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WikiLeaks and beyond

August 1, 2010 5 comments

You’d have to have been utterly uninformed if you didn’t notice the storm created by WikiLeaks over the past week in connection with the leaking of some 92,000 classified documents pertaining, among others also to the war in Afghanistan, what the United States terms as the war on terror! Almost everyone in the American administration seems to have an opinion on this, while calling for a systematic effort to comb the intelligence community in a desperate attempt to seal the leak, which is feared to have wider and longstanding implications, so much so as threatening the lives of many American people and their allies, while also seriously compromising their interests at home and beyond!

Come to think of it, founder Julian Assange and team, of WikiLeaks, have not been working really hard to obtain this so called tonnage of information, most of which are already in public domain and knowledge, far from the absolutely classified or top secret types anyone would expect. While the media lapped up the story, publicizing it to no ends and thereby creating a sensation that would perhaps be equivalent to a high-profile assassination, experts are yet to be surprised by this episode, which has now come to be recognized as a fiasco, one that has most certainly been a deliberate inside effort, well-timed to achieve a certain set objective, more so, at the connivance of the American administration and the intelligence community itself! Sharing the beliefs of many experts, several officials within the United States government are also of the opinion that the disclosure by WikiLeaks was a well planned process, aided by none other than senior functionaries within the intelligence community of America, at the insistence of, of course, the top brass of the American administration. Wayne Madsen, formerly with the US Navy and the US National Security Agency (NSA), now a popular blogger, investigative journalist, author and columnist, is known to have told a friend that the disclosure by WikiLeaks is a controlled leak process aided and used by the United States Government run entirely through intelligence networks.

Having spent a great deal of time glossing over the WikiLeaks website, in the past few days, I find that the information so mentioned or offered as part of the leak discloses nothing so significant or shocking, and is certainly not something not already known before. The packet deal consists very little apart from America’s knowledge of Pakistan’s ISI and it’s complicity with various outlawed factions in aiding state sponsored terrorism and the likes, nuances pertaining to the war on terror, notes on NATO operations, and field reports that have been systematically fed into a central repository over a period of time for collation and analysis!

It is widely believed that the source behind the WikiLeaks story is PFC Bradley Manning, a former US Army Intelligence Analyst, detained for allegedly “transferring classified data onto his personal computer and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system” and “communicating, transmitting and delivering national defense information to an unauthorized source.” Manning is also believed to have said that diplomatic documents, in his possession, expose “almost criminal political back dealings” and that they explain “how the first world exploits the third, in detail.” Stating that he hoped the release of matter within his possession would lead to “worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms,” he reportedly wrote, “everywhere there’s a U.S. post, there’s a diplomatic scandal that will be revealed.” While WikiLeaks has itself condemned actions initiated against Manning, it has so far refused to confirm or deny Manning as having been a source in the recently conducted disclosure, stating that it has a policy not to name it’s sources citing strict measures of confidence! In a twist following the initial refusal to confirm or deny it’s believed source, WikiLeaks founder and presently it’s editor-in-Chief, Julian Assange claimed that neither he nor his organization had any knowledge of the identity of the person who sent them the classified material, stating that the website itself was created in order to hide the source of it’s data from those who receive it.

This is however not the first time that WikiLeaks has come up with matters of disclosures that it claimed will stun the world, exposing the many cover ups being systematically undertaken by government and administrative officials. Ranging from Standard Operating Procedures of Guantanamo Bay to the membership list of the ultra-right wing British National Party, confidential reports of the United Nations, secret Congressional Research Service reports, intercepts pertaining to the 9/11 incident, reports related to dumping of toxic waste materials in Africa, Oil scandals in Peru and several other interesting material, the leaks of documents pertaining to the American war on terror in Afghanistan is among the many such instances, with the exception of it’s sensitivity considering how high this probably came from! These reports, ranging from the period of 2004 until 2009, detail incidents including friendly fire and civilian casualties, as a result of the various operations conducted within Afghanistan. Also, among the documents leaked are reports that American officials in Afghanistan strongly suspected Pakistan’s actions supporting Taliban militants while on the other hand, accepting huge amounts of American aid. Although publicly known, it is believed that these documents could fuel growing doubts within the US Congress about President Obama’s strategy on the war on terror and it’s effectiveness as American death toll continues to rise.

Interestingly, while the White House, along with senior government bodies in the United States has repeatedly termed this episode as an action constituting the breach of federal law, there has been no talk of any actions against WikiLeaks itself, while only an appeal not to publish any more sensitive material that maybe available in it’s custody! When asked if WikiLeaks could face criminal action, Pentagon officials have simply stated in what appears to be an evasive answer that “historically the leakers have been the ones targeted for criminal prosecution and not those who merely publish the information.” Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said “I don’t know what’s going to happen here. This is a whole new world that we are entering into where an organization without any editorial judgment, beholden to nobody, is soliciting classified information from people all over the world and then publishing it, I don’t know. I’m not a lawyer but people are going to have to make judgments about whether there are legal ramifications for soliciting a criminal act.”

