and just coinkadink with the poisonous media atmosphere.

What Turb said.

Bush lied us into a war and committed war crimes and Obama decided that wasn't worth investigating, but apparently the standards are different for wikileaks. Any dictator would understand and agree with the logic there. There is no accountability for high-ranking war criminals in the US and until there is, organizations like wikileaks are about as close as we're going to come to those fabled checks and balances we are supposed to have in our system.

If I lived in a country where the rule of law applied to everyone, I might take a stricter line on what wikileaks should or should not do. But I don't. And I don't put much stock in "diplomacy" either, not if it means persuading the government of Yemen to lie about our killing of people inside Yemen. Diplomacy is, in this case, just part of the process of killing people.

I sorta like Arthur Silber's line on this--

link

It's funny how we adopt words and adapt our lexicon to the times. This is a very useful slant on things.
NHL Jerseys

So, you think that James Risen and many of our best journalists should be imprisoned or executed? I mean, Marty drives a very fine car, but he also takes you to places you may not want to go. Or maybe you do.

I was going to say something like 'I don't believe I'm typing this', but I thought it was needlessly inflammatory, so I just said 'I have to say'. Thanks for taking the ball the rest of the way. I realize that you have roots/connections to the Middle East, but do you really think I should laud this because it might help the citizens of another country do something to their leaders? I thought you kinda got the notion of unintended consequences, but now, I'm not so sure. And anyway, trying tie me to Marty's other comments on the subject when I specifically wrote

First of all, I'm looking at this from a functional point of view and making no claims about trying Assange, etc etc.

makes it seem like you've got some problem. But who are you going to believe, what I wrote in the thread, or what you want me to have said? In fact, you quote cyd saying

I don't think anyone's arguing against the fact that a leak can be a good thing---when it serves to inform the public about a specific scandalous action of a government. But indiscriminate leaking like this latest Wikileaks dump represents nothing of the sort.

I bold the last part because you didn't seem to understand that. I'm not sure how much different my opinion is from that, or from Catsy's up top. At any rate, something has gotten your back up, so I leave the thread to you and hope whatever burr is under your saddle, it will work its way out.

There once was a time when the US (and btw the then still infant Soviet Union) considered secret diplomacy to be an abomination and a danger to peace. It was considered to have played a significant part in what developed into the First World War. The, admittedly naive, assumption was that abolishing secret diplomacy could prevent this from happening again. The infamous Zimmermann telegram affair would have been far less explosive in my opinion, if a) the participants had not believed that they could deal in secrecy and b) it had not been sprung on an unsuspecting US public.
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If Chain-Eye had prevailed and the US attacked Iran then the talks between the US, the Arab states and Israel would have been a conspiracy to start a war of aggression, which iirc is a hanging offence.
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At the agency I work for the policy is: every internal communication is to be treated as confidential but also conducted in a way that exposure will not cause embarassement, i.e. 'assume that everyone can read this but don't spread it yourself'.
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Anyone assuming that confidential info given to the US will stay confidential has not paid attention. Incompetence and malice are strong forces there and short term political gains (even just perceived ones) are rated higher than anything else by too many.

The sad thing is that so many people seem to have no problem at all ("I've got nothing to hide") with the state (and increasingly corporations) knowing almost everything about us, but when the tables are turned ever so often they all come out alleging bloody murder, spying and treason.

And as for the "functioning diplomatic apparatus", I urge everyone to read Steve Coll's "Ghost Wars", which describes US policy and diplomacy towards Pakistan/Afghanistan from Carter to 9/11. It's an embarrassing history of failures that will erode anyone's trust in the powers that be doing the right thing if left unchecked, which seems to be an underlying assumption behind the critics of transparency.

do you really think I should laud this because it might help the citizens of another country do something to their leaders? I thought you kinda got the notion of unintended consequences, but now, I'm not so sure.

Um...yes? I don't really see an alternative here. Are we supposed to do everything possible to help middle eastern dictators keep their people powerless and oppressed? I mean, if we were talking about a right-wing dictatorship in latin America like Pinochet's, surely you wouldn't suggest that refuse to publish information about Pinochet's death squads because it might lead to....what, democracy? Justice?

In any event, you seem to be making this weird mental leap in assuming that releasing any information that makes Arab dictators look bad inevitably causes bloody revolutions. I don't find that likely -- it seems much more likely that such information, released over time, is the prerequisite for gradual social change. But perhaps I'm misreading you: can you explain what you meant by unintended consequences?

But indiscriminate leaking like this latest Wikileaks dump represents nothing of the sort.

I bold the last part because you didn't seem to understand that.

I understand cyd's claim and believe it to be wrong. The cables document a great deal of government malfeasance -- much of it happens to be non-US government malfeasance though. I don't subscribe to this apparently common belief that publicizing government malfeasance is only good when the government in question is the US government.

At any rate, something has gotten your back up, so I leave the thread to you and hope whatever burr is under your saddle, it will work its way out.

I don't think speculating on people's emotionally state is generally helpful. I mean, you don't see me speculating about how your long immersion in a deeply authoritarian culture seems to have colored your opinions on Wikileaks, do you? ;-)

"I don't think anyone's arguing against the fact that a leak can be a good thing---when it serves to inform the public about a specific scandalous action of a government. But indiscriminate leaking like this latest Wikileaks dump represents nothing of the sort."

I don't know about Turb, but that's part of what has my back up, that and a few other comments you've made in this thread, lj. I don't want and don't expect convenient carefully targeted leaking--I want the equivalent of a carpetbombing campaign where diplomats smooching with corrupt leaders overseas never know whether their lies will go public. I want them constantly wondering if this or that policy, this or that laughing agreement to lie about who is launching the missiles, will go public. And it's just bizarre to think that we shouldn't expose a dictator for fear of unintended consequences. Maybe we shouldn't actively collude with lying Arab dictators--I seem to remember reading now and then that our collusion with them has led to the ordinary Arab wondering about our commitment to democracy and openness.

And I don't care to line up with the liars, war criminals, and enablers of war criminals in being appalled by wikileaks and their irresponsibility. Now maybe if I lived in a country where there were serious attempts at uncovering lies and war crimes conducted by my government I could trust that government to be our wise and benevolent overlord and decide for itself what should be classified and what shouldn't. But I live in America. There is little chance that the hypocrites in power, whether Democrat or Republican, will ever take seriously the notion that they themselves should be held accountable. They need help in coming to that realization. Currently they think that being an American official automatically means they can't be war criminals, and their idea of accountability is losing an election and becoming a lobbyist or retiring to live in comfort. One reason for this arrogance is that people on the left are so quick to accept this reality and then turn right around and join in the chorus of condemnation for wikileaks just as though the real threat to democratic values comes mainly from cyber anarchists.

Now maybe if I lived in a country where there were serious attempts at uncovering lies and war crimes conducted by my government I could trust that government to be our wise and benevolent overlord and decide for itself what should be classified and what shouldn't. But I live in America.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Doc, as CM--in said (thanks), I am quite capable of having a thought on my own and, as I have said before, I don't watch Fox News except in the occasional airport.

Turb, I find the comparison between a journalist spending time gathering sources and breaking a specific story and recruiting people to steal a large number of classified government documents pretty weak.

I will also admit I find Assange, a self described anarchist, pretty unsympathetic and his goals simply to stir the pot for personal gain. Whatever good might be perceived from this is incidental to his self aggrandizement and the potential harm.

Turb, I find the comparison between a journalist spending time gathering sources and breaking a specific story and recruiting people to steal a large number of classified government documents pretty weak.

Marty, you called for his execution specifically because he convinced an American to turn over classified information. Which is exactly what Risen and other journalists did. Now, did you have an actual legal principle in mind or do you think the state should execute Assange because you don't like him? If you did have an objective legal principle, would you mind explaining it and specifying why it requires that Assange be executed while Risen walks free? I'd appreciate it.

Whatever good might be perceived from this is incidental to his self aggrandizement and the potential harm.

Tis funny you say that, because I think the exact same thing about most high ranking military officers. Somehow, I don't think you view Gen Petreus that way though.

"Somehow, I don't think you view Gen Petreus that way though."

But you are wrong, I find the warrior king offensive in his belief he should be followed blindly with little to no civilian oversight.

""Somehow, I don't think you view Gen Petreus that way though."

But you are wrong, I find the warrior king offensive in his belief he should be followed blindly with little to no civilian oversight."

Rereading this, I need to add that I despise the sychophantic worship of every word he says by seemingly everyone in government from McCain to Obama, not to mention the DoD leadership and the Joint Chiefs.

But then I don't think we should be in Afghanistan either, what do I know.

What if you worked in company where every work related email you sent to your colleagues and contacts were on public view?

In fact I, and I suspect many others who comment on this blog, do. I teach at a public university in a state with very broad sunshine laws. It's actually very, very easy for the public to gain access to any e-mails I send on my work account.

Now maybe if I lived in a country where there were serious attempts at uncovering lies and war crimes conducted by my government I could trust that government to be our wise and benevolent overlord and decide for itself what should be classified and what shouldn't. But I live in America.

A thousand times this.

I don't think speculating on people's emotionally state is generally helpful. I mean, you don't see me speculating about how your long immersion in a deeply authoritarian culture seems to have colored your opinions on Wikileaks, do you? ;-)

Actually, that would be a fair point in many ways. But if you want to suggest I want Risen assassinated because I live in japan, you may want to check the steps to get from from one point to the other. But seriously, if there is something that really gets on your nerves about this beyond what we have discussed, I would be more than interested in knowing about it rather than make the assumption that you are just being a jerk. You've basically come after me with a flamethrower, when cyd, Catsy, and sapient have voiced similar opinions to me. This is not encouraging you or Donald to declare open season on them, but I'm at a loss to understand why a statement like

I'm concerned about wikileaks because embarrassing diplomats and public officials (both foreign and domestic) doesn't further the cause of diplomacy - something that's way preferable to war.

can become your thing about not supporting Arab people because it is refusing to reveal that their leaders are liars (I can't even guess how to get the grammar right to explain that), or as DJ says, 'lining up with war criminals'.

As far as the Silber link goes, it sounds to me like 'let's turn over the whole damn applecart'. I certainly cop to feeling that from time to time, but somehow, given that there is a Democratic administration that is actually trying to use diplomacy, I don't think it would turn out as he (or you) thinks it would. As a counterbalance, this column by Robert Farley offers this:

In the context of any discussion about negotiations, the release of the cables brings up some relevant issues of diplomatic secrecy. As Pei suggests, not thinking about a North Korean collapse would be the height of irresponsibility for policymakers in the United States, South Korea, Japan, and China. Since the final status of North Korea affects the interests of all four powers, policy coordination will be necessary. However, none of the states involved can publicly discuss contingency plans for a North Korean collapse. Evidence that South Korea and the United States were actively colluding in planning for the aftermath of such a contingency would probably quash any hopes for the Six-Party Talks. Open Japanese participation in such talks could inflame opinion in both Koreas and in Japan. Perhaps most important, evidence that China had broached the topic of a North Korean collapse with the United States and South Korea might serve to make Pyongyang even more paranoid and reckless.

To diverge from hating on Assange for a minute, I'd like to address this point in Jacob's original post:

It's not clear to me that a truly democratic state can also be a perpetual national security state consumed with secrecy.

And also to touch on this, from Marty:

I find the warrior king offensive in his belief he should be followed blindly with little to no civilian oversight.

As a point of interest, the so-called "black" - i.e., classified - portion of the DoD budget is now north of $50B a year.

That makes the US *classified* military expenditure comparable to total military expenditures of the UK, China, or France.

And that is just the DoD money, there is "black" money throughout the budget.

That's a lot of money.

How many members of Congress are read in to these programs?

In fact I, and I suspect many others who comment on this blog, do.

No, you don't. Unless your school offers up your private email to anyone who has an internet connection, with your mails searchable for keywords. And furthermore, I don't think that someone could demand access anonymously, so you would at least know who knew what and what they had asked for.

No, you don't. Unless your school offers up your private email to anyone who has an internet connection, with your mails searchable for keywords. And furthermore, I don't think that someone could demand access anonymously, so you would at least know who knew what and what they had asked for.

I didn't claim that my e-mails are in the same state as those in the Wikileaks dumps.

But the question I was responding to was what I would think about working in a company in which every work related e-mail I sent or received was viewable by the public. And, in fact, that is the case in my job, even if, in the case of my job, someone needs to formally ask to see these e-mails through a series of bureaucratic procedures.

"somehow, given that there is a Democratic administration that is actually trying to use diplomacy,"

I don't assume their intentions are good. Diplomacy is just another tool, and as we knew without wikileaks, it's often used to further the cause of war and/or other Bad Things. In this case it seems Arab leaders are secretly urging us to start yet another disastrous war, this time with Iran. I'm glad they've been exposed. Yemen has been lying on our behalf regarding who is launching air strikes in their country. Wikileaks exposed that. Good.

I wrote 'on public view'. I suppose you could read that as 'the public could view it', but in the next sentence, I said

if the management wants to put them all on display

That is not the same as making a request to see them. If you want to argue that this is a good management technique, go ahead. I really don't see how it would be.

People, please try and keep the flames to a minimum. Not that you haven't already shown restraint, just that it seems to me that we have an incipient flamefest going on here, and this is much too important of an issue to have it devolve into a shouting match to be won by the angriest & loudest.

My own personal opinion in this matter is that the most damage done by this leak is to our credibility in the matter of keeping confidential discussions properly protected. If the statesmen (statespeople?) of other nations cannot trust us to protect things they say to or around us, they will stop having those discussions with or near us. Or they'll not entrust us with information they might otherwise entrust us with.

But I have had a really limited exposure to what's actually in the documents, so there is likely a lot more to this than I think. Which is mostly why I've stayed out of it.

If you want to argue that this is a good management technique, go ahead. I really don't see how it would be.

It's an interesting question whether my University, if it wanted to, could data-dump all of its employees' e-mail a la Wikileaks.

Would that be a good management technique? I think not. But that's really a different question.

Your original question was what it would be like to work in a job where that might happen. And I honestly cannot say that it couldn't happen here...nor can I count on it not happening (though I should say that I see absolutely no sign that my current administration would do this).

The point is that I actually do assume that I can count on virtually no confidentiality or privacy in anything I write or receive in any work related e-mail. And yet I manage to do my job.

LJ, my apologies for suggesting you completely agreed with Marty regarding executing journalists; I read but totally failed to process your comment about not wanting to do so. My mistake and my apologies to you.

You've basically come after me with a flamethrower, when cyd, Catsy, and sapient have voiced similar opinions to me.

Catsy made one comment, which I responded to. That's it. There's nothing else I can say to Catsy because he's not here. Cyd made a few comments and I think I've responded to them all. sapient has also made only one comment but I find it way too sad to respond to.

You gotten more attention because (1) you've posted a lot more than the others -- in fact, more than the rest of them put together. I can't respond to comments that are not made. (2) I expect better from you -- the quality of argumentation you've displayed in this thread is not at all what I've come to expect of you. Obviously, you don't owe me anything, but you asked why, so....(3) You're refusing to identify causal mechanisms and your argument consistently focus on weird strawman positions that no one is actually advocating. Cyd at least suggested a mechanism, albeit one that I thought was wrong.

Finally, your comments seemed to have flirted with what I consider anti-Arab sentiment. For example, your repeated insistence that no public good was served because the only government malfeasance exposed was that of Arab governments plus there's your bizarre notion that the US has an obligation to protect Arab dictators no matter what. Frankly, I don't usually see anyone here saying vile stuff like that, so I do find it a little shocking.

So the syllogism is:

1.) War bad
2.) Diplomacy good
3.) Diplomacy requires secrecy and as long as the threshold to war is not crossed, we should just trust them to do the right thing.

Diplomacy is just another tool, and as we knew without wikileaks, it's often used to further the cause of war and/or other Bad Things. In this case it seems Arab leaders are secretly urging us to start yet another disastrous war, this time with Iran. I'm glad they've been exposed. Yemen has been lying on our behalf regarding who is launching air strikes in their country. Wikileaks exposed that. Good.

I find this compelling. The issue isn't really about whether or not exposing diplomatic cables will further or harm diplomacy in general, I don't think. It's a question of what sort of diplomacy it will further or harm. If diplomats and governments are less willing to make potentially embarassing deals, that are potentially embarassing because they are immoral, that's a good thing, IMO.

To engage in a bit of diplomacy of my own, I'd like to suggest that most (maybe all) of us can agree that there are competing interests in tension here. And I think we can agree for the most part on what those competing interests are, even if we disagree on which of them are more compelling that the others. It's a matter of relative subtlety which side you come down on as a commenter on this blog when considered against what other, um, let's say more reactionary people elsewhere are saying. (So Kumbaya, em-effers.)

This, as a small exercise:

http://motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2010/11/willful-self-destruction

I normally would agree with much of lj's reaction expressed here (particularly his concern about damaging a Democratic Administration's diplomatic endeavors), but my slant (expressed much better by Donald Johnson, though with different accents) is that my country is in the grip of a nihilistic rabble in the guise of what used to be called the Republican Party who want no governance (domestically they resemble the murderous Confederate Constitution dressed up as a shallow, crappy reality show and their overseas stance is perpetual war and the perpetual direction of tax dollars to the national security state) and seek only to destroy their enemies and the institutions of their enemies, who are legion, in their eyes.

Just as their sadistic, hateful, extreme rhetoric should be met and countered with even more sadistic, hateful, extreme rhetoric, rather than sit-downs for "compromise", so their nihilism should be met and countered with a darker, deeper, more vicious and ultimately more damaging nihilism.

They want enemies? Good, I'm your man. Do you like Alan Simpson's maniacal cackle? Well, get a load of my world-ending cackle, baby, if cackling over others' misfortunes is your deal.

Do they want to burn down the house to achieve whatever their ultimate endgame happens to be? Good, here's some gasoline and let me help you strike the match. I don't even care that my guy occupies the master bedroom in the house. Now, we're all our in the street and I don't care anymore. Is this what you wanted? Now, let's fight, you effing jagoffs.

Just so, Assange's efforts are in many respects deeply nihilistic. While the Republican Party lights fires in the basement while blocking the egress, Assange is throwing lit torches onto the roof.

Note: I don't let the Obama Administration off the hook on various issues, but their response to the most dangerous organization on the face of the Earth -- the Republican Party -- is pathetic.

Note also: Thanks for the opportunity to rant. I think I'll get out of my bathrobe now cause I think I smell smoke and may have to slide down the nihilistpole.. I'm just powerless prole #101,017,938.

Note #3: Marty and I both want out of Afghanistan. The public has spoken.

Note #4: I admire Richard Lugar in many ways.



Note #4: I admire Richard Lugar in many ways.

really?

cause he just signed a letter stating that he, along with the rest of the Senate GOP, intends to hold the Senate hostage "until the Senate has acted to fund the government and we have prevented the tax increase that is currently awaiting all American taxpayers".

some might say the first part of that quote is at odds with the second part. but those people aren't Dick Lugar, or his fellow lunatics.

I suspect if Assange dumped emails and cell phone conversations of global warming scientists, or records of the Defense Department's inner deliberations regarding the security implications of a warming planet, that Dick Armey, Karl Rove, and Erick Erickson would hook him up with a pimp costume and a micro-video-audio recording device, and sic him on the head of the National Academy of Sciences.

"The issue isn't really about whether or not exposing diplomatic cables will further or harm diplomacy in general, I don't think. It's a question of what sort of diplomacy it will further or harm. If diplomats and governments are less willing to make potentially embarassing deals, that are potentially embarassing because they are immoral, that's a good thing, IMO."

What about Japan, South Korea and China talking about what to do about the eventual collapse of North Korea as lj talked about above? They obviously can't do that publicly without risking serious problems that are likely to end up with lots of dead people, but not being able to talk about it privately is likely to cause lots of extra dead people when NK collapses. This isn't just stopping the 'immoral' diplomacy.

Cleek: "really?

Well, that's not one of the "many ways"

But I prefer part-time lunatics, like myself, to the full-time variety now nipping at Lugar's heels from within his lunatic Party.

There still seems to be a way of doing business with the guy,

That said, if the Republicans shut down the government over taxes, they'd better never open it again.

some might say the first part of that quote is at odds with the second part

Maybe what they have if mind is for all Senators to direct all of their fund-raising activities to retiring the federal deficit.

Maybe even write some personal checks.

I'd support their doing that.

Yeah, Lugar's a pretty good guy, but only in context.

Just so, Assange's efforts are in many respects deeply nihilistic.

D'accord.

Anarchistic hijinks are all well and good, but it ain't just "the man" that he's sticking it to.

Kumbaya, em-effers

I so want that on a T-shirt and/or a bumper sticker.

Maybe a tattoo, on my knuckles.

What about Japan, South Korea and China talking about what to do about the eventual collapse of North Korea as lj talked about above? They obviously can't do that publicly without risking serious problems that are likely to end up with lots of dead people, but not being able to talk about it privately is likely to cause lots of extra dead people when NK collapses. This isn't just stopping the 'immoral' diplomacy.

What makes you think that NK wasn't fully aware of the contents of all these conversations before Wikileaks came along? Are we to believe that the US is just totally awesome at counterintelligence now, despite its long history of counterintelligence failure? Should we just assume that there's no faction in the Chinese/Japanese/SK governments that might be funneling really basic information like 'we're all talking about what happens post-Kim' to NK?

You know, the American government has been predicting the imminent collapse of NK for several decades now. That's a long history of wrongness. Frankly, I'm not sure lots of planning by people who have consistently been wrong for decades is really helpful. I mean, if we know so little about the internal state of NK that we can't even determine whether NK is about to collapse, what makes you think we know enough to successfully plan out, in advance, a NK collapse?

One thing that Iraq helped crystallize is that Americans are absolutely convinced they have a lot more control over the world than they actually do. Perhaps that same bias is at work here as well.

Finally, the US government can always say "this is a one-off; screw ups happen and this one won't happen again" -- and that's a pretty credible argument. Right now, Wikileaks has one and only one DOD leaker, and he's behind bars facing a long prison term. Its unlikely they'll be able to find someone who can steal lots of diplomatic cables in the short term (and hey! NK will no doubt collapse any day now!). Can someone explain to me why the Chinese government would simply assume that leaked diplomatic cables are just going to be the new normal?

This isn't just stopping the 'immoral' diplomacy.

Like I said, there are competing interests in tension here. I get that, Sebastian, and contingency planning for NK is something that might be more difficult (as opposed to being stopped), and that's nothing to ignore. But I think things that are really necessary will get done somehow.

In a perfect world, I'd like to see international malfeasance (let's assume for now that we agree on what falls under that category) exposed, while leaving governments to act in good faith without undue, premature and potentially damaging scrutiny. But what we're talking about now is Wikileaks dump versus no Wikileaks dump. Is it a net good thing or a net bad thing? I certainly wouldn't suggest that it's a perfect thing.

There are some things wikileaks shouldn't print. They've been accused of printing the names of innocent people in Afghanistan and/or Iraq, putting them in danger and if that's true (which I don't know), they shouldn't have done it. If they obtain private medical records that shouldn't be printed. Ditto for any classified quick and easy ways for constructing nuclear weapons in your garage. If they listen in on, say, US/Chinese/South Korean/Japanese discussions on what to do about North Korea--well, in that case maybe it depends on what is said. There is a case for secrecy here. But maybe we should have some inkling of what our wonderful government planners have in store for the Korean peninsula, given how effectively they've planned for Iraq and Afghanistan.

So there are extreme scenarios where one would (with huge misgivings) sympathize with the US government's desire for secrecy, but on the whole I think it's the same issue we have with a free press in general or would have, if the press were less servile. I almost forgot what sort of press we have. Wikileaks is a reminder of what the press should be doing.

As usual, Glenn Greenwald says it best--

link

Donald Johnson, the lines that you personally draw about what should be kept from the public supports my earlier point. We all agree that some stuff shouldn't be disclosed - we just may disagree about what that stuff is. That's why the document dumping is a bad idea - no one who represents our collective interests (not to mention your particular interests or mine) is really scrutinizing the information for what legitimately is harmful.

We vote for an executive who, to a certain degree, carries with him the trust of the people (until impeachment or the next election). Foreign policy historically has been accomplished in part by using diplomats who establish trust relationships with other countries' diplomats where candor is essential. I think it's ridiculously unrealistic and unworkable for every communication between these people to be made a matter of public record. Without confidentiality, no possibility exists for people to put their cards on the table when their cards often include knowledge of embarrassing and inconvenient facts.

That's why the document dumping is a bad idea - no one who represents our collective interests (not to mention your particular interests or mine) is really scrutinizing the information for what legitimately is harmful.

That's why the document dumping is an imperfect idea. But it's better than not doing it because no one who represents our collective interests (not to mention your particular interests or mine) is really scrutinizing claims of secrecy for what legitimately is harmful.

And I think people need to stop talking as though Wikileaks has somehow changed the universe to make any and all secrecy impossible.

What makes you think that NK wasn't fully aware of the contents of all these conversations before Wikileaks came along?

It's not that NK isn't aware, it is that any of the countries stepping ahead of the others could lead NK to either use that to prevent any kind of consensus. Japan needs to think about what a post NK world looks like and it needs to synch with China, SK and the US. It can't do it publicly. The same goes for the other three countries. Why is that so hard to understand? It is not a question of awareness of positions, it is a question of whether a nation can be seen publicly advocating a particular course.

And hairshirt, I don't think it is a question of wikileaks dump versus no dump. I thought we were discussing the wisdom of what was done and the way it was done. The noun 'dump' suggests that there was no care in choosing what was put out so the question is a dump versus a leak on a specific subject. A leak implies some knowledge about the context and therefore some idea of what is important and why.

They are the cables of the State Department. If you could get the cables of, say, the rest of the security council, I'd be a lot more sanguine about this. And if Assange dumps a major bank's internal communications, I'd be absolutely delighted. But I'm trying to see what evil has been prevented though this release. I'm not seeing anything being prevented, I'm just seeing the State Department further reduced in power and influence. Don't we want diplomacy to be the first line of defense?

As for anti Arab feeling, I just don't see how State department cables about US impressions of Arab leaders is going to make any difference in supporting domestic change in those countries. Right to know doesn't really enter into it, I just don't see how what we know about the cables will make any difference with Arab nations. I don't think that they will have us reexamine the military aid they receive, I don't think we will re-evaluate our relationships, though we should. If you postulate this dump as a good thing, then you have to explain what good things will come out of it. I think it is just going to leave us at the status quo.

