2010 November 28 Sunday
Quarter Million Leaked US Diplomatic Cables

If course the very most conspiracy-minded will dismiss these cables as an elaborate ruse to fool the American public, the publics of other countries, and foreign governments. But if you want a glimpse of how world diplomacy and international maneuvering really work then read all the stories about the US diplomatic cable leak. Here are a few revelations to wet your appetite.

¶ Bargaining to empty the Guantánamo Bay prison: When American diplomats pressed other countries to resettle detainees, they became reluctant players in a State Department version of “Let’s Make a Deal.” Slovenia was told to take a prisoner if it wanted to meet with President Obama, while the island nation of Kiribati was offered incentives worth millions of dollars to take in Chinese Muslim detainees, cables from diplomats recounted. The Americans, meanwhile, suggested that accepting more prisoners would be “a low-cost way for Belgium to attain prominence in Europe.”

¶ Suspicions of corruption in the Afghan government: When Afghanistan’s vice president visited the United Arab Emirates last year, local authorities working with the Drug Enforcement Administration discovered that he was carrying $52 million in cash. With wry understatement, a cable from the American Embassy in Kabul called the money “a significant amount” that the official, Ahmed Zia Massoud, “was ultimately allowed to keep without revealing the money’s origin or destination.” (Mr. Massoud denies taking any money out of Afghanistan.)

¶ A global computer hacking effort: China’s Politburo directed the intrusion into Google’s computer systems in that country, a Chinese contact told the American Embassy in Beijing in January, one cable reported. The Google hacking was part of a coordinated campaign of computer sabotage carried out by government operatives, private security experts and Internet outlaws recruited by the Chinese government. They have broken into American government computers and those of Western allies, the Dalai Lama and American businesses since 2002, cables said.

Of course, the idea that the Chinese government is funding a global computer intrusion and intellectual property theft effort is not new news. It comes in the realm of the obvious. Also, high level corruption in Afghanistan is agani well known. But millions of dollars in bribes to Kiribati to allow Obama to fulfill a campaign pledge is kinda interesting. The most interesting thing is the extent of State Department spying. You'd think that'd be CIA's job. But CIA must exist to draw attention away from State.

Check out the Guardian's coverage too.

At the start of a series of daily extracts from the US embassy cables - many of which are designated "secret" – the Guardian can disclose that Arab leaders are privately urging an air strike on Iran and that US officials have been instructed to spy on the UN's leadership.

These two revelations alone would be likely to reverberate around the world. But the secret dispatches which were obtained by WikiLeaks, the whistlebowers' website, also reveal Washington's evaluation of many other highly sensitive international issues.

Arab leaders seeing Iran as a big threat are not at all surprising. The US spying on the UN: expected. The Guardian also mentions Russian government connections with organized crime. My reaction: Isn't that redundant? But I do like to see there's a reason to become a dictator:

The cables name countries involved in financing terror groups, and describe a near "environmental disaster" last year over a rogue shipment of enriched uranium. They disclose technical details of secret US-Russian nuclear missile negotiations in Geneva, and include a profile of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, who they say is accompanied everywhere by a "voluptuous blonde" Ukrainian nurse.

The US is going to have a much much much harder time trying to negotiate secret deals. Also, what sort of system does the US State Department have that allows one guy to get access to cables from US embassies in most of the world? No silos?

The US State Department has a $51.7 billion annual budget. That's huge.

Der Spiegel also got the cables:

The State Department's emissaries abroad cultivate a clear-eyed view of the countries they are posted to, a view that is at times incredibly dark. Viewed through the eyes of the US diplomats, entire states -- Kenya for example -- appear as mires of corruption. If one were to believe the gloomy reports from the embassy in Ankara, Turkey, is on a slippery slope to volatile Islamism, spurred on by the narrow-minded government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is portrayed as being reliant on a group of incompetent advisers.

Even the leadership of a close ally such as Germany emerges in a poor light in the cables. The members of the ruling government coalition in Berlin denigrate each other in comments to the US ambassador to Germany, Philip Murphy. For example, Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg tattled on his colleague German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, telling the US ambassador that Westerwelle was the real barrier to the Americans' request for an increase in the number of German troops in Afghanistan. And the US diplomats are rather cool in their assessment of Chancellor Angela Merkel: One dispatch describes her as risk-averse and "rarely creative."

More here.

Last time I can recall an embassy cable leak was in 2006: US Embassy Cable From Baghdad Details Decay. It was just a single cable.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2010 November 28 04:54 PM  US Foreign

Wolf-Dog said at November 28, 2010 9:56 PM:

The question is if Julian Assange is helpful or malevolent. It's not clear.

Here is an interview of Wikileaks' leader Julian Assange in UK. Apparently Wikileaks exposed the corruption of the banks in Iceland and made a big difference in Icelandic politics changing legislation there. Also Wikileaks exposed fraud in Kenya, changing the outcome of the elections there.


Here are more interviews:




Black Death said at November 29, 2010 5:41 AM:

" Also, what sort of system does the US State Department have that allows one guy to get access to cables from US embassies in most of the world? No silos?"

Indeed. According to the NYT article, an Army PFC intelligence analyst downloaded this trove of material and passed it on to Wikileaks. A PFC! Not some high-ranking officer, but a PFC! How can this happen? What kind of cyber security does the State Department possess? Apparently they didn't even know about the source of the leak until this moron blabbed about it to a hacker, who blew the whistle on him. Are these people complete idiots?

Sycamore said at November 29, 2010 6:50 AM:

Apparently they're dolts, or at least not too much smarter than the average bear.

I doubt that this thing will be a net good. Even if it is, I don't think it's the result of brilliance on the part of Assange. I happened to read his blog for 20 minutes about seven months ago. The dude is very weird, rather pseudo-intellectual and not quite dead-centered in the kopf, though not evidently clinically wacky.

But, at least this is fun!

Wolf-Dog said at November 29, 2010 8:02 PM:

According to the first interview above, Julian Assange went to 37 different schools because his parents were in the movie business. He is the perfect archetype of a homeless person who lives at the airports and hotels.

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