Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Whistle blowers or prime donne?

Everyone seems to have a post on Wikileaks, so there is mine.

I am not impressed.  But I am impressed by a lot of idiotic reactions to the "revelations".  I think that Assange is a creep and that Wikileaks is not doing a service at all to the world with these revelations.  As for the asshole that dumped all on wiki people, may he rot in jail until the end.

What people seem to forget is that there is a significant difference between a whistle blower and someone seeking notoriety, a prima donna like Assange.  A whistle blower does its job properly.  He selects among the documents those that are truly relevant, builds a case to his best knowledge and then exposes this or that, focusing on what is important, protecting the innocent or at least the unwillingly involved.  What Assange did was to dump it all, to select a few newspapers (why not the WaPo?  why Le Monde instead of Liberation?), put their editors on the spot, and make sure his name appeared in every political blog.  The ultimate ego trip for a nerd with personality problems and a deep hatred of the USA (where are the Iran wikileaks?  Would wikileaks publish with such a fanfare the Cuba-Venezuela cables?)

What is also quite impressive is that those cables revealed so far only are only ridiculing many public officials but are not giving stuff good enough to bring down governments.  I am not surprised, and if the mountain is giving birth to a mice it is because most people have no idea how diplomacy is run, beginning with the Assange of the world.  All embassies in the world, from any country, are legal moderate spying agencies.  Period.  Thus, their bureaucrats are under the need to provide intelligence over the country they are posted at and since you need to send stuff regularly to justify your paycheck, eventually you start checking out gossip, and if such gossip has a kernel of truth it also becomes part of the daily cable to the Home office.  One must trust the Home office to pick what really matters.  The real spying takes place somewhere else.

But the worst damage that wikileaks did is that whistle blowers, the real ones, will have a much harder time in the future.  Not only the US but all foreign services will become more careful about their data and malfeasance will be much harder to expose.  What wikileaks has done is to turn diplomacy into glorified gossip and as such the real stuff will shift away from what are after all nice diplomats to more shady characters that do not feel obliged to respond for their actions.  A dangerous proposition in the best of times.

A Chavez foot note.  He is at it, hysterically demanding Hillary to resign and accusing the US of immorality, forgetting to check his own immoral foreign service.  In fact, what is probably upsetting Chavez is that he is not at the center of US concerns.  Not at all in fact.  And someone with the ego of Chavez cannot stand to be a mere irritant at best.


  1. The personality of Assange is irrelevant. It remains to be seen whether anything which he publishes does any real damage to US foreign policy; in any event, he is not a US citizen and in general is not bound by its laws.

    The real problem with this particular release is that it focuses only on the US; a similar release of, say, Cuban or Venezuelan documents would be highly useful to democrats everywhere.

  2. Jeffrey

    I do not agree. The personality of Assange is relevant because it explains a lot how and why that stuff was released. He has acted as a prima donna and NOT as a whistle blower. As such he is doing more harm than good because, I need to stress that, he is going to make the work of whistle blowers much more difficult in the future.

    Is tyhere any evidence that Asange has tried to revea stuff from other countries than the US? Is wikileaks actively tryign to get info from other sountries or are they pretending to wait that things just fell on their lap, and look it that, it happened to be Iraq, Afghanistan, US diplomacy, etc....

  3. Brigitte3:07 PM

    I agree with you Daniel 100% !!!!

    That guy is just another egotripper and does nothing for the real whistle blowers ....

  4. I won't go so far as some already have and claim that the leaks were made deliberately by the U.S. That would be more Machiavellian then I give the U.S. Dept. of State credit for.

    However, I do think that, on the balance, I see more good than bad coming of the released cables to date. To see the Gulf Arab states have to face up to their own hypocrisy is just priceless.

    That having been said, I agree with Daniel regarding Assauge and his ego.

  5. Excellent post Daniel.

    The bottom line here is that the US has to get its act together when in comes to protecting its secret information.

    In this age of terrorists who will do anything to damage the US and dictatorial competitors like China who do control their information very effectively, it is imperative.

    If those who might come forward with information to tip off the US about terrorists plots feel their own lives will be endangered by being exposed in the press decide to hold back, there would be a real cost to pay in innocent lives.

    I am not referring to the present batch of info that has been released but to the potential of further, even more delicate info becoming public.

  6. 1979 Boat People6:43 PM

    to make the work of whistle blowers much more difficult in the future.

    Agree with Daniel.

    Roy, you nailed it.

    To see the Gulf Arab states have to face up to their own hypocrisy is just priceless.

  7. All,

    One thing that is not being appreciated by the press or in the blogs is that the information being leaked is not "Classified". It is in another category labeled "Sensitive". If it were "Classified", it would not have been transmitted electronically over the DOS Intranet. Classified material is transmitted by other methods.

    This is to put the current release of cables in the proper perspective.

  8. Anonymous8:18 PM

    Does anyone have any doubt that if this document dump and continuing slow drip was from Russia or China that Assange would be liquidated within days.
    Im sure he knows that also.

  9. The problem as I see it is not that substantive stuff (mainly second hand) has become public knowledge. Nor is it that some diplomats are spies. They have long been, and it has had to be assumed that, for example, the principal job of a cultural attache is not to arrange Madonna concerts in the country where stationed or to bring local dance troupes to the United States to demonstrate their quaint and charming routines. Quite possibly, the cultural attache is a CIA agent.

    One troubling part is that now all US diplomats from the ambassador down will be thought to be trying to get fingerprints, DNA samples and any other generally covert intelligence information possible. That is hardly likely to be conducive to the performance of their actual diplomatic functions which on occasion are even useful; that is likely to be harmful.

    Another troubling part is that the abysmal lack of adequate safeguards for intelligence information is (a) worse that we thought and (b) now known to those upon whom we rely for it. How can we expect covert sources to provide useful information if their names are likely to be published in the New York Times and made readily available to their masters? To what extent will reasonably cautious intelligence officers be willing to risk the lives of their confidential informants, possibly resulting in their inability to provide additional information?

    Bismarck was right: we (and foreign governments in this case) should not see our sausages or laws being made or our intelligence being gathered; nor if those governments don't already know should they be made privy to any more of our intelligence gathering methods than is necessary.

  10. Charly2:10 AM

    It cuts both ways, a smart intelligence agency can turn Wikileaks into a powerful intoxication tool.

  11. Daniel, I had also the same reaction when I heard about the new wikileaks. What is the purpose of it all? Someone told me that it was TO EXPOSE US diplomacy...my reaction was why not expose China diplomacy or Russia diplomacy.

    I understand that someone may want to expose some particularly somber issues that happened during a war, but all that gossip on the new leaks, just to embarrass the US, I don't understand. It is a futile use of freedom of publication in the Internet.

  12. Douglas5:02 PM

    I agree with Bruni and Daniel....

  13. As I wrote to Bruni, I think it is technically speaking more difficult to do the same with China and Russia.

    Why? First of all: it was not a hack from some Wikileak guy trying to break into some IT system, as I explained. It was a theft by someone who already had plenty of access to everything, who copied it all into a DVD. So they depended on THAT and on the system giving such an access. That was, I think, a unique weakness created by the way the US government tried to fix the previous lack of communication. They did not fix it well, but created another big problem.
    China and Russia did not have to go through that.
    Besides, chances are Chinese and Russian systems operate differently, quite differently.

    Finally: there are few westerners who have IT capabilities AND can speak and peruse through massive amounts of data in Russian or Chinese.

    So, even if Assange did not have a special animosity towards the US - it seems he does-, it was simply harder/there were less chances to get to material from the others.

    Another thing: the Russians went through a big mess in the nineties and they lost a lot of intelligence then. They learnt a bit about their errors, although they never could prevent anything, as the Russian spies story this summer showed.

    Now, I have been appaled by the way some people deal with security: I read in BBC that one organization just lost dozens of USBs with classified information. On another occassion, very recently, the US defence ministry sent back the confidential dossiers of AIRBUS...to the wrong address, to its rival Boeing...and they sent AIRBUS's confidential information to Boeing. Oh, my God!
    So, they really have to put their act together.
    I am not justifying anything. I am just explaining why I think these guys were now more likely to get their data stolen.


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