WikiLeaks – what a public relations coup!

What was new about the “WikiLeak scoop” a few days ago? Anybody following international news have heard about alleged Pakistani involvement in Afghanistan from US officials.

Anybody following international news have heard about alleged Pakistani involvement in Afghanistan from Hillary Clinton and other US officials.

Last week Hillary Clinton actually said there must be someone in the Pakistani government that knows Osama bin Laden’s wheeabouts. Can you get more blunt than that?

So what was the point of making the trove of 90,000 classified military documents public? The only reason they got so much attention was by only released them to The New York Times, Guardian and Der Spiegel. They were no scope and I don’t understand why they caused so much consternation? The only difference they make is that now some Afghans lives are in danger.

WIkiLeaks goal in disclosing secret documents is to reveal “unethical behavior” by governments and corporations. Catch is since it was founded in 2006 it has only been able to disclose secrets from Western countries.

But what about secrets from inside the ISI or Pakistani government? If the 90,000 documents were from inside the ISI they would have been truly sensational. Or if WikiLeaks published classified information from say, the Iranian, North Korean, Russian or Chinese government.

But chances of that ever happen are next to none. Who inside such regimes would dare to take the risk? Pity since that kind of information would make WikiLeaks a worth while organisation. As it is they provide one sided information from the West without being able to deliver information that would really make a difference.

What does WikiLeaks want to accomplish?

Part of me likes what they are doing, but since they will only be able to reveal secrets from the West I don’t think they have a mission to fulfil. At least not if they continue leaking “scoops” that are common knowledge.

WikiLeaks and Julian Assange are a bit of a question mark. He says he’s a journalist but according to the New York Times he is not. They call him an activist but to what end isn’t clear. If it is his desire to promote peace I don’t think he has accomplished anything so far.

So what did he accomplish by bringing his organization into the debate on Afghanistan? WikiLeaks had to close some time ago due to lack of funding so presumably the aim was to get sponsors? Or just become famous? Some people go to extremes for fame and glory.

The pr coup he achieved was brilliant. He is now a household name and so is Wikileaks. Just a pity that by showing little regard for the hard moral choices and dearth of good policy options facing decision-makers, he is as reckless and destructive as soldier or soldiers who leaked the documents in the first place.

All WikiLeaks has achieved so far is, putting Afghans who provided leaks to the US in danger as well as – again – show us that technology has diminished our control over what the world knows. So now WikiLeaks needs to step up to the plate and deliver scoops of classified information from inside totalitarian states. That would justify their existence. If not, what can such an organisations accomplish?

(Photo: US Department of State – Flickr)

26 thoughts on “WikiLeaks – what a public relations coup!

  1. As with any political organization the results are generally not what was originally intended. I am a little confused as to why they would spend so much time in a forum to get secrets. Do they really think a government is going to give up" secrets"? If they uncover secrets from another government do you really think the country uncovering the secret is going to make themselves know. That would be very dangerous. Everyone would have to have full disclosure for this to work and that is not ever going to happen. I may not fully understand the WikiLeaks

    Catarina, I love your posts they always make me think.

    1. Thanks Julia. Personally I believe that WikiLeaks most likely needed the attention in order to get funding, which they desparately need, from what I understand. After all what is the point in leeking something that is no secret? Must be a matter of survival?

  2. So really are the documents Wikileaks actaully “leaked”. If governments want things sealed, they will stay sealed, I doubt this organization has the resources to dig within and get top secret information. Will be curious to see if they can find something that would devastate or really shed light on a war. Then maybe worth the fuss…..

    1. Good point Tim. Do you think they will be able to get secret information from within the ISI (Pakistani intelligence service)?

      Most likely Wikileaks wanted the attention to get funding since they really need that.

  3. Catarina the depth of your thinking on these issues continues to help me learn. I am not that familiar with WIkiLeaks nor the story that they leaked. I avoid news except what I get second hand from friends and family. It's all too negative. From what you summarized of their actions and asked about their intentions it also makes me think too, what IS accomplished?

