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Leaked cables window into Superpower

Written By: - Date published: 8:45 am, November 30th, 2010 - 47 comments
Categories: helen clark, john key, us politics, war - Tags: , , ,

Wikileaks’ latest coup is the release of a database of more than 250,000 diplomatic cables between American embassies, up to and including the highest security level “Top Secret”. The material was first released to selected newspapers, The Guardian, Der Spiegel, Le Monde, El País, and the New York Times.

Here’s some of the summary at The Guardian:

US embassy cables leak sparks global diplomatic crisis

• More than 250,000 dispatches reveal US foreign strategies
• Diplomats ordered to spy on allies as well as enemies
• Saudi king urged Washington to bomb Iran

The United States was catapulted into a worldwide diplomatic crisis today, with the leaking to the Guardian and other international media of more than 250,000 classified cables from its embassies, many sent as recently as February this year.

At the start of a series of daily extracts from the US embassy cables – many 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 leadership.

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

The Guardian’s full coverage is here, including a description of the trivially simple way in which this information was obtained.

Even tiny little NZ is mentioned in the cables, as is Helen Clark:

Mr Key would not comment on one cable which revealed the United States had ordered diplomats to collect intelligence on top United Nations’ officials – including the position of former Prime Minister Helen Clark who is now the head of the United Nations Development Programme.

The papers show diplomats were asked to gather biometric information as well as details such as credit card numbers.

So what do you suppose America wanted with Helen Clark’s credit card? Hmmmm. Anyway, Key is of course already hard at work trying to play down the significance of the cables:

The documents would be taken out of context, Mr Key said. “If I went away and taped your conversation around the coffee machine this morning it would probably be different to the one that you might publicly release, that’s because just the tone and the way you describe things, that’s just human nature,” he told TVNZ’s Breakfast show.

Do you recall him making the same argument over the leaked “climategate” emails? No, me neither. Ironically of course, in the case of climategate, Key’s defence does actually apply (as six separate enquiries have concluded). But the leaked cables are of a different order of magnitude all together. It is not one or two phrases gleaned out of context from thousands. It is full, detailed and explicit account of many of America’s diplomatic secrets and the attitudes behind them. It is a good long look through a window in to the mind of a Superpower. It will be fascinating to see what the global reaction is, and what other devils will be found lurking in the details.

47 comments on “Leaked cables window into Superpower”

  1. Sanctuary 1

    In breaking news, Sarah Palin has called for banning for wikipedia.

    • r0b 1.1

      That figures. We can’t have the plebs knowing the truth now can we. Land of the free and so on.

      • Sanctuary 1.1.1

        Actually I was joking 🙂 but everyone thinks it is true!!!

        • Tigger 1.1.1.1

          I Googled it to check…good jokes are ones that are just believable enough to be true!

        • r0b 1.1.1.2

          Nothing that Palin did or said would surprise me.

          Plus, there have already been plenty of calls to ban Wikipedia! You can even sign the petition here: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/ban-wikipedia/

          Wikipedia is the single most dangerous site on the web. It is living proof that a few individuals with a sinister agenda can change the way millions of people view the world and world history

          Indeed.

          • Pascal's bookie 1.1.1.2.1

            The former part-time half-term governor’s actual comments were of course, much less silly:

            Inexplicable: I recently won in court to stop my book “America by Heart” from being leaked,but US Govt can’t stop Wikileaks’ treasonous act?

        • freedom 1.1.1.3

          there is nothing that woman can say which would shock or surprise me, short of her making an informed intelligible comment.

          Sarah Palin is quite possibly the most dangerous puppet yet released into American Politics
          and if the obvious agenda of her handlers are realised I sincerely fear for our species’ survival

        • Draco T Bastard 1.1.1.4

          Just give her time and she probably will ask though. Hell, I think the present US administration is trying very hard to shut Wikileaks down.

        • Vicky32 1.1.1.5

          She did say something though! An American on FB (who doesn’t know me as well as he thinks he does) suggested I ‘like’ Sarah Palin on FB, so I followed the link, and there she was opining on the subject… (what exactly she said, I didn’t care to take note of.)
          Deb

      • JB 1.2.1

        Yes Freedom, that’s what makes the joke relevant and topical – Palin confusing wikipedia for wikileaks like she did with North and South.

        • freedom 1.2.1.1

          and the pointing out the obvious award goes to freedom.
          i think i am going to go to bed and get up again, today is not working out at all

    • lprent 1.3

      Why? Knowledge is a dangerous thing to have around? Especially for someone who thinks that North Korea is an friend of the USA.

    • sukieDamson 1.4

      She could not understand what all of the fuss was about .

