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Posted at 11:30 AM ET, 11/29/2010

Four interesting comments on the Wikileaks dump

By Ezra Klein

Michael Hastings (this was originally crammed into a tweet, so I've decompressed the abbreviations):

If the New York Times had the scoop without Wikileaks, would the U.S. media's reaction be more like the Pentagon Papers? [Would we see more] solidarity?

Andrew Sullivan:

Overall, I have to say that this brief glimpse into how the government actually works is actually reassuring. The cable extracts are often sharp, smart, candid and penetrating. Who knew the US government had so many talented diplomats?

Matt Yglesias:

Routinized overclassification is bound to create a brittle system vulnerable to mass leaking.

Finally, the past few Wikileak dumps have been international news, even though most trained observers have concluded there's less to the documents than the secrecy implies (as Yglesias says, if these dumps have proven anything, it's that too many documents are classified). That brings to mind the New Yorker's June profile of Assange, which caught him just after he'd published thousands of pages of military procurement data only to see the documents ignored by the media. The problem, as he saw it then, was not just getting information, but getting anyone to care about it:

“I am so angry,” he said. “This was such a [bleeped for your protection] fantastic leak: the Army’s force structure of Afghanistan and Iraq, down to the last chair, and nothing.” ...

On the principle that people won’t regard something as valuable unless they pay for it, he has tried selling documents at auction to news organizations; in 2008, he attempted this with seven thousand internal e-mails from the account of a former speechwriter for Hugo Chávez. The auction failed. He is thinking about setting up a subscription service, where high-paying members would have early access to leaks.

Assange appears to have solved that problem. But if you don't want to rely on summaries, the full set of documents is here, and it's both categorized and searchable.

By Ezra Klein  | November 29, 2010; 11:30 AM ET
 
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Comments

The key point, made by McCardle, is
"There's little war crime in the cables I've read, and a lot of ordinary diplomacy, which will now be harder to do, since presumably people will be afraid to speak openly to us, and State department officers will not want to put their thoughts in writing. Since diplomacy is the alternative to war, this does not seem like a good trade."

Posted by: wiredog | November 29, 2010 12:06 PM | Report abuse

Clearly if the U.S. Government wants to stop WikiLeaks, they need to start copyrighting their sensitive information rather than classifying it. Then they can just get the Immigration and Customs Enforcement to shut down the domain name.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/11/29/AR2010112902410.html

Posted by: jnc4p | November 29, 2010 1:56 PM | Report abuse

The affected parties are in full bloviating outrage mode, which they'll follow with calculated power grabs designed to mitigate the possibility of any similar future embarrassments.

Just as our pols are not ever going to get their noses out of the citizenry's business, the diplomats and the bureaucracies that feed them are not ever going to be open and honest, unless forced to.

Posted by: msoja | November 29, 2010 5:18 PM | Report abuse

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