The last couple of weeks have seen the norms of international diplomatic relations turned on its head. Highly confidential conversations between diplomats, ambassadors, the Secretary of State and others entrusted to the secrets formerly only privy to the US Government and its related organs are now out in the public domain for all to see.
While the government is more than happy to tap your phones, to sift through your emails, and frisk you each time you get on a plane, it is much less eager for you to see its underbelly. It categorically does not want you to read its confidential reflections on the Iraq and Afghan wars, the British and Saudi Royal families, corruption in Africa, and the tantalising glimpses of how little the US administration actually knows about some parts of the world; this information is classified for a reason: America is trying to make sense of a complex world to preserve its standing as the sole superpower. International diplomacy is poker writ large, you never, never show your hand to the other players. You may give glimpses of a couple of cards to your closest allies, but never the full hand; to do so is the surest way to lose the game.
And here lies the dilemma. The secrets are now up there for all to see, sprayed on the toilet wall. Do you look? And what are the consequences of doing so? In short, it is illegal for any US citizen to read classified documents. The White House’s Office of Management and Budget obligated each and every federal employee and contractor to safeguard the classified information. It is taking every measure possible to try to ensure that access to Wikileaks is stopped as soon as possible in an effort to minimize potential damage to its legitimacy to rule. It has already strongarmed Amazon and Paypal, among others, to starve the organization, and is very likely in talks with the bigger ISPs to limit your ability to access it from the privacy of your own home.
As the arrest of the front man of Wikileaks, Julian Assange, on trumped up rape charges. If someone powerful wants you bad enough, they will use every method at their disposal to ensure they get you. Assange has declared he is sitting on a timebomb: within the still yet to be released cables are secrets that will shock the world. The government is thus eager to apply as much pressure to him as possible to try and prevent this. For us little folk, reading the documents is still illegal, but unless we go out of our way to really disseminate the information widely, I doubt we’ll be seeing in the new year from anywhere other than from the comfort of our own homes, though likely imprisoned and subjected to grievous torture by the arrival of our raucous tone deaf carol singing families for the holiday season!