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Wikileaks Hyperventilation or "Transatlantic Brainwashing"

According to Spiegel, Wikileaks reveals that US diplomats consider Foreign Minister Westerwelle to be incompetent and Chancellor Merkel to be risk averse. So what? Most Germans think the same. Of course, US diplomats are more candid in secret cables than in public statements. Everybody is.

I refuse to join the media's hyperventilation over these revelations caused by WikiLeaks' "information vandalism." The Guardian opines that the leaks have already created a "global diplomatic crisis." They used that headline right after publishing the cables. That sounds like we are at the brink of war. All of a sudden it is 1914 and Franz Ferdinand has just been assassinated.

Okay, for a few seconds, I was hyperventilating, when I read in the September 2009 cable published on Spiegel:

According to XXXXX Westerwelle has never been able to shake his skepticism about how the United States wields power in the world. Citing an exchange with former U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Burt (1985-1989), XXXXX recalls how Westerwelle forcefully intervened in a discussion the Ambassador was having on U.S. foreign policy during the Cold War to say: "But you are not the police of the world." XXXXX comments further that Westerwelle was immune to any "transatlantic brainwashing."

First I thought that the statement on "transatlantic brainwashing" was coming from a US diplomat and I was about to feel offended ;-) but then I learned on Wikileaks that XXXXX is a German journalist, who wrote a biography of Westerwelle. So, no big deal here either.

Charli Carpenter with Duck of Minerva isn't impressed by WikiLeak's "diplomatic shockers" either, but points out to one interesting revelation: Apparently, "the US State Department talks among itself far more about human rights than it does about terrorism." That's good news. "

My, ahem, "expert advice" for the US government and all its friends would be: Don't panic, keep calm and carry on, ignore the embarrassments, protect any revealed humint sources and focus on the world's biggest problems: Nearly a billion people remain undernourished. Another round of UN climate talks is likely to fail. The Koreas are at the brink of war. Al Qaeda has found in Yemen a "new Afghanistan." Financial crisis, Eurocrisis, public education crisis.

ENDNOTES: Interesting stuff: Chris Bertram suggests: "A few glasses of scotch would be a lot cheaper than the cost of intelligence and diplomatic services."

Dialog International comments: "WikiLeaks: US State Department's Spot-On Assessment of Westerwelle"

Blake Hounshell asks Has WikiLeaks finally gone too far? 

Related post:
Like America, Germany Needs More Sanity, Less Hysteria 

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Pat Patterson on :

Well, a Foreign Service officer referred to Edrogan of Turkey as a 'buffoon' and it was revealed that Muslim solidarity goes only as far as King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and Mossad begging the US to drop enough bombs to make Iran look like Pisgah Crater.

Joe Noory on :

Wikileaks is not "seeking transparency" as the NYT suggests. If they were seeking transparency, they would publish ANY NATION'S confidential documents, but they don't. Their actions are more than mere tacit support of al Qaida and the Taliban. Their mission has been to undermine the standing of the United States, and the United States alone, and they are doing it in close coordination with a small coterie of press operations. To begin with, those with access to SIPRNET and the Diplomatic Communications network who have been giving Wikileaks the documents are breaking the law, and are being openly treasonous. Wikileaks on the other hand, is at the very least violating copyright and trafficing in stolen goods to such a great magnatude that they have committed a high crime. Wikileaks intention is to introduce so much doubt inside the practices of the staff of the State Department, DoD, NATO states' governments, even the Pakistani governemnt, that it will tip the balance of power in favor of Iran, Syria, al Qaida, the Taliban, and their network. Nothing else. This is more than just "vandalism". Let's put it this way: if I had ever even so much as lost a confidential document, I would have been in serious violation of Federal Law and the UCJ. Some wanker who feeds a nihilist like Assange a quarter of a million classified documents gets a smug nod, and acclimation by the detached commentariat that would, if they had a nutsack, kill soldiers for recreation themselves. That the cables are not big news is irrelevant. In fact if you put it in contrast to the polite and diplomatic statements of the State Department and DoD, you immediately see the contrast between them and the European governments who seed highly slanderous characterizations of foreign parties through the press all the time. i.e.: Spiegel getting opinionated, libelous, and clearly mendatious German government commentary about George Bush, coupled with the citation of one statement about Gerhard Schroeder which was broadly accepted in the press at the time, with a retort today that "Bush was a liar" when it's quite clear that Gerhard Schroeder is the liar trying to build himself a legacy. Does anyone out there NOT think that Erdogan ISN'T a bufoon? Or that Sarkozy ISN'T practicing the usual haxagonal irrelevant self-importance? Or that Putin isn't a simpleton pulling moronic international stunts as a result of the impotence that bluts his megalomania? And as to Westerwelle: why does anyone think the rest of humanity need the approving smile of a disinterested non-actor in risky and relevant security affairs such as the German FM? It's like caring terribly about needing the approval of the 3rd Consul at the Albanian embassy in Rome. What does Assange want? A world where government's exist in order to be accountable to the mere opinions of some like him, but are unable to protect their populations. While he migh think that this will all turn us into Luxembourg, it is more likely to turn Luxembourg into Transnistria. By the way, we've already spent a good chunk of our GDP on that billion hungry people for nearly a century: what eliminates poverty are our ideas, the non-collectist ones. The remaining failures on this earth are the venal and corrupt authoritarian run societies, that, by no coincidence are anti-western, anti-American, and post fake protests about world peace as an constructed disposition to the outside world.

