I’ve sat on the sidelines watching the diplomatic cable leak unfold. It’s been fascinating – the cables themselves are pedestrian compared to the fallout. But there are some great lessons to be learned.
Professional and Competent
Whether you agree with the positions taken by the Americans or not, their professional diplomats come across as professional and competent people, who are working hard to communicate the best interests of their country to others, and report on the thoughts and positions of the host countries back to Washington.
This isn’t much of a surprise to me – I’ve dealt with a lot of mid to high level American bureaucrats, and the American people don’t know how fortunate they are that so many intelligent, hard working people choose a life in public service. Yes, they make mistakes. But as Jesus said in John 8:7, He that is amonge you without synne, let him cast the first stone at her.
Truthfully now, answer me. Could you do as good a job as these diplomats have done?
The Washington Elite
While the professional diplomats come through with their reputation in good order, their political masters do not. The American political class comes across as two-faced, accusing China of human rights abuses, while committing their own human rights abuses, accusing other regimes of secrecy, and losing their temper when their own secrets are exposed.
Let’s take Defense Secretary Robert Gates who called Assange’s arrest on a Swedish warrant for having unprotected sex with two women Good News. And that’s the Gospel Truth (Gospel is a derivative of Old English gōd-spell  (rarely godspel), meaning “good news” or “glad tidings”). Exactly why would an ex-Eagle Scout say something like this? Possibly he’s not Eagle Scout material any more.
How about the orders that diplomats act as spies? Everyone understands that diplomats report what they see. That’s part of their job. But ordering them to collect credit card numbers and DNA on United Nations staff? Hillary Clinton should be ashamed. Heck, Hillary Clinton should step down from her post as Secretary of State.
And then we’ve got politicians calling Amazon, complaining that Amazon was hosting Wikileaks, and Amazon pulling the plug. We have the U.S. Government interfering with the .ORG domain system. The U.S. Military is now blocking serving members from the New York Times website (possibly the first time that an American government institution has blocked online access to an American newspaper).
The Washington Elite look petty.
Who the hell is Bradley Manning? Oh, we know what we’ve been told, that Bradley Manning was talking to Adrian Lamo electronically, and said that he supplied to diplomatic. The two were not face to face.
There’s several issues here:
1) Who would be stupid enough to admit that they stole 265,000 documents.
Just think. Who in the world is going to be stupid enough to admit that they’ve just pulled 265,000 confidential documents off a server, and given them to an organization that specializes in leaking things?
2) Can Adrian Lamo prove he was talking to Bradley Manning?
Give me five minutes, and I can have an email address in the name of Bradley Manning, Jesus Christ, or Julian Assange. It’s not hard to fake things in cyberspace.
3) Bradley Manning isn’t cooperating with the investigation. It’s called invoking your Fifth Amendment Rights in the U.S.A.
Well, David Milgaard didn’t ‘cooperate’ with the investigation either. How could he? He knew nothing the police could use, because he wasn’t involved. Either Bradley Manning is the person who leaked the documents, or he isn’t. If he isn’t, he probably knows nothing that will help (and therefore can’t cooperate). If he is, he’s going to go Fifth Amendment on them, and say nothing, because saying nothing might get him out, while saying something will get him serious jail time.
Of course no one knows the truth but Bradley Manning.
Julian Assange didn’t take the documents off the server, he had no access to it. He’s not an American citizen, was not in the United States, or on a United States military base. In simple terms he had nothing to do with copying the documents off the U.S. server.
He is however the publisher. As publisher he’s probably covered under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Oh, that doesn’t mean that the United States Government can’t press charges, and attempt to keep him in jail, they can. However there are big limits on their ability to produce a conviction.
At present the Government doesn’t even seem to be in agreement as to how much damage was done by the releases to date. Hillary Clinton is alarmed. Robert Bates isn’t. So did it do damage or not?
While some of the documents may be embarrassing to the United States Government, from an outside view it’s hard to see that the releases have done any real damage. Without provable damage, it’s hard to see how a court could convict. Of course the Government can cost Assange a fortune in legal costs…
After all, Revenge is Best Served Cold.
The Main Stream Media
The good old MSM has fallen down big time on this one. They don’t ask questions, obvious questions, when interview answers don’t make sense. Or if they do they aren’t getting answers, and they aren’t publishing that they are being stonewalled.