    I like to think it is a demonstration of leading the way, and then I consider your analysis that they have now put certain people's lives in danger. Maybe they didn't think that through or maybe they didn't care?

    Are we sure why they can only reveal "secrets" from the west? I just reflect on the assassination of JFK and how long all that information has been withheld from public knowledge. And when I do, I think Tim is right – this leak was not top secret.

    Hoping your further discussion will clarify this more.

    1. Glad you are learning Patricia.

      Doubt very much that someone in Iran or North Korea will risk their lives to provide leaks to WikiLeaks. Only if they for some reason are desparate. Only Westerners will since they a)don't risk so much and b) don't always realize what they are doing since we live in such a free society.

  4. How does a 22-year old pfc. have access to so much classified data and why did he get away with this theft and potentially a previous one without being detected?

  5. I heard the reports were field reports and I wonder if he thought of the soldiers in the field, not only Americans but from other countries as well.

    1. Susan, I really don't think he cared. Anyone would realize that such a leak would endanger people mentioned. Some Afghan mentioned may already have gone to see his maker as a result. There is something desparate in how WikiLeaks got a headline.

  6. I think you're likely spot on in your assessment Catarina. WikiLeaks never really made much in the way of headlines until the released the video footage a short while ago that called into question the military practices and the behavior of the personnel involved behind identifying and eliminating enemies. Although it was fairly sensational, I got a distinct sense that there was some disappoinment with how little buzz that information was able to create.

    It's possible that with one mild success, rather than attempt to create continuity or consistency, they are looking for the next bigger and better story and made a poor call on this one since it really hasn't much to reveal in the first place.

    1. Agree Paul. But I really believe there is more to this than meets the eye. Am almost certain that it's all about getting funding and fame for the founder. Now a lot of people know who he is. Had never heard about him before and as we know, no publicity is bad publicity.

      It was a desparate step taken by someone who needed it for his/the organisations future. His real motive is not to disclose what's going on. Nothing was new in the leak, apart from names of people whose life they have endangered.

  7. Interesting view that this was all about getting funding for WikiLeaks, Catarina – and one I'm inclined to think is the real reason. I seem to recall they were about to close a couple of months ago, so funding is clearly an issue.

    Quite how a young PFC got access to this sort of "top secret" information is a bit of a mystery, and how was he able to download it – very fundamental security issues there!!

    Furthermore, WikiLeaks, while saying it will never do anything that endangers/harms others has released documents with names of informers/collaborators, etc., among the Afghan population. Their lives are now seriously endangered – thoroughly unethical of WikiLeaks in my view.

  8. Catarina, I have no time to comment right now…just wanted to let you know I enjoyed reading this post. Very timely subject – both in terms of the N. Korean crisis AND rapid growth of web/social networking phenomenon. Anyway… good stuff.

    Jay

      1. Catarina, I just found a free moment…. I could not agree with you more re: the following question: "what's WikiLeaks mission (as they like to call it) or their business objective"?

        During past few yrs, I've been actually "following" WikiLeaks. When I say "following", I mean:
        – it was/is a company that seemed to be in tune with the explosive growth of social marketing phenomenon; they'd do the "dirty" work of digging up info that floats around on Facebook, Twitter, blah, blah, blah, try to piece it together, and periodically succeed in uncovering/publicizing some meaningful stories/issues….and, they'd focus on stuff other than tabloid-like celebrity scandals. THERE'S INFO OUT THERE (good example would be terrorist attacks in Mumbai in 2008… that's when I started to take Twitter seriously — instant and constant flow of live updates from huge number of independent sources, namely "regular" people rather than media outlets). In short, I expected for organizations/companies like WikiLeaks to evolve into solid/reliable media outlets. To become solid/reputable news sources that could compete with CNN, BBC etc in providing relatively reliable info 24/7 within minutes of occurrence of some event in ANY PART of the globe. Anyway, you get my point…..

        Well, I came to a conclusion that's very similar to yours. To put it bluntly (and, to use a a quