Wikileaks Infodump Volume 2: Various unspecified US misdeeds


#1741

No, I read your stuff, and I understand what you’re saying. I just don’t agree that both of them translate into “doesn’t care”.

Or perhaps a better way of thinking about it is that Assange just cares about it less than releasing various junk into the public arena. So, sure, maybe he “cares”. Just not that much.

This, I suppose, could be mapped to the situation involving the president… In that case, he might care, but he cares less than he does about the larger number of people who would be harmed by negotiations with terrorists.

The false equivalency comes in trying to say there’s something important that’s similar between the two. In both, the person doing the caring “cares less” about the lives of those people than he does about some other thing… but the other thing which is being weighed against those lives is what makes it important. In the case with the president, he’s weighing them against things against the lives of a greater number of people. In Assange’s case, he’s weighing… what? Some abstract sense of justice? Some personal crusade? If Assange didn’t do his thing, would even more people die? I dunno how strong such an argument would be.


#1742

Here’s an example of why Wikileaks is a good thing:

A U.S. diplomatic cable made public by WikiLeaks provides evidence that U.S. troops executed at least 10 Iraqi civilians, including a woman in her 70s and a 5-month-old infant, then called in an airstrike to destroy the evidence, during a controversial 2006 incident in the central Iraqi town of Ishaqi.

But Philip Alston, the U.N.'s special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, said in a communication to American officials dated 12 days after the March 15, 2006, incident that autopsies performed in the Iraqi city of Tikrit showed that all the dead had been handcuffed and shot in the head. Among the dead were four women and five children. The children were all 5 years old or younger.

http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2011/08/31/122789/wikileaks-iraqi-children-in-us.html


#1743

Damn straight.

Good to have you back, LK!


#1744

To answer chet and to continue some of the discussion I am catching up on…

First, I believe that releases that wikileaks are doing are good for all countries involved. Yes, it can be embarrassing, but maybe, just maybe, if these countries thought they couldn’t do bullshit under the cover of darkness (secrecy), they might make better choices in the present, rather than trying to cover up things in the future. I do hope no one gets actually hurt because of it. I do wish that wikileaks cared to spend more time redacting, no question. I also wish they weren’t such cavalier jerks sometimes. And for moon ponies.

Second, I am not for full release of everything, but most everything after say 6 months or a year? Yes, very much so. Our government, all governments, need to be based in transparency. So things like Operation Fast and Furious aren’t run for years without being checked on. So it doesn’t take Manning and Wikileaks to find out what our government is actually up to. So we are wiretapped without our knowledge. So we don’t have our country involved in shady bullshit that we later pay for (propping up bad governments, selling arms to anyone and everyone, giving out billions in contracts to companies that funded campaigns, etc).

We can’t trust the government. We shouldn’t trust them. Power corrupts. It’s not a hard concept. So the checks and balances should be not just that government will watch itself (that three branch policy is working great right!), but that the people will watch the government.

I don’t have an exact answer, but something along the lines of all non classified data should be released after X time and classified data should be released with redactions by a committee after Y time.

We need this information because our government has proven time and time again that they can’t be trusted. Plain and simple.


#1745

Is there any role in the US to aid pro-democracy or human rights activists in unfree countries? Is there any role for the US to engage in diplomacy at all with less than savory countries?

The end result of Wikileaks will be a decline in worldwide diplomacy. I’m not too fond of this, even as I’m personally lurching back towards a more isolationist foreign policy viewpoint.


#1746

See, I don’t agree either. You are making an argument out of nothing. I believe if one person thinks a cause worth a cost in human lives, that doesn’t mean he “doesn’t care” about human lives being lost. That’s the only point I’m making.

The false equivalency comes in trying to say there’s something important that’s similar between the two. In both, the person doing the caring “cares less” about the lives of those people than he does about some other thing… but the other thing which is being weighed against those lives is what makes it important. In the case with the president, he’s weighing them against things against the lives of a greater number of people. In Assange’s case, he’s weighing… what? Some abstract sense of justice? Some personal crusade? If Assange didn’t do his thing, would even more people die? I dunno how strong such an argument would be.

Why the fuck are you making such a big deal out of this?

I’m not making any equivalency, let alone a false one. Do you understand what an analogy is? It’s something that is similar in some ways, but different in others. You use them to show why something is true, by showing how it is true in a similar, but sometimes more extreme situation. That’s all I did. I didn’t say they were the same, better or worse than the other. I did not judge their value at all, and their value had no relevancy to my argument. Just because you think one cause has less value than another is not a factor in the argument.