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leek

  2. Pascal's bookie 2

    My favs so far:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/us-embassy-cables-documents/162960

    3. (S) Alwahbi strongly advised against taking military action to neutralize Iran’s program. Rather, establishing a US-Iranian dialogue was the best course of action, asserting that the USG opening an Interest Section or re-opening our Embassy in Tehran would be positive step. Alwahbi was heartened by the USG’s initiative for Under Secretary Burns to meet with the Iranians last week in Geneva. He added that, in his view, Iran’s position was “shifting” and wanted to avoid escalation of tensions. He noted his belief that the Russians had recently been effectively pressuring Iran to be less provocative. Alwahbi concluded that he expected Iran to keep tensions relatively low at least until after the US presidential election.

    4. (S) COMMENT. These comments are typical of Saudi [Ministry of Foreign Affairs] bureaucrats who take a pacific stance towards Iran, but diverge significantly from the more bellicose advice we have gotten from senior Saudi royals. END COMMENT. GFOELLER

    and

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/us-embassy-cables-documents/175722

    the whole thing is hilarious, with Prince Andrew playing at being Flashheart, brit bidnessmens hawhawing along and the US diplomats presentig shocked innocence about playing the Great Game.

    “No surprise there. The Americans don’t understand geography. Never have. In the U.K., we have the best geography teachers in the world!”

  3. None of the leaked cables have actually mentioned Clark – it’s just guesswork on the part of the local media, and it could be totally inaccurate since the US espionage campaign seems to be directed against the Office of the SG and the Security Council.

    • r0b 3.1

      Thanks for that clarification. Seems likely though, it is supposed to be the third-highest position in the UN, and they were targeting the leadership.

      Update: Danyl was obviously too good mannered to link to himself here, but looks like he’s done some great work on NZ in the leaked cables, go to take a look.

    • freedom 3.2

      and you know this how? You have read 250,000 documents in a couple of days, impressive

      • and you know this how? You have read 250,000 documents in a couple of days, impressive

        They’ve only released 246 documents so far. I haven’t read all of them but a search for Helen+Clark doesn’t return any hits.

        the Dagestan Wedding cable is still my favourite.

        You might like ‘Lifestyles of the Khazakstani leadership, featuring Elton John: http://cablegate.wikileaks.org/cable/2008/04/08ASTANA760.html

        • burt 3.2.1.1

          Clinton did once say that if there was a nuclear war there would be two survivors – cockroaches and Helen Clark. So you might want to use less obvious search arguments.

          • Jum 3.2.1.1.1

            Burt, given Key is still surviving the crap job he’s doing and the mounting number of corrupt activities he’s slid out of, he must be the cock’roach.

  4. the whole thing is hilarious, with Prince Andrew playing at being Flashheart, brit bidnessmens hawhawing along and the US diplomats presentig shocked innocence about playing the Great Game.

    Indeed. Although I think the Dagestan Wedding cable is still my favourite.

    I’ve been trying to point out to people that even the cables selected for first release (literally one in a thousand) aren’t actually wall-to-wall scandal. Many of them show the US foreign service in a good light (the regimes they’re commenting on, not so much) and some amount to better journalism than we’re used to getting from journalists. It’s intriguing.

  5. Jeremy Harris 5

    I was expecting juicier stuff…

  6. ghostwhowalksnz 6

    Whats the bet Keys hilarious attempts to get an Oval office meeting are shown up as the cheap posturing they are.
    The PM of Slovenia was told take gitmo prisoners AND then you get a meeting.

  7. Whiskey Tango Mike Foxtrot 7

    Can anyone please explain how the sub antartic and chattam islands get the same number of “leaked cables” as little ol NZ?
    Honestly, you’d think then alphabet soup guys would have learnt some geography before they start making up embassies with which to leak cables from.
    http://public.tableausoftware.com/views/tags/Country

    • burt 7.1

      Can anyone please explain how the sub antartic and chattam islands get the same number of “leaked cables” as little ol NZ?

      I know why: Because we are a benign strategic environment…..

      • Whiskey Tango Mike Foxtrot 7.1.1

        ‘benign straegic enviroment’?
        Nope, I still don’t understand, we wouldn’t have retained Echelon after the ANZUS break up if that was the case.

  8. Bill 8

    Very informative and user friendly link by wikileaks here.

    Among other functions, you can access and download cables by subject, country, organisation or topic etc

  9. TightyRighty 9

    how come this is a leak, and all the documents must be true and accurate, as well as showing a conspiracy? yet climategate was a hack, the documents aren’t valid as they only show private correspondence and they contain is no evidence of a conspiracy, “it’s all the deranged minds of the deniers” is one qoute i remember, though can’t attribute. It’s all about which agenda you follow isn’t it? i see this julian assranger guy (rapist) doesn’t leak many documents that are hurtful to say, syria, whoever is in charge of palestine, North Korea, Iran. you’ve got to question his motives

    • TR:

      I agree with you re the hypocrisy of people when it comes to “leaked” material. When Brash’s emails were stolen by or for Hagar, the right were up in arms. When the “Climategate” emails surfaced their ethics went out the window and the left were enraged. Now we have “Cablegate” and suddenly it’s okay with the left to intercept private communiques…

      My view is that any correspondence discussing matters of public import (i.e. not people’s private pecadillos) ought to be public, then they wouldn’t need to fret every time their real agenda was exposed. However since that will never happen, everyone would do well to pick a position and stick to it, for fear of looking like hypocrites.

