Julian Assange and WikiLeaks
The State Department Cables
The latest explosion of WikiLeaks documents started on November 28. After a few months of silence, the site sprung into action again.
Each day, its newspaper partners, The New York Times, The Guardian, Le Monde, El Pais and Der Spiegel, published new findings from the cables, guaranteeing international coverage and yet more outrage and curiosity about WikiLeaks and Assange himself.
At press time, just ten days into the release of the State Department cables, less than one percent of the 250,000 documents had been published . Still, they provided ample fodder for the press and politicians.
Some of the cables' contents were dubious, curious, and only a notch above gossip fodder.
We learned, for instance, that diplomats thought that Korean leader Kim Jong Il, was "flabby," that Berlusconi was depressed and vain, that Muammar Gaddafi had four blonde, Ukrainian nurses on his staff and gets Botox injections.
If some ways, the cable served to humanize different world leaders, softening their images.
And yet, information beyond gossipy tidbits was also divulged: we learned that the Arab states near Iran weren't happy with the rogue state. Though countries like Saudi Arabia and Egypt kept a unified front in public, behind the scenes, they were increasingly worried about Iran's ability to make and obtain nuclear weapons; and even more anxious about the possibility of an attack. One cable noted that during a meeting between United States and United Arab Emirates military leaders "all agreed that Iran's new President Ahmadinejad seemed unbalanced, crazy, even."
Other documents were particularly unsettling. One such cable listed physical sites that were particularly vulnerable to terrorist attacks— a good how-to guide for terrorists, in the wrong hands. Another collection of documents showed that the State Department had asked its diplomats to cull credit card and travel information of their contacts abroad: "office and organizational titles; names, position titles, and other information on business cards; numbers of telephones, cellphones, pagers and faxes," as well as, "frequent -flier account numbers; work schedules, and other relevant biographical information" —in other words, "spying." Hillary Clinton and her predecessor, Condoleezza Rice, signed off the memos.
Naturally, the Obama Administration was not pleased with these revelations. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton blasted the leaks, saying the document leaks "puts people's lives in danger, threatens national security and undermines our efforts to work with other countries to solve shared problems."
But Defense Secretary Gates played down the severity in a Pentagon press conference: "Is this embarrassing? Yes? Is it awkward? Yes. Consequences for U.S. foreign policy? I think fairly modest."