mbast on :

I agree with you, Jörg, none of this is really big news. A storm in a waterglass, as the saying goes. Not half as bad as the Afghanistan leaks. Diplomatic crisis with Germany? Can't see one. Neither Westerwelle nor Merkel nor indeed Seehofer seem to have had their feathers ruffled a lot. The latter summed it up best, I think, when he called the whole thing "Cocktailpartygeschwätz". One thing though: in this day and age of global information, the western and allied governments (all of them, not just the US) will do well to take a long hard look at their security measures. Secrets don't keep well in the internet age. And some secrets, the really relevant ones, have to be kept otherwise people die.

Marie Claude on :

"that Sarkozy ISN'T practicing the usual haxagonal irrelevant self-importance? " that's your own interpretation, and intention to misinform, so far WL only said that Sarko was "autoritaire" and "susceptible" !

Marie Claude on :

Of course these revelations aren't revelations, it's much ado fer nuthin, that journalists living in the instant have not questionned, nor investigated when such supposed revealed facts occured, but that I could already read on crossing the many underground informative blogs

David on :

One positive aspect of the WikiLeaks is how they expose George W. Bush's book "Decision Points" as a compendium of half-truths and outright lies. As Richard Cohen writes in the WaPo today (I link to his piece on the sidebar): "I suggest no such course for Bush - only that he read the WikiLeaks documents and, for the sake of history and the instruction it offers, reassess his vaunted decisions. His jejune approach to decision-making - know yourself but not necessarily the facts - is downright repellent. On the book's dust jacket, Bush is shown in a ranching outfit. A Peter Pan outfit would have been more fitting. Like him, Bush has never grown up." In his book, Bush justifies his decision to torture detainees: "My lawyer (i.e. John "Torture" Yu) said it was okay." Such resolve, such strength of character. No wonder Pat worships him.

Pamela on :

In terms of content, I agree this is much ado about not a whole helluva lot. My issue is that this is the THIRD dump. Assange still breathes, Manning has yet to be indicted and Iceland, where the Wikileaks servers are housed, has done nothing. (Iceland is a member of NATO, correct?) The U.S. has completely lost trust - and rightly so. The incompetence of BOTH the Bush and Obama admins is more than stunning.

Joe Noory on :

Since that's what your outlook (despite portraying yourself as some sort of internationalist Gutmensch) is limited to that, then you should be quite satisfied.

Pat Patterson on :

At least I am not now prostrate before the feet of Oymandias wailing about how it all went wrong. Or are you still holding a pew for the President just in case he decides he needs a new photo op?

mbast on :

Indeed, third data dump. And who knows what else is coming. The main damage this whole affair does is the fact that diplomats around the world will not be able to rely on confidentiality anymore. Which diplomat will talk "business" off the record if he has a good chance of reading about it on Wikileaks the day after? Given that most diplomatic deals are concluded behind the scenes, this is a serious blow to diplomacy globally, not just in the US. And just so you don't think I'm being anti-American again: yes, both the Bush and Obama administrations messed up bigtime on this. [i]But[/i] unfortunately, this isn't to say it couldn't happen to Germany or France or Great Britain as well. Perhaps not in the same way as it happened with Manning, but hey, let's not kid ourselves: no information is completely safe, not even if you're MI6, the DGSE or the BND. There will always be the human factor, i.e. some idiot with a security clearance and a CD burner or data stick, and this idiot doesn't have to be American. I don't want to read detailed lists of Afghan informers to the allies or next day's action plans of the Karachi chief of police on Wikileaks and then have to count the seconds before they get blown up. So all the allied governments, not just the US, have to coordinate and really clean up their act. Remember, the war on terror is, first and foremost, an information war. You lose the information war, you lose the war on terror, it's as simple as that.

Kevin Sampson on :

Regarding Assange, there are now many more people interested in seeing him dead than there were six months ago. Once all the documents are released I’m sure the list will get even longer, too. So, if he should find himself with a lethal dose of ricin or Pollonium-210, it will be harder to assign guilt. Give him enough rope and Assenge will hang himself.

