Wednesday, December 1, 2010


by Philip J Cunningham

Wikileak's online dump of US State Department cables is interesting to peruse but not especially revelatory so far. From what documents have been made public to date, it looks like the messy work of diplomacy as usual. As veteran whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg pointed out on “Democracy Now”, the material comes from a database which has been given a security classification so low in the hierarchy of US intelligence briefings that he wouldn't even have bothered to look at it when he worked as a mid-level intelligence analyst, given the priority accorded to truly secretive and sensitive documents.

That’s not to say the data trove is irrelevant; it's the sort of raw material that makes diplomats cringe and historians intrigued. It's a random, grab-bag snapshot of official US thinking about friends and enemies, diplomatic challenges past and present. It has shed rather more humiliation than light, sort of like a bathroom stall being suddenly kicked open.

The unflattering material ranges from sordid to insightful, from Machiavellian finesse to blunt bullying, but it’s the methods of Hillary Clinton’s State Department, which call on diplomats to cull biometric data and engage in virtual stalking, that really raise eyebrows.

Much of the information is awkward but not at all secret, rather like transcripts of friends talking about friends behind their backs.A significant portion of the “statecraft” described in on-line posts certainly has an odor of hypocrisy and deception, but what foreign ministry could survive without a certain amount of double-speak?

In due time, the sheer volume of data to come may help to better determine as to whether the US government has so lost sight of its espoused ideals as to allow deception, petty thuggery and double standards to be the new norm.

The US State Department is quick to perceive skullduggery when dealing with others but it apparently cannot see the same in its own behavior.

(to read the essay in full, please visit Frontier International)