Most of the articles are just rehashes of earlier articles, sometimes with one minor fact added. Like all of the fuss about the Swedish charges against Assange. I don’t know the truth of the Swedish charges, but they are just a side issue, and have nothing to do with the diplomatic cable leak. Oh yeah, sex sells. But it doesn’t inform.
One of the few sources that does a reasonable job is the Daily Guardian (affectionately known as the Daily Gruaniad. For those who aren’t English, the Guardian, a northern paper was famous for spelling errors, due to the need to publish really early so it could be on the streets of London at the same time as the London papers.). With articles like WikiLeaks: The man who kicked the hornet’s nest, they’ve continued to think about and evaluate the situation, unlike most of the rest.
But most media outlets have just reprinted the same the articles over and over again.
The Online Media
The online media has done better sometimes. Ars Technica has asked questions. Clay Shirkey has some good stuff. So does Tom Slee. Daniel Ellsberg, the man who leaked the Pentagon Papers, has some interesting thoughts.
But then there’s the Communist/Republican Blog Red State, which is in paroxysms about Wikileaks.
Overall coverage from the Online Media have been no better than for the Main Stream Media. There have been a few jewels, a couple of which I’ve mentioned above.
The Swedish Charges
This is the fun part, where no matter what I say, I’m going to upset someone. Either the allegations are true or false. Quite frankly it doesn’t matter either way.
What does matter is how they are being handled. I’m not an expert on the Swedish legal system, however I’m fairly well read, and I try to keep up to date on sex crimes, because I know quite a few people who have suffered from sexual assaults. In other words, I’m an interested party.
In all of my reading about sex assault allegations, I have never seen anything like what the Swedes are doing. Never. And I’m not the only one. Writer Naomi Wolf commented on the same things in her article J’Accuse: Sweden, Britain, and Interpol Insult Rape Victims Worldwide. To quote her:
In other words: Never in twenty-three years of reporting on and supporting victims of sexual assault around the world have I ever heard of a case of a man sought by two nations, and held in solitary confinement without bail in advance of being questioned — for any alleged rape, even the most brutal or easily proven. In terms of a case involving the kinds of ambiguities and complexities of the alleged victims’ complaints — sex that began consensually that allegedly became non-consensual when dispute arose around a condom — please find me, anywhere in the world, another man in prison today without bail on charges of anything comparable.
So why is the Swedish Prosecutors office working overtime on this case? Possibly because it could land Assange with a criminal record, and it’s harder to travel internationally if you have a criminal record. Possibly for other reasons, some of which would sound extremely paranoid.
The level of activity from the Swedish Prosecutors office doesn’t make sense, given what we’ve been told about the charges, and for that matter, what they told the British court about the charges. The British court was willing to let Assange out on bail with conditions, which indicates that the court did not consider him a serious flight risk. So what do the Swedes do? They appeal the bail ruling!
There’s something not right here. To paraphrase Marcelus in Shakespeare’s play Hamlet, Something is rotten in the state of Sweden.
It’s now Wednesday. I started writing this on Sunday, and various things have interfered with my completing it. But nothing in the last few days has changed. Nothing at all.
No, sorry, I lied. The Toronto Maple Leafs won a hockey game on the road last night. Shocking.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Not long after I published this, I was given a link to an article on Salon that compares the conditions Bradley Manning is being held in to torture. The article includes a quote by Senator John McCain about his time as a prisoner of war in Korea.
Another article (through Google Translate) talks about one of the women involved in the sex crimes case in Sweden deleting part of her Twitter history, which may or may not be significant.
And finally, Wire published part of the text of the internet chats that supposedly occurred between Bradley Manning and Adrian Lamo. Remember as I said above, Lamo had no way to be certain of who he was really talking to. It is quite possible that someone else had access to Manning’s account. For that matter we don’t know that Lamo isn’t lying (I am not claiming that he is – I am just pointing out that we do not have direct evidence to confirm his account). Of interest is the mention to a release of a diplomatic cable in early 2010 which related to the Icesave bank crisis (text of the cable thanks to Birgitta Jónsdóttir, a member of the Althing, the Iceland Parliament).
The release of this cable may have had an impact on the referendum that Iceland held to approve a deal where Iceland would make payments to Britain and Denmark over the failed bank. Note that I said may, the referendum was defeated with over 93% of voters in opposition, and probably would have failed anyway.
Wednesday December 15, 2010