Pamela on :

You're correct it could happen anywhere - given enough stupidity at the appropriate bureaucratic levels. If current news reports are to be believed, approx 3 MILLION people have access to the databases Manning did. Why bother classifying anything? The other nightmare is this: Manning gave that stick to Wikileaks. Do you really think out of 3 million people one or two haven't copied some other files and passed them along secretly? The stuff we don't know. Assange has announced that for his next trick - due next summer - he'll be releasing files on a major U.S. bank. I want both these guys dead and quickly. As for Iceland..............

mbast on :

Yeah, I read about the three million too. Unbelievable. Well, I guess the US military will have to do something about that pretty quickly, if they haven't already, which I suspect. As for killing Assange: well, being a soft European and all I'd be satisfied if he gets apprehended and stands trial, which he very probably will, sooner or later. You don't p*** off that many major governments and get away with it. And Iceland? It's just one of the countries he has servers in. Shut down the Iceland servers and you'll see ten more popping up in Singapore, Burundi, wherever... That's why I think Wikileaks is only a part of the problem. If it doesn't publish the info, somebody else on the internet will. The internet isn't something that can be controlled globally. In fact, it only acts as a booster, making information faster, more accessible once it's leaked, but we've had intelligence leaks before the internet. So the internet is not the root of the problem. The fact that the information was leaked in the first place is the real problem which has to be adressed, quickly and thoroughly. You don't give access to 3 million people. For that kind of info, you don't even give access to a hundred people. You give access to those who need the info for specific operations, period. Whatever happened to the good old "need to know basis"? And you prevent unmonitored viewing, and certainly unmonitored copying for anybody who does have access. It's easy, technically. It just takes a little effort and money, granted, but it's definitely doable. And finally, you coordinate and restrict data security between all participating nations if, in some cases, you have to share info for operations. It's called "compartmentalisation", and it's really a very old trick. Still doesn't completely eliminate the risk of leaks, but it reduces it considerably.

Joe Noory on :

An interesting comment was left at my blog by a regular: [blockquote]There are many fascinating aspects to this Wikileaks issue. One is that every 'cable' is assumed to be authentic. Some of these could be created for effect. In any case, we can't take them all at their face. For instance, the one in which Hillary is reported to instruct U.S. officials at the UN to spy on other UN personnel. Is there anyone in the world who can believe this? My guess is that within minutes of the incorporation of the UN, there was a desk at Langley and another at Foggy Bottom with only one responsibility: get every detail on everything with a pulse at the UN. Further, I would bet that given the propensity of government to expand, those desks have become entire departments. So when Hillary bacame Sec of State, she was probably bombarded with granular details on every being at the UN. There was nothing she needed to know that some ambitious intelligence person at State or CIA hadn't already had in their PowerPoint slide package. Hillary was certainly bombarded with backgrounders on every weasel at the UN. She probably screamed "Enough! I have to get some work done!" So the idea that she would have to initiate the idea to gather information on UN personnel can only be believed by a dewy-eyed Swedish high school girl. Supporting this is that this intelligence work is not only going on at State and Defense and CIA, but in other knowledge organizations in the U.S. Several large law firms spend a lot of money and effort getting very deepsix info on other power players, to debrief their international clients on a host of matters that affect them in certain negotiations, such as when dealing with powerful men in, say, oil, who have a weakness for, say, buxom Ukranian nurses. One more data point. Back in the Iran-hostage era, Boutros boutros Ghali, Principal Weasel at the UN, traveled to Tehran to 'negotiate'. Turns out he got run over by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, came completely apart, tried to sell us out and lied to us about it. Only, we had been listening to every conversation he had with the Iranians in Tehran. So if we had the goods on the Chief UN Weasel 30 years ago inside the enemy camp in Tehran Iran when he thought he was only with comrades, why would Hillary have to suggest in 2008 to ferret any dope on any slugs at the UN? We have probably been archiving every detail of their lives for decades.{/blockquote}

mbast on :

News about Assange: now he's being wanted by interpol (again), not for Wikileaks, but for allegations of rape in Sweden http://www.heute.de/ZDFheute/inhalt/31/0,3672,8159103,00.html .

Zyme on :

This is so laughable. If this is the end of his project, Western Leaders should prepare themselves to face a burst of laughter whenever they request a better treatment of journalists in Moscow.

Joe Noory on :

Putin's statement is pathetic. Does anyone believe that Russian diplomats' candor is somehow more dignified? What a joke. Anybosdy with one eye can see that Russian "participatory governance" is a cleptocracy and a sham.

Kevin Sampson on :

Why? Assange admits he had sex with both women, he only disputes the rape charge. How do you think he would be treated if he disclosed Russian diplomatic cables? Do you seriously believe he would still be alive?

