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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Diplomatic voyeurism

Forgive me if I am less than impressed with the latest batch of documents made public by WikiLeaks and left wondering if there are better targets for our journalistic curiosity.

The latest trove of words from Julian Assange's website are a far cry from the suppressed videos of soldiers mistakenly opening fire on innocent Iraqis. Or even the after-action reports from Afghanistan.

Learning that the Arab world is concerned about Iran's nuclear ambitions or that Hamid Karzai's brother is a drug kingpin hardly qualifies as news.

Reading through the first of nine days of promised stories (with the assumption the best comes first) you feel not as if you are learning important secrets, but rather like a fly on the wall of history. Or reading a first draft of a Bob Woodward book.

Embarrassment, not outrage, seems the appropriate mood.

There's a legitimate argument to be made that the United States government uses the "Secret" and "Classified" stamp way too much. But all governments have used similar methods to enable a frank discussion of issues like the ones outlined in this latest document dump -- executive sessions at selectboard and school committee meetings a prime example.

No one is likely to die of anything, even embarrassment, because of Assange and his leakers. But you also have to wonder if anything will be accomplished as a result of learning that diplomats say one thing in public and another behind closed doors.

Meanwhile, truly closed anti-democratic societies such as Iran continue to trample on the rights of their citizens and threaten world stability. And the Karzais continue to plunder our financial resources.

Maybe we should focus our ever=decreasing journalistic resources on prying open their closed societies?

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Blogger Jeremy Marin said...

"No one is likely to die of anything, even embarrassment, because of Assange and his leakers"

I'm not certain I agree. As the NYTimes piece says, they made a decision not to include names of intelligence sources listed within the leaked documents.

Will someone "die" because of this? I certainly can't answer that. Will we lose intelligence sources due to this? Almost certainly, and the quality of our intelligence sources is key.

Remember that after our invasion of Iraq we all screamed that we need better intelligence on the ground? Kind of hard to maintain those sources if they're publicly named.

November 29, 2010 7:00 AM  

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