I’ve lost count of the number of times on this forum people have confused analogies with “equivalency”. Is it because people are ignorant, or is “equivalency” just one of those throw away insults?

(Yeah and I just used a false dichotomy - they are popular too).

This is the last time I will explain myself to you if you insist on pushing this point: It’s stupid.


#1747

I guess when it can be done with the right reasons and goals, sure. See Libya (here’s hoping you pull it out Libya!). But how many times has government gotten involved in politics of other countries for reasons other than the stated goal at the time? MOST OF THE TIME.

If this does happen, getting involved in another countries politics for the right reasons, that’s where classified documents and a longer release comes into play.

The end result of Wikileaks will be a decline in worldwide diplomacy. I’m not too fond of this, even as I’m personally lurching back towards a more isolationist foreign policy viewpoint.

Because wikileaks has exposed coverups (see a few posts above for a good example) and inconsistencies of our government, all diplomacy will stop? I’m going to call serious shennigans with that argument. Mainly, because our government is known to lie and be tricksy and other governments and agents still deal with them.


#1748

There is no evidence for this assertion. The US role will continue to be whatever is at the intersection of its interests and available means, just as it always has been. That will not mean the same as it did in the latter half of the 20th century in terms of scope, but that change is not a result of Wikileaks or any of the other fairly modest efforts made on behalf of transparency.

If anything, the overriding lesson is that transparency is a failure as a reform effort because GO TEAM GO is still the primary axis around which people base their foreign policy views. That’s a shame, because in the long run embracing transparency (more) preemptively could have really given the US a strategic edge and a genuine moral high ground in the coming century, as well as being a central plank in the Obama platform.


#1749

There were, as we would recall from a senior member of the Iraqi government, no tanks in Baghdad.

The cables did cause damage, like it or not.


#1750

I said lessen diplomacy and impede communication. Would you want to talk openly to someone from the US embassy, especially if you’re government isn’t known for being big on freedom.

The big losers in this, besides US State, are those under repressive regimes who’s leaders are using Wikileaks cables to bludgeon the reformists in the state run media or charge them with treason.

And btw, how do you define the “right reasons and goals.” Surely, you see that’s a silly standard to base diplomacy on. I’d guess that many of us would consider different reasons/goals to be right.


#1751

That is pretty much the opposite of concrete damage, and likely the definition of a positive level of transparency. What is happening in Mexico is nothing short of catastrophic, and absolutely none of that is Julian Assange’s fault. Again, no one is arguing that it won’t put politicians with compromised stances in an embarrassing spot. That’s the purpose of transparency, along with including positive feedback for the ones that aren’t fucked up.


#1752

More concern trolling. People will continue to deal with the US when it is in their interests, as they always have. We will continue to leak like a sieve, because the ongoing whistleblower intimidation racket is incompetently executed and will ultimately fail in the courts, nevermind that it’s a stupid answer to a simple question.

The US may or may not learn from this fiasco and adjust security protocols, but it is definitely not going to learn about the consequences of existing as a hyper-classified state, namely that when everything is secret, nothing is.


#1753

Concern trolling is not why Assange is defensive about this and he’s being hammered by almost every newspaper regardless of ideology. Hell, reporters w/o borders suspended their wiki mirror site. And thugs are using the leaked cables to oppress reformers who asked the US for help. That’s happening right now.

My point is that there’s the secrecy veil is too thick right now. I’m not sure whether the Wikileaks dropping of all US cables is a good or bad thing. But I’m very convinced that unredacted cables is a frigging disaster.

I believe most people are cognizant of the fact that countries have to conduct some diplomacy in secrecy. The question is where you put the limit on secrecy and someone has to make that judgment call. Is the line to be drawn at a) nothing about people who live in oppressive regimes out of fear of their safety? but what about folks in semi-friendly countries that are passing on the candid assesment to US diplomats. Should that be veiled (I lean to the yes column on that).

Anyway, where the secrecy veil is drawn or opened is a pretty subjective standpt.


#1754

I can’t agree with you that this is positive or that it’s not the fault of the cables. If you think Gates getting caught saying democracy is dead in Russia isn’t damaging to relations, you’re buying the Government playing down the impact of the leak hook, line and sinker.