Donald Johnson: I want them constantly wondering if this or that policy, this or that laughing agreement to lie about who is launching the missiles, will go public.

Apparently that's what Wikileaks wants as well.

lj, this reflects the fundamental disagreement I have with your position. You're presenting a baby-and-bathwater argument, with malfeasance as the bathwater and privacy as the baby. But ultimately the implication is that the ability of large powerful organizations to conceal their internal deliberations should remain just as as cheap, easy and reliable as it is now, rather than being made more expensive, difficult, and unreliable.

Sebastian: This isn't just stopping the 'immoral' diplomacy.

Granted. And this is exactly why lj's argument strikes me as somewhat tangential to what Wikileaks is trying to accomplish, leading to the disagreement above. In a baby-vs-bathwater argument the question at hand is how to make an empirical distinction between baby and bathwater. Whereas Wikileaks' goal (I believe this has been stated explicitly, at least by Assange, who I think can be assumed to speak for Wikileaks for purposes of this comment) is to make institutional secrecy more expensive, difficult, and unreliable in general, thereby forcing the USG (and other powerful organizations) to adopt a more transparent posture in general.

Wikileaks is not in the business of enforcing which is baby and what is bathwater and we, as observers, are not in a position to enforce that distinction either. They're in the business of forcing institutions to reduce their reflexive reliance on secrecy. They want institutions to stop treating everything which happens to be in the tub as though it were baby rather than bathwater, by making sure that something gets thrown out now and then.

And hairshirt, I don't think it is a question of wikileaks dump versus no dump. I thought we were discussing the wisdom of what was done and the way it was done.

If we're not talking about the same thing, perhaps we don't actually disagree. Like I said, I wouldn't suggest that the Wikileaks dumps was perfect, just that it was better than actual alternatives, which, as far as I can tell, amounted to just about nothing in terms of exposing government lies.

From DJ's link:

The real-world alternative to the current iteration of WikiLeaks is not The Perfect Wikileaks that makes perfect judgments about what should and should not be disclosed, but rather, the ongoing, essentially unchallenged hegemony of the permanent National Security State, for which secrecy is the first article of faith and prime weapon.

I'd be more upset about Wikileaks if, on some level, it weren't an isomorphic response to the idiocy of a time when government email sifting and cellphone listening was a routine feature. Anyone who is up in arms about this and who is not also up in arms about its evil twin on the state side (with private entities doing most of the sifting and data collection) needs to think long and hard about power balances and democracy.

As for anti Arab feeling, I just don't see how State department cables about US impressions of Arab leaders is going to make any difference in supporting domestic change in those countries.

Impressions? We're not talking about impressions. We're talking about the head of state/government clearly asking the US to launch a war. That's not something subtle that can be easily misinterpreted.

I just don't see how what we know about the cables will make any difference with Arab nations.

LJ, if Wikileaks publicized a classified government document proving that, say, the President lied to the public when he claimed he wanted to avoid a war with Iran, would you find that acceptable? What Wikileaks has done is publicize data showing that a bunch of Arab governments, who have all been telling their citizens that they do NOT want war with Iran have secretly been advocating for war with Iran. That proves that those governments lied to their citizens. I think having proof that your government lied to you is, you know, important. I think that such knowledge can be prerequisite for meaningful political change.

To put it another way, I can understand someone who believes that "there is no benefit to publicizing secret evidence of government malfeasance" no matter which government we're talking about. I think that person is wrong, but I understand them. And I also understand someone who says there is a benefit, again, for any value of government. But once you say "there is a benefit when we're talking about the US government, but not for various Arab governments" then I think you're demonstrating anti-Arab sentiment.

I'm all for the US, SK and China talking about how to deal with a reunified Korea.

I think it's a staggeringly bad idea to put that kind of diplomatically sensitive material on SIPRNet as if it was ordinary secret-but-not-sensitive information available to hundreds of thousands of people.

And it's scary/negligent that the administrators of SIPRNet were unable to detect or prevent the downloading of 250,000 cables (along with a lot of other material) on dozens of unconnected subjects. That's not hard to do using ordinary commercial-grade auditing and access controls that are common in private industry. You flag/block anyone who tries to download more than 1,000 documents in a week. It's not particularly hard.

To be fair, the DoD is probably not used to treating users with secret clearance as potentially the source of attacks. At a commercial website you have to deal with that kind of thing every day; just keeping it running requires a lot of tools for blocking, rate limiting, and flagging.

And, the ability of the DoD to hire the very best computer administrators is impaired by their salary budgets (which Obama just made worse) and of course by the two aggressive wars in progress which would tend to discourage a lot of smart & patriotic people from working for them.

Amazon just terminated Wikileaks cloud account.

Also, I recommend reading Hartmut's comment if you missed it earlier, particularly this:

There once was a time when the US (and btw the then still infant Soviet Union) considered secret diplomacy to be an abomination and a danger to peace. It was considered to have played a significant part in what developed into the First World War.

If Chain-Eye had prevailed and the US attacked Iran then the talks between the US, the Arab states and Israel would have been a conspiracy to start a war of aggression, which iirc is a hanging offence.

And novakant's link to Arthur Silber too (I like Silber although that may be because he makes me look concise): http://powerofnarrative.blogspot.com/2010/11/i-hate-authority-well-except-for-my.html

His point is that judging the release of information in terms of whether it is useful to causes you consider important is missing the point. The release of information in as broad a form as possible allows you, as an individual, to know as much as is possible about what is going on in the world and to make your own decisions about that.

The alternative is to abdicate all that kind of deciding to other people, who will make those decisions according to their own interests and prejudices, and leave you in ignorance. To me it's pretty clear that that hasn't worked out so great recently.

Interesting. Why not, indeed?

http://www.outsidethebeltway.com/why-wont-pentagon-help-wikileaks/

The release of information in as broad a form as possible allows you, as an individual, to know as much as is possible about what is going on in the world and to make your own decisions about that.

Related to this, each an every act of secrecy comitted by the government represents a conscious decision that it is more important that "the enemy" not know something than the American public konw it. And that's the generous interpretation of acts of government secrecy, "It's more important that we deny this information to our enemies than allow our own citizens to know it and thus make better choices for themselves."

The outright contempt for the American public's right to know what the U.S. government is up to by those in the national security apparatus (and elsewhere) is breathtaking.

"Related to this, each an every act of secrecy comitted by the government represents a conscious decision that it is more important that "the enemy" not know something than the American public konw it."

BS. The government protects "types" or "kinds" of data and communications by procedure so they don't have to sit down with every email and decide if this one is or isn't "dangerous".

With hundreds of thousands of documents I find that a better way than hiring a bunch more people to peruse them every day for their potential danger.

Marty - fine, the decision may not even be a conscious one then.

"The outright contempt for the American public's right to know what the U.S. government is up to by those in the national security apparatus (and elsewhere) is breathtaking."

What? The public has no right to know anything when it elects a Congress that passes laws protecting certain information from public knowledge. If we don't like those laws, we need to elect other people.

It's annoying when people make up various fundamental rights to support whatever viewpoint they may have at any particular time.

Oh fnck it.

[Edited slightly because I am confident that Ugh didn't mean to fnck with the posting rules - Ed.]

"There once was a time when the US (and btw the then still infant Soviet Union) considered secret diplomacy to be an abomination and a danger to peace."

Nations, like individuals, can be naive. This is hardly news.


Ask yourself: Why do we have diplomats stationed in other countries? Essentially, they are there to give us information on what is going on (or soon to go on), and to help us coordinate with those other governments.

How do they get information (beyond what anybody could pull off the Internet without leaving home)? They talk to people. Some of those people may be indifferent to their words being published to the world; others will care deeply (especially if such publication would harm them, whether physically, economically, politically, or in any other manner). So what you are saying, if you want all diplomacy conducted totally publicly, is you don't care about anything that second group (no matter how large) might have to say. I suppose ignorance is bliss -- it better be, if that is what we are aiming for.

How do we coordinate with other governments? We discuss what is happening in the world, and talk about what we might want to do in response. We also discuss what we are currently planning to do, so that the others do not get startled into an unfortunate response when we do -- since they know it is coming, they are less likely to panic. Of course, we can just charge forth without telling them; who cares if it accidentally touches off a major war? Not, apparently, the people who want all diplomacy conducted with total transparency.

Those who note that other countries will still talk to us regardless are, of course, correct. Whether they will talk frankly is a different question. Functionally, someone who will talk to us only to say what they already say publicly is just as useless as someone who won't talk to us at all.

Just as a footnote, I agree that secrecy can be used to bad effect. But viewed overall, which is worse. IMHO, being able to communicate in confidence with diplomats abroad is far better than not being able to.

So what you are saying, if you want all diplomacy conducted totally publicly, is you don't care about anything that second group (no matter how large) might have to say.

Who has said that s/he wants all diplomacy conducted totally publicly?

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