President Barack Obama has commuted the 35-year sentence of Chelsea Manning, who had been convicted of stealing and disseminating 700,000 files to WikiLeaks in 2009-10. The leaks included the "Collateral Murder" video, showing a massacre of civilians and journalists by a US helicopter, the Guantanamo Bay logs, the Afghan and Iraq war logs, and the Cablegate logs. These releases were a crucial historical event of the 21st century, and of the post-WW II order. Their particular effect was to expose the Afghan war as a bogged-down, directionless mess in which both Afghans and Allied soldiers were dying to no purpose, and to confirm the arrogance, hubris, deceit and mendacity that turned Iraq into a slaughterhouse and created the conditions for Islamic State to emerge.
Perhaps most significantly, the Cablegate logs made visible the archaic process of diplomatic and foreign policy management, the mix of prejudice, assumption, interests disguised as principle, and sheer incompetence that went into the negotiation between state and state. Contrary to those who constructed the logs' release, and WikiLeaks itself, as anti-American, much of the impact was on US client states, allies and enemies: Cablegate exposed Russian state support for Berlusconi in Italian elections, the decadence of the Saudi elite, who imposed Wahhabism on their people, the continued corruption and anti-democratic impulse of the Latin American right, and much more. Above all, it simply made us question why all this stuff should be secret: why should relations between states be conducted by "cables" between smirking Oxbridge graduates spread throughout the world?