EURASIA LIFT

Human Rights Issues in Eurasia / Правовые Вопросы В Регионах Евразии

WikiLeaks Truths That May Lead To Worse Decisions And Less Accountability

Posted by Info on 03/12/2010

Simon Chesterman
The latest information dump from WikiLeaks offers fascinating insights into the workings of the US State Department that will keep foreign policy wonks and conspiracy theorists busy for months. Much of what has been reported is not “news” in the traditional sense, of course, but a series of embarrassing gaffes: truths that were never meant to be said aloud.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange argues that greater transparency “creates a better society for all people.” This raises the question of why governments keep secrets at all, and whether those reasons are justified.

The task of keeping a state’s secrets frequently falls to its intelligence services, which tend to focus on the protection of three types of information.
The first type is their own sources and methods, which need to be safeguarded if they are to remain effective when gathering data.
Second, the identities and activities of a service’s operational staff should be withheld, so that they can do their jobs and to ensure their safety.
Third, information provided in confidence by foreign governmentsor intelligence services must be closely held to avoid embarrassing the provider of the information and thereby reducing the likelihood that information will be shared in future.

The sheer volume of the data being dumped by WikiLeaks on the Internet makes it impossible for thorough analysis or, indeed, for thorough examination of potentially damaging information.

The consequence is unlikely to be transparency. Perversely, it will lead to greater secrecy.
The message that is almost certainly going through every major power is: be careful what you commit to writing.
Many important decisions will now be based on oral briefings and meetings that are not recorded in minutes. Decision-makers will be wary of openness even with their closest staff.
SELF-CENSORSHIP WILL LEAD TO WORSE DECISIONS AND LESS ACCOUNTABILITY for the decisions that are made.

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