WikiLeaks is at it again. Doing what, exactly?

According to the White House, today’s new dump of US diplomatic cables by WikiLeaks is an “unauthorised disclosure of classified documents and sensitive national security information” which has “put at risk not only the cause of human rights but also the lives and work” of the American diplomats responsible for compiling the 250,000 documents.

But, unsurprisingly, that view is not shared by The Guardian, one of the newspapers which today begins controlled publication of the document cache. It writes in its leader column:

“Much of the material is certainly very private. When people around the world tell sensitive things to American diplomats they do so in the expectation that there is a high degree of implicit confidentiality about the conversations. But ‘private’ is not the same as ‘secret’.”

Let’s remember a few things here.

First, many of these cables were accessible by more than three million US government employees on the defence department’s internal internet, Siprnet. Hardly a case of highly confidential.

Second, WikiLeaks and the newspapers publishing the material informed the US State Department of the areas covered by the leaks and invited “representations” from them, agreeing to ‘redact’ some of the material where necessary.

Finally, the role of WikiLeaks as a clearing house of leaks and the media which publishes its information is, if handled responsibly, clearly calibrated to shed light on matters of public importance.

As Simon Jenkins writes today in The Guardian: “The job of the media is not to protect power from embarrassment.”

Peter Fray

A lot can happen in 3 months.

3 months is a long time in 2020. Join us to make sense of it all.

Get you first 12 weeks of Crikey for just $12. Cancel anytime.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

12 weeks for $12