It’s not ‘positive transparency’ when your cubicle mate discovers you’ve been telling everyone she’s fat, or that your wife finds out you’ve been telling your mates you only married her because she got knocked up. Governments, like people, have private thoughts that were never meant to be shared publicly. Once you render all private communications public, public servants will learn to self-censor and not commit their thoughts in writing.

There are instances where the law recognizes absolute transparency doesn’t work. Litigation privilege for example, because we understand that communications depending on circumstance sometimes needs to be private.


#1755

The government didn’t play it down, by and large. The government flipped the fuck out, and Gates was just about the sole voice that didn’t make it sound like we were in the midst of an intelligence apocalypse where we were going to wake up to a bodybagged foreign service within the week. To date, his is the position that is supported by evidence.

It’s not ‘positive transparency’ when your cubicle mate discovers you’ve been telling everyone she’s fat, or that your wife finds out you’ve been telling your mates you only married her because she got knocked up.

I don’t know if that’s intentional, but both of those examples seem like obvious instances of justifiable transparency, and a bit sexist to boot. At any rate, you seem to equate people’s feelings being hurt or them being embarrassed with the greater good, and that’s frequently not the case in a national or personal sense. I’m sure lots of people had their feelings hurt by the Pentagon Papers, but that’s not where the ultimate judgment of them has settled as a leak.

Governments, like people, have private thoughts that were never meant to be shared publicly.

You’re anthropomorphizing government to an absurd degree, and it’s leading you down an unfortunate direction. Individuals in government can have private thoughts about their own lives, ambitions, dreams, and the weight of their coworkers (assuming they can keep their mouths shut). Government itself doesn’t have private thoughts or anything of the sort. If you want to stick with “thoughts” as the shorthand, let’s go with that. What government has are “thoughts” that exist on a sliding spectrum of security classification, where you have concepts like operational security, actionable intel, and a wide variety of discretely identifiable indicators for what is open to public oversight, open to independent oversight according to security clearance, and then there’s the tiny fraction of things that need to exist in a space where the people directly affected by it and the people supervising it are practically the same. Where something lies on the spectrum should frequently be attached to a time release of some kind, where once it less actionable or sensitive to a reasonable degree it is downgraded.

What we’ve done particularly in the last decade is overwhelmingly shunt things from the first two categories into the last, to the detriment not only of accountability but strategic effectiveness since it’s difficult to track negligence and criminality. Resistance to reforming that is the real heart of every story with relation to Wikileaks, and the actual flavor of the day outrage is largely tangential to that point.

Once you render all private communications public, public servants will learn to self-censor and not commit their thoughts in writing.

What difference does it make if those private communications are immune to oversight or scrutiny as a matter of course, and then subject to the wailing and gnashing of outraged patriotism whenever the veil is pierced on the assumption that simply being classified makes them justifiably secret and dangerous?

There are instances where the law recognizes absolute transparency doesn’t work. Litigation privilege for example, because we understand that communications depending on circumstance sometimes needs to be private.

That’s right. There are instances, some wiser than others. When that practice becomes the general standard, you have a problem, just as the government would be in deep shit if I could answer any intrusion into my affairs as a citizen with a right to privacy protection. Regardless, there is no blanket right to privacy for individuals, and it’s certainly not the government’s default position with respect to citizens or foreigners. It’s a situationally applied compromise subject to negotiation in the face of circumstance (ie we didn’t come up with things we consider legitimately private fully formed from the start, many of them were gradual decisions based on smaller precedents that came together over time).

Wikileaks doesn’t render all communications in the past, present and future public. It doesn’t even set a precedent for transparency. It’s activism, pure and simple, aiming to achieve greater awareness of government secrecy where the content per se is not the point. It was somewhat successful, but what we are seeing now is an organization that is likely in its death throes, crushed by international pressure and internal rifts. This release is not a careful strategic ploy along the lines of the initial leak, but rather the train going off the rails, and there is no clear picture of what is going on with Domscheit-Berg and the rest of the fiasco. Assange bears a lot of responsibility for that, but frankly I don’t think the outlook was all that good even assuming stronger leadership because whatever blind patriotism couldn’t combat, smear tactics and concern trolling could fill in the blanks for.