In the aftermath of what is being seen as a sensational episode of disclosure, the US President will face a very tough task of convincing the congress to continue funding the war on terror. These disclosures, which have portrayed the on goings of the war on terror in a finer detail, often highlighting the failure of the administration in containing the many threats associated to the exercise, have come at a very crucial time. Because of undying difficulties on the ground and increasing casualty rates, a raging debate over the continued American presence in Afghanistan has begun much earlier than expected. It is believed that within the administration, more and more officials are turning skeptics and privately questioning the American policy towards the war on terror. Elsewhere within the US Congress, leaders are preparing to hold a vote on a very important bill related to financing the war on terror amidst fears that the leaks could incite opposition on the administration’s policies from even within the Democrats. Also geared to be chaired is a Senate panel aimed to hold a hearing on President Obama’s choice to head the military’s central command, Gen James Mattis, who will oversee military operations in Afghanistan. It is widely believed that the documents, released by WikiLeaks, will make it harder for President Obama as he strives to garner public and Congressional support until the end of the year, when he has scheduled a review of the war effort.

So given all of these complications already present and soon escalating, one wonders why there should have been an administrative level complicity in the disclosures made by WikiLeaks, for there seems to be no valid reason why the administration would endanger it’s own position in front of the American people and the Congress! Logically, there cannot be an answer to this unless it is a well concerted plan of the current US administration aimed to facilitate a withdrawal from Afghanistan! Maybe the government conveniently authorized this leak and aided it at the highest possible levels well aware of the furore it would create and therefore pave way for it’s exit from Afghanistan with the least possible political damage while stating the obvious that the war is intensifying in a manner that even the most efficiently coordinated efforts will pale in the face of escalating terror and continuance in such a situation will only drain American resources, lives and cost! An already edgy and driven Congress will be ‘made to understand’ the facts without ever the need for any elaborate explanations and testifying, all thanks to such a grand scale of leaks! With the international media spending such a considerable amount of time and effort in scrutinizing the war on terror in extensive detail, the task of the administration has lessened even more to a comfortable level of being able to convince the world of how unfruitful the pursuit of freedom or peace in Afghanistan can be! And for the general public, overwhelmed by the frantic pace of reporting by news channels over this so called sensationally humongous leak, I doubt if many would even understand that this mass cache of documents mean anything to the point of being able to be understood.

Therefore, how convenient and cooperative an effort by WikiLeaks and the Government of the United States!

Decoding L'Aquila

It seems Obama’s misreported bottomgate affair hogged the limelight more than the proceedings of the G8, which this time too failed to arrive at a much needed consensus on important issues such as climate change. As before, leaders of the group of eight, along with invitees, once again came together to put their thoughts on issues such as nuclear energy, dialogue with emerging countries, achievement of millennium development goals, negotiations on climate change, development of Africa in the areas of education, water, food and agriculture, health and peace support, intellectual property, outreach and expansion.

Not surprisingly the debate on climate change has brought forward no significant or tangible solution, with member nations not focusing on emission cuts and most importantly the Kyoto Protocol. While some question the relevance of the G8 in the face of a modernized global scenario, some others argue that it serves as an important platform for world leaders to wrangle on important issues that concern one another and the world at large. However, that ‘world at large’ is yet to see some tangible results as a measure of outcome from this gathering! Take for instance the posture on climate change which has hardly changed from before. While industrialized nations continue to play footsie with the issue, they have long been pressurizing some invitee nations to adopt a more stringent set of protocols that call for reduced emissions, something that seems more of hypocrisy! One may also ask about the provisions of the Kyoto Protocol, which is refused to be addressed.

Although Africa has been on the agenda for a long time now, there is no reflection of any constructive activity in the ground level. Take for instance the scale of poverty, issues pertaining to health, clean water, basic sanitation requirements and education programs that exist only as plans on paper and remain a distant dream. Mere agreements to sort out these issues by addressing them at forums is not enough. Implementation at various levels is the requirement.

Nations such as Sudan continue to be plagued in civil war with little or no assistance from the outside world. People continue to die at alarming rates and turn into fast statistics that are forgotten in a matter of days. Mere echoes of UN Security council resolutions will not address the problem. Why are nations not looking at establishing a military task force such as the KFor or the ISAF within Sudan, Darfur in particular? Is it the cost factor that is a deterrent or the knowledge of the non-existence of any rich pickings from these poor nations that is putting off the G8 from arriving at a policy of cooperation within themselves to assist impoverished countries, such as mentioned in their agenda?

For once, the Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi spoke intellectual when he remarked that the framework of the G8 needs to be modified to include the larger G14! His statement that “we saw that G8 is no longer a suitable format to show a global economic way of doing. Instead, a consolidated G14 representing 80% of the world economy could help create a real dialogue. We want to see if the G14 is the best solution for debates which will bring to us unique results,” echoed the G8’s attitude in taking cognizance of emerging nations such as India and China in the global forum, something that cannot be ignored as was in the past! I would certainly accord a great deal of credit to the Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh for having paved the way to such a landmark consensus as is witnessed today, when two years ago in a predecessor G8 summit at Heiligendamm in Germany, he stated the need for India to participate in the get-togethers of the rich as a partner rather than a petitioner.

It does not take a lot of brain racking to understand and conclude rightly that evolved partnerships are the key to success especially on a regional front which seems expanding and holding significance more than ever! Bilateral trade, cultural ties, combating terrorism, educational and outreach programs, disease control and a lot more can be significantly and systematically addressed in a much efficient manner with an expanded framework as in the case of the G14, which has rightly been envisioned and supported.

Fresh perspectives from developing nations with regards to plaguing problems can bring to the table a great deal of change, inclusive at that. However, one needs to wait and watch how the proceedings of this meeting of the G8 are to be implemented to attain measurable outcomes rather than being fizzled out as existent only on paper!

And maybe the press too can be a lot more mature to highlight issues and call for increased cooperation rather than misreport the roving eyes of a head of state!