27 November 2010

State Department leaks might not just harm the US

Update:  Small Wars Journal has the roundup, and Kings of War has the best analysis thus far.

Julian Assange and his ever-dwindling crew at Wikileaks are at it again.  Shortly after the arrest of Army intelligence analyst Pfc. Bradley Manning, Wired Magazine, largely responsible for breaking the Manning story, reported that the 22-year old currently in government custody had stolen some 260,000 "diplomatic cables".

What might such documents contain?  The chat logs between Bradley Manning and ex-hacker Adrian Lamo, who first reported Manning's activities to government officials, might reveal some clues.  In fact, judging by the logs, the State Department files might be the mother lode.  And it might not just be the US that gets its dirty laundry aired, either.  From the Lamo-Manning chat logs, dated 22 May 2010:

(1:45:00 PM) Lamo: what kind of scandal?
(1:45:16 PM) Manning: hundreds of them
(1:45:40 PM) Lamo: like what? I’m genuinely curious about details.
(1:46:01 PM) Manning: i dont know… theres so many… i dont have the original material anymore
(1:46:18 PM) Manning: uhmm… the Holy See and its position on the Vatican sex scandals
(1:46:26 PM) Lamo: play it by ear
(1:46:29 PM) Manning: the broiling one in Germany
(1:47:36 PM) Manning: im sorry, there’s so many… its impossible for any one human to read all quarter-million… and not feel overwhelmed… and possibly desensitized
(1:48:20 PM) Manning: the scope is so broad… and yet the depth so rich
(1:48:50 PM) Lamo: give me some bona fides … yanno? any specifics.
(1:49:40 PM) Manning: this one was a test: Classified cable from US Embassy Reykjavik on Icesave dated 13 Jan 2010
(1:50:30 PM) Manning: the result of that one was that the icelandic ambassador to the US was recalled, and fired
(1:51:02 PM) Manning: thats just one cable…
(1:51:14 PM) Lamo: Anything unreleased?
(1:51:25 PM) Manning: i’d have to ask assange
(1:51:53 PM) Manning: i zerofilled the original
(1:51:54 PM) Lamo: why do you answer to him?
(1:52:29 PM) Manning: i dont… i just want the material out there… i dont want to be a part of it
(2:12:45 PM) Manning: I gathered more info when i questioned him whenever he was being tailed in Sweden by State Department officials… i was trying to figure out who was following him… and why… and he was telling me stories of other times he’s been followed… and they matched up with the ones he’s said publicly
(2:14:28 PM) Lamo: did that bear out? the surveillance?
(2:14:46 PM) Manning: based on the description he gave me, I assessed it was the Northern Europe Diplomatic Security Team… trying to figure out how he got the Reykjavik cable…

Manning's motivation?  Well, shattered naivety, for one.  Check out his chat logs from 25 May:

(02:26:01 PM) Manning: i dont believe in good guys versus bad guys anymore… i only a plethora of states acting in self interest… with varying ethics and moral standards of course, but self-interest nonetheless
(02:26:18 PM) Manning: s/only/only see/
(02:26:47 PM) Lamo: the tm meant i was being facetious
(02:26:59 PM) Manning: gotchya
(02:27:47 PM) Manning: i mean, we’re better in some respects… we’re much more subtle… use a lot more words and legal techniques to legitimize everything
(02:28:00 PM) Manning: its better than disappearing in the middle of the night
(02:28:19 PM) Manning: but just because something is more subtle, doesn’t make it right
(02:29:04 PM) Manning: i guess im too idealistic
(02:31:02 PM) Manning: i think the thing that got me the most… that made me rethink the world more than anything
(02:35:46 PM) Manning: was watching 15 detainees taken by the Iraqi Federal Police… for printing “anti-Iraqi literature”… the iraqi federal police wouldn’t cooperate with US forces, so i was instructed to investigate the matter, find out who the “bad guys” were, and how significant this was for the FPs… it turned out, they had printed a scholarly critique against PM Maliki… i had an interpreter read it for me… and when i found out that it was a benign political critique titled “Where did the money go?” and following the corruption trail within the PM’s cabinet… i immediately took that information and *ran* to the officer to explain what was going on… he didn’t want to hear any of it… he told me to shut up and explain how we could assist the FPs in finding *MORE* detainees…
(02:35:46 PM) Lamo : I’m not here right now
(02:36:27 PM) Manning: everything started slipping after that… i saw things differently
(02:37:37 PM) Manning: i had always questioned the things worked, and investigated to find the truth… but that was a point where i was a *part* of something… i was actively involved in something that i was completely against…
(02:38:12 PM) Lamo: That could happen in Colombia.
(02:38:21 PM) Lamo: Different cultures, dude.
(02:38:28 PM) Lamo: Life is cheaper.
(02:38:34 PM) Manning: oh im quite aware

So far we have alleged scandals in Germany, the Vatican, Iceland, and apparently, surveillance of Julian Assange in Sweden (though not necessarily a "honey trap" as some claim)--all of it "secret", not "top secret".

I wonder what the ultimate impact of such revelations might be.  The shocking insight that the Vatican's official stance towards sex scandals might be to downplay them?  Deny them?  Silence them?  Please, that's hardly newsworthy.  South Park has been lampooning this for years.  Alleged leaks regarding American concern over Guantanamo Bay inmate Omar Khadr are also old news.

What's next, is Wikileaks going to produce a document claiming that Pope Benedict XVI was in the Hitler Youth?  I mean, talk about ridiculous...

(Wait, he actually was in the Hitler Youth?)

Nevertheless, Wikileaks is never short of salacious, albeit frivolous, surprises.  I wonder what this next release might bring.

Addendum:  I've been reliably informed that you might want to start looking in to the Seychelles Islands, Mali, Ukraine, the Office of Military Cooperation-Yemen, Jundallah, Dagestan, and Balochistan, as well as the State Department's Intelligence Arm and Counter-Terrorism Office.

1 comment:

Amanda Violette Groth said...

A disillusioned soldier? Wow, that's something new. I like how he says he just wants the material out there but doesn't want to be a part of it. Shattered naivety is right.