      I also agree that Wikileaks appears to have an agenda, though quite how not publishing material that reinforces the fact that there are deranged despots running, say, North Korea or Iran advances that agenda I don’t know. More likely, I think, that a) it isn’t exciting, because we know that anyway and b) leaks are less forthcoming from within those countries due to the penalties imposed on leakers.

      But please, please don’t fall into the trap of discrediting Wikileaks based on unsubstantiated allegations of sex crimes against Assange. Governments have a habit of dredging up a woman (or even more than one) prepared to accuse someone who’s a thorn in the side of the powerful of sexual misconduct.

      Because people are only too ready to believe “where there’s smoke” and other such nonsense, it’s not necesssary to actually prove such charges, just to get enough mud to stick. The more it works to convince people such as yourself to dismiss what’s being said by the people that are targeted, the more it will be used.

      It’s a modern spin on the “he’s not a loyal Party member!” tactics used by the communist regimes. No need to prove it – just say it and watch everyone else shun him.

      I’ve read extensively on Assange’s arrest, and subsequent release, on rape charges. I don’t believe he’s guilty. But even if he is – even if he’s some sort of satyr that ravages every second woman he lays eyes on – how does that impact upon the credibility of the information he’s released?

      Let’s stick to debating the veracity of the data, not the smokescreen that certain people seem determined to throw up around it.

    • Vicky32 9.2

      I see you’ve fallen for the rape allegations TR. I am not surprised but I am disappointed! You should know that any and all charges against Assange have been withdrawn and the allegations shown for the obvious attempt to discredit him that they were. Sigh…

      • kinto 9.2.1

        He’s only wanted for interviewing, and im sure he’s quite happy to provide an interview via video link. Surely you must agree that the stakes are too high for anything else?

  10. joe90 10

    Next up, the banks.

    “You could call it the ecosystem of corruption. But it’s also all the regular decision making that turns a blind eye to and supports unethical practices: the oversight that’s not done, the priorities of executives, how they think they’re fulfilling their own self-interest,” he said.

  11. freedom 11

    Buried in the NYTimes early coverage is this little gem
    “Saudi donors remain the chief financiers of Sunni militant groups like Al Qaeda.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/29/world/29cables.html?_r=1&hp

    so yet again the world is shown that Saudi donors (and the US Intelligence services both) control Al Qaeda yet continue to tell the world they are living in terror of this group, so fess up, which is it ?

    • Pascal's bookie 11.1

      Some wealthy Saudi citizens agree with OBL when he talks about the necessity of jihad. They can partially fulfill their obligations to that jihad by donating money to him.

      The govt of Saudi Arabia stripped OBL of his citizenship quite some time ago, OBL in return, basically considers the current Saudi govt to be a vassal state of the crusaders that should either become righteous or be overthrown by force.

      These vassal sates, (Saudi A. Kuwait, Egypt, etc) are the ‘near enemy’ in contrast to the West, which is the ‘far enemy’.

      The point of attacking the ‘far enemy’ is strategic, the ultimate target is the near enemy.

      Which is all to say that there is absolutely no contradiction in saying that the Saudi govt is ‘living in terror’ of this group even while most of the funding for that group comes from Saudi donors.

  12. joe90 12

    An interview with Assange.

  13. joe90 13

    Everything is permanent and nothing is ever deleted, Assangnes blog from 2006.

  14. nadis 14

    Vicky – think you are incorrect on the withdrawal of rape allegations. See here (or any of the other 5000 links a two word google news search comes up with)

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-11-24/arrest-warrant-for-wikileaks-founder-assange-is-upheld-by-swedish-court.html

    The interesting thing about these allegations is who the complainants are – given the background, history and political philosophy of the two complainants it is very difficult to see their claims as a US ordered set up.

    The thing I find most interesting about wikileaks is their focus on the US government, as if that is the most evil entity in the world. Perhaps it just writes the most memos. Obviously a lot of interesting if prurient stuff to read, but allegedly Assange is sitting on a mass of data relating to the Russian efforts in Chechnya which he hasn’t released. That would be way more sinister than anything the US is guilty of.

    If he really truly cared about creating just governments through transparency I’d be more interested in seeing him get stuck into places like China, Burma, Russia, the middle east etc.

    • Colonial Viper 14.1

      If he really truly cared about creating just governments through transparency I’d be more interested in seeing him get stuck into places like China, Burma, Russia, the middle east etc.

      Focus on US maybe due to the enormous influence the US has over the policies of European countries, UK, Australia and NZ, so it gets way more attention.

      You release info on China, Burma and Russia, the leaders in those countries will yawn and take another day in the office.

  15. nadis 15

    as well as.

    I don’t have any problem with whats being leaked, only caveat is redaction of names of joe public and protection of people who’d be put at risk by being named. In fact a lot of what was leaked re Iran and North Korea is kind of encouraging.

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