The Wikileaks Effect

The Wikileaks Effect

Wikileaks, an international government watchdog organization, stated on their twitter account 3 months ago that, “The coming months will see a new world, where global history is redefined.” Wikileaks’s statement came immediately after they informed the world that their next major release of classified documents was going to be several thousands of diplomatic cables.

Diplomatic cables, which are internal documents shared by ambassadors and diplomats, contain highly sensitive materials as they show the internal workings of international affairs between governments. Diplomatic cables can show agendas that governments are pushing, current status of working negotiations, information that spies have acquired, daily updates on basic government workings, and most importantly, information and communications needing to be relayed between governments directly. All nations have diplomatic cables and all nations engage in diplomatic relations on a daily basis. This information is significant in figuring out possible scenarios that might play out internationally.

Wikileaks’s statement of creating a “new world,” was an underestimate. The release of these cables has jeopardized the entire workings of the international sphere, undermining not only state autonomy, but state legitimacy as well. Several months have passed since the release of the documents, and the world is just now beginning to see the effects.

On the 19th of January, the State Department announced that top diplomatic leaders have concluded that the damage to US Foreign Policy has been minimal. However, the State Department noted that the documents that have caused particular problems in regions such as Pakistan and Yemen where there is constant diplomatic negotiations going on to combat terrorism. The problem is that only a small batch of files has been released so far, and most of which deals with the Middle East. There are a few other cables, but for the most part, the Middle East has been the central theme of the leak, raising the question how much does the United State risk losing once the next batch of cables are released.

The main criticism of Wikileaks so far has been that it would put thousands of lives at risk. The problem is not necessarily how many lives will be at risk, but rather how the leak will slow and/or inhibit diplomatic relations. One of the major reasons why these documents are confidential is because ambassadors and diplomats like to confer with nations in secret. Israel’s diplomat does not want their discussions with the United States ambassador to Israel leaked to Iran. If US – Israeli negotiations were leaked it would compromise relations between the two nations over national security matters, or even peace in that region of the world. Documents showing counter intelligence or secret security measures would now be publically available to anyone with a computer and internet access. Knowing this, Israel and any other nation that trusted the United States with intelligence would lose faith in the secrecy of discussions and may back out of the negotiation.

Further, while Wikileaks is doing something noteworthy, they are unhinging state autonomy. Foreign Policy magazine this week released an article that linked Wikileaks to the recent uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, stating that the leaks have inspired millions to protest against their governments. While it should be noted that people deserve to choose their own governmental affairs, the problem is that Wikileaks has opened Pandora’s Box. As previously stated, these cables are leaked without any context. In most cases, diplomatic cables are nothing more than the opinions of diplomats and observed events that the United States or allies should take note of. To individuals unfamiliar with the political scene, these might be taken completely out of context, prompting a quick reactionary response without much thought.

The fact of the matter is Wikileaks is a problem more than a solution. The Wikileaks organization believes that they ought to publish all documents that are given to them and let the world decide their importance. Wikileaks does not however take into consideration the impact that it could have on the international sphere over time, especially regarding the Foreign Policy of the United States should a document be released that has more significance than Wikileak’s thought it would.