The lesson the American government has learned is that it can overreact freely, torture prisoners, cover up crimes, and conceal information that is obviously in the public interest in a consequence-free environment because even when it is in the public eye, there exists a critical mass of apologists for their country no matter what. It can take an American soldier and subject him to inhumane treatment practically in front of the nation, and the label of traitor, accurate though it may be technically or morally depending on your views, is enough to allow that to be a consequence free act that the government manages according to its whims, just as we created a subhuman category of foreign prisoners in order to facilitate their mistreatment.

Regardless, these cables are mostly going to be embarrassing if they are noteworthy at all. Some may be harmful in a material sense, but that doesn’t include the Mexican president claiming it in order to leverage yet another concession from his partners in the US, or yet another US spokesman getting hysterical with vague omens of doom. Regardless, what is in the cables themselves is only a tiny fraction of the issue; it’s not like the position of opponents to Wikileaks was different with redactions, it’s just that now it provides a convenient starting point for the same rhetoric that continues to be hurled against the principle of transparency itself.


#1756

The lesson the American government has learned is that it can overreact freely, torture prisoners, cover up crimes, and conceal information that is obviously in the public interest in a consequence-free environment because even when it is in the public eye, there exists a critical mass of apologists for their country no matter what.

And we’re the concern trolls? Really, there is a middle ground between “everything must be secret because you can’t trust the public” and “if we don’t have complete transparency in all activity you personally support gang rape”. I’ve pretty consistently opposed all the things you mention and I also think Wikileaks has been in general a bad actor as opposed to the mainstream media outlets that they’ve collaborated with until Assange finally threw a drama fit and decided they weren’t pure enough for him.

As for actual consequences, no one knows as of yet because there’s been so much material released, but the Australian government is already claiming one of its intelligence agents was outed, so I guess it’s ‘embarrassing’ for him/her.


#1757

And the whole disaster in Zimbabwe with Mugabe’s folks using cables from Wikileaks to investigate the reformist opposition for high treason and trash them in the state run papers. There’s been a bunch of stories in the past week in the Zimbabwe press talking about how the opposition has conspired against Mugabe and the country. For context, the opp leader Tsvangirai has been beaten to half to death, survived numerous imprisonments and assassination attempts. I don’t know why this guy would ever try to hide anything in communication with US or other foreign entities.

From Zimb media:

A RECENT missive from whistle-blowing website, Wikileaks, makes the shocking revelation that the MDC-T leader and prime minister in the inclusive Government used a state trip to call for the maintenance of sanctions against Zimbabwe.
Morgan Tsvangirai visited the US president, Barack Obama, and met at the White House on 12 June, 2009.
The trip, which was sanctioned by the State, was meant to be bring the two governments diplomatically closer together, but Mr Tsvangirai used the trip to ask the US to maintain sanctions against Zimbabwe for “retaining leverage” against Zanu-PF.
This was revealed in a letter written to Mr Obama by the MDC-T leader on 29 December, 2009 and published in a cable by WikiLeaks this week.
Mr Tsvangirai said that sanctions can be used to “sustain momentum when it comes”.
During his trip, Mr Tsvangirai hoodwinked Zimbabweans arguing that Zimbabwe has made progress and that he was working well with President Mugabe and that they enjoyed a functional, working relationship, while secretly calling on the US to retain the illegal and ruinous sanctions against Zimbabwe.


#1758

To be fair, it’s not like Mugabe particularly needed justification from Wikileaks to trash Tsvangirai.

(Also as background, the “illegal and ruinous sanctions against Zimbabwe” mentioned are targeted specifically against Mugabe and his cabal as individuals - travel and commerce bans and the like. But for dictators, l’etat c’est moi)


#1759

For context, all those terrible things happened to him before the wikileaks revelation. So he was a target already. It’s also worth considering whether Zimbabweans should know that their elected politicians are abroad encouraging major economic powers to instigate crippling economic sanctions against them, especially when you are so hungry you are eating rats. I wonder how you would feel if Obama was in covert talks with the EU encouraging them to place sanctions against American bankers?

Or maybe you’d like that to be kept secret from you, just in case some tea-party loon became so enraged they assassinated him?

(That’s an analogy Timex, I’m not claiming equivalency between Obama and Mugabe.)


#1760

It’s a reference to the generalized tone of the national debate on the topic, not to you in particular or as far as I can tell the majority of people posting in this thread. Rest assured I am fully apprised of your stance on the matter.

As for actual consequences, no one knows as of yet because there’s been so much material released, but the Australian government is already claiming one of its intelligence agents was outed, so I guess it’s ‘embarrassing’ for him/her.

I’ll be interested to see that.