Wikileaks is harmful now, but could become even more destructive
Going back at least to ancient Greece, there has always been a large gap between the public persona of a diplomat and the opinions of the person beneath the mask. Even in Thucydides’ account of the wars between Athens and Sparta, diplomats don’t say what they really think. They serve up the spin.
Everyone knows this, but when the mask slips it’s always riveting. In that sense, the latest Wikileaks document dump, like the others, didn’t contain any earth-shaking revelations. By and large, it filled in the details of what we already assumed.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is excessively cautious. French President Nicolas Sarkozy is thin-skinned. Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is a party animal.
The revelations also stripped away certain illusions. The documents made it clear that to many Middle Eastern nations, the real threat in the region — their public statements notwithstanding — isn’t Israel, but Iran.
Yet the latest release was indisputably damaging. Shining a light on private conversations with the leaders of repressive governments, like the earlier leaks related to Afghanistan and Iraq, will undoubtedly choke off sources of intelligence.
No one should be surprised if Yemen is less willing to cooperate in the suppression of the al Qaida bases within its borders after the role of its top leaders was revealed.
Last month, an attempted bombing of U.S.-bound cargo planes was foiled, in part because of a tip from Saudi Arabia. In the future, what will the Saudis have to lose if they simply remain silent?
Compromising intelligence sources and embarrassing diplomats aren’t the only issue.
Wikileaks is now threatening to release “tens of thousands of documents” early next year revealing unspecified violations and ethical problems at a major U.S. bank. Wikileaks founder Julian Assange claims to possess the computer hard drive of an executive from Bank of America containing five gigabytes of information.
Shares in Bank of America dropped 3 percent Tuesday. Although they recovered Wednesday, banking analyst Dick Bove said on CNBC that this may represent a new means of stock-market manipulation, by which the unknown funders of Wikileaks could profit by cratering shares in targeted companies.
The looming shift in Wikileaks’ focus from the U.S. national security system to the American financial markets opens an ominous new chapter in its activities that potentially threatens the portfolios of ordinary Americans.
What’s troubling amid all this is the seeming inability of the Obama administration to deal with it.
Wikileaks’ Assange — wanted in Sweden for questioning in a sexual assault case — is committing malicious and hostile acts against the United States. Surely, Washington is capable of doing more to shut down this website and operation than sending a stern letter and announcing various investigations.