Joerg Wolf on :

Kevin, it depends on the content of the wikileaks "history insurance." I think Assange said some weeks ago that he had stuff from Russia "WikiLeaks is urging the public to download a mysterious ‘insurance’ file said to contain information to be released if Julian Assange is killed." http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1333213/WikiLeaks-revelations-expose-corruption-allies-U-S-warns-Britain.html#ixzz16WSkkpfG

Joerg Wolf on :

Kevin, psst, but let me share a super top secret with you: Assange is on the State Department payrole. Wikileaks is a super sinister plot by the US government to communicate with the world. Of course, I am just kidding. But isn't it interesting that first everyone was saying how horrible wikileaks is for DoS, and now there are quite a few voices arguing in this direction: "WikiLeaks Show American Diplomats in Good Light" http://www.acus.org/new_atlanticist/wikileaks-show-american-diplomats-good-light

Pat Patterson on :

Sounds an awfully lot like the Edmund O'Brien film, D.O.A. But the guy being murdered in the film, Frank Bigelow, couldn't figure out why someone wanted him dead. Where with Assange they might be standing in line to get whacks at him.

Joerg Wolf on :

DoS is so sinister they even gave the Wikileaks founder a French sounding name... ;-) (Just kidding).

Kevin Sampson on :

LOL! So what? Say Assange turns up dead, they release the key to the file, and it turns out there is some stuff damaging to Russia. All that does is further widen the pool of suspects who had motive for killing him, thereby making it harder to assign blame to anyone in particular. The fools at Wkileaks haven’t figured it out yet, but the further they go with this, the more people there will be who see them as a threat and want them dead. This just makes it easier for one of said people to act while maintaining anonymity.

Kevin Sampson on :

Or at least plausible deniability.

mbast on :

What's with you, you got a bias against the French now ;-D? Seriously, though, I think this whole Wikileaks issue is completely overblown. Wikileaks is just the messenger, not the message. And I don't know or really care about Assange. The issue, however, is how could info like the Afghanistan leaks (which I consider as much more dangerous than these ridiculous diplomatic reports) get out in the first place. And is it going to happen again in the future? If so, Wikileaks is the least of our problems.

Joerg Wolf on :

The french sounding name -- and the whitish hair -- make Assange to the perfect Hollywood villain... ;-)

Marie Claude on :

it might be a Luxemburgeoise, or a Canadian name too

mbast on :

...or Swiss or Belgian etc. Just so we're clear on that: the man is [i]Australian[/i]. Wouldn't want to start any rumours here now, would we ;-)?

Marie Claude on :

right, I forgot them, wonder why ;-)

Griffin on :

Hey, I really enjoyed your article, Joerg. Its a bit stale now, but I wanted to link to this NYTimes piece in which even David Brooks has a tough time teasing scandal out of the WikiLeaks saga. http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/12/01/have-we-learned-anything-from-the-leaked-cables/?scp=9&sq=wikileaks&st=Search

Pamela on :

OH HO! Look where the man-child Assange was hiding out in London! The Frontline Club, a club for 'jounalists'. Wonder who turned him in? http://www.newsbusters.org/blogs/lachlan-markay/2010/12/10/julian-assange-hid-out-london-journalists-club

Joe Noory on :

Joerg: Perhaps you'll actually explain what you mean by "brainwashing", instead of just throwing some unexplained negative accusation out there without any basis.

Joerg Wolf on :

Joe, "Brainwashing" was a quote. See blockquote paragraph and link. Feel free to write to the FAZ journalist and ask him what he means by it. And then get back to us and let Atlantic Review know. Could you please stop accusing me of "throwing some unexplained negative accusation out there without any basis," because your accussation is without basis, while I was not even making an accusation, even though my quote had a basis. ;-) Could you please this read the entire blogposts before you comment? Moreover, why do you post this comment now after two weeks? Are you bored?

influx on :

Maybe Joe was too busy waiting for the Euro to [url=http://no-pasaran.blogspot.com/2010/11/first-came-bail-out.html]drop[/url]. This is off topic - but I was watching 60 minutes, and seriously, John Boehner, is that the message you want to send - bursting into tears anytime you mention the word "American"?

Pat Patterson on :

As opposed to the First Lady saying, "For the first time in my adult lifetime, I'm really proud of my country" I'll take the tears over the elitism any day.

influx on :

I do, too. We can dig out worse quotes and reactions all day long, but the fact of the matter is, and please correct me if I'm wrong, that there's a slight difference between the first lady and the speaker of the house. And quoting the first lady doesn't make those neverending tears go away, Pat. Would have been nice to see some real leadership and not a crybaby. That's all I'm saying.

Pat Patterson on :

The real leadership was involved in turning back the claimed Democratic generation hegemony in Congress not in whether someone cried or not.

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