To Leak or Not – #cablegate

We live in extraordinary times when it comes down to proganda and information becoming somewhat interchangeable words. The really extraodinary part of this is that widespread distrust of the current US government is not diminishing but increasing if the overall trends are correct.

What we need is governments that we can trust.

The massive leak from wikileaks to the “More than 250,000 dispatches reveal US foreign strategies” in the Guardian, NY Timers and other papers.

My skeptical side says that none of the material is that surprising and that we should assume that at least some of the content is intentional misinformation given that the source “Sipdis” which is

“part of a programme under which selected dispatches, considered moderately secret but suitable for sharing with other agencies”

I’m all in favour of more open government but not entirely convinced that the case for dumping all of this information in public is the best outcome for freedom of information and democracy.

There are always going to be unintended consequences from this type of news coverage.

On the other hand. It does show up some very hamfisted and wrongheaded thinking by government officials. For example if Ahmed Zia Massoud really did take $US52m out of Afghanistan – then we should know about it.

I’d say though there is another news story – already in the open- but entirely sure anything much is being done about this

“AFRICA is losing in excess of US$300 billion annually through corruption, an amo-unt higher than donor and aid inflows, the African Development Bank (AfDB) says.”

from yesterdays’ Post in Zambia. I got that link off Transparency International website

I think there is always a case for clear and open transparent government but what about when the other team does not play by the rules?  I’d guess that for any accounts of dealings with Robert Mugabe and Commodore Frank Bainimarama in Fiji it would better for many citizens in Zimbabwe or Fiji to go “off the record”.

For NZ I’d challenge anyone to make sense of the current leadership in Fiji. Typically we are led to believe that the Commodore is completely out of line but not surprisingly on the Fiji government website present situation is described as the coup to end all coups.

What is the truth? We can be sure that in private the NZ and Australian governements will be having private negotiations to improve dialogue.

In a wikileaks world we should just make all of those discussions public. I don’t think so.

The video below is a perspective from Daniel Ellsberg on the earlier leaks but parallels can be drawn over the longer term view.

I’m all in favour of more transparency in government especially in foreign policy but I do think care should be taken by editors. As the Guadian says..

“There are some cables the Guardian will not be releasing or reporting owing to the nature of sourcing or subject matter. Our domestic libel laws impose a special burden on British publishers.All the publications involved have given early warning to the US government of our intention to publish. Government officials, who are aware of the general subjects we intend to cover, have not disputed the authenticity of the overall material.”

There are arguably enough breaches of common sense plus outright corruption in the public domain that maybe it is time to stop with the blanket all or nothing approach.

The US government is wrong to assume that all of its discussions and documents should be private but what is in the greater good is up for debate.