The Blogosphere is gorging itself on the Wikileaks banquet this morning; a triumph of style over substance. The Cuisine Minceur of the electorate’s fight for transparency from our political masters.
Wikileaks is a masterpiece in media manipulation. It proclaims itself the fearless warrior against a lack of accountability and ‘truth’ from – primarily – the American government. Yet it admits no audit, publishes everything and anything which is sent to it. Such is our mistrust of our political leaders that we assume the release of documents marked ‘secret’ to be a ‘truth’ that is being suppressed by sinister Machiavellis. It is no such thing, it is an alternative point of view, and should be treated with the same cynicism that we treat the official outpourings.
The 250,000 snippets of gossip and tittle-tattle that have been disgorged to squeals of delight on the Internet, to an audience reared on conspiracy theories and celebrity press releases, are nothing more than the subjective opinion of various individual Americans stationed around the world tasked with filing regular ‘helpful’ appraisals of the political world in which they are stationed.
Donkey’s years ago, I was interviewed by some ‘gentlemen’ from the Foreign Office in connection with people I had business dealings with. The ensuing reports were assumed to be confidential, but were released some 30 years later in connection with another matter. The final line of the reported interview has caused endless mirth to anyone who knows me. ‘The interview was shorter than expected because Miss ‘Raccoon’ had to leave early to catch a train back to Paris to return to her job as a Bluebelle dancer…….Sandhurst’s finest Warrant Officers couldn’t drill me into marching in time to music, sticking an ostrich feather in my backside and spraying me with spangles certainly won’t turn me into a Bluebelle dancer, I am tone deaf. Why the interviewer wrote that, I cannot begin to speculate, but there it is, in an official government document. If I release that to Wikileaks, does that turn my non-existent career as a Bluebelle dancer into the ‘truth’? – of course it doesn’t. It remains the same speculative and subjective ‘opinion’ of an individual who never thought it would see the light of day.
Yet we have been treated to the sight of BBC ‘experts’ anxiously watching their lap-tops (and checking their Blackberries at the same time, lest they miss some snippet) solemnly declaring that this ‘leak’ has sparked a ‘global diplomatic crisis’.
What? Nobody suspected that the Saudi’s might want Iran stopped from having nuclear power until Wikileaks leaked that information? You really thought the Saudi’s were backing Iran’s nuclear ambitions? Sheesh!
So far I have pre-supposed that Wikileaks, which has held onto this information for some months – so much for the necessity of getting it out into the open – has not interfered in any sinister manner with what was in those cables. One of the few ‘truths’ in this matter is that we don’t know – for an organisation so keen on the American government being open, they are less than transparent themselves. If we give them the benefit of the doubt, that the documents are untouched, do we know that whoever uploaded them onto Wikileaks resisted the temptation to add titbits to them? What are a few altered words amongst 250,000 cables?
Add the word ‘voluptuous’ to the cable describing Gadaffi’s nurse and you have ensured worldwide attention from an audience reared on stories of breast enhancements and illicit sexual shenanigans. Hague shared an apartment with a gay man? Whooosh! More headlines.
Sipnet, the internal cyber network that was the origin of this leak, was encouraged to ‘share information’ in the wake of 9/11. They apparently issued 2,500,000 access codes to the network. Any number of low level employees could have downloaded the material. The main suspect, Bradley Manning, has been reported as saying ‘it was ridiculously easy’ to do so.
I have given up counting the number of times that I have seen it written in the past few days, that the UK ‘has issued a ‘D’ notice in respect of the impending leak’. A nice rumour which only serves to enhance Wikileaks product. It didn’t. It hasn’t. There are five standing ‘DA’ notices, concerning identification of Special Forces troops – DA Notice 05, and the possibility of endangering troops in the battlefield – DA notice 01. Perfectly reasonable requests from any government. All that happened was that Andrew Vallance asked editors to seek his advice if they thought any of the material they were about to publish might conflict with those criteria.
Therefore, may I ask you to seek my advice before publishing or broadcasting any information drawn from these latest Wikileaks’ disclosures which might be covered by the five standing DA Notices. In particular, would you carefully consider information that might be judged to fall within the terms of DA Notice 1 (UK Military Operations, Plans and Capabilities) and DA Notice 5 (UK Intelligence Services and Special Forces). May I also ask you to bear in mind the potential consequential effects of disclosing information which would put at risk the safety and security of Britons working or living in volatile regions where such publicity might trigger violent local reactions, for example Iran, Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan?
Still those with an anti-American agenda sought to further enhance the news value of the Wikileak by claiming that it was ‘censored’ and they were somehow brave warriors themselves for refusing to be censored.
One quoted sentence from Manning should worry us all –
“Worldwide anarchy in CSV format … It’s beautiful, and horrifying”
– and Assange, the former hacker now restyled as ‘freedom of information activist’ was only too happy to help that anarchy along – in his own good time, once commercial matters had been secured.
Panem et circenses – bread and circuses – to keep the Blogosphere occupied and distract us from our task of holding our government to task over serious matters.
The truly cynical might wonder who really leaked this dubious non-event to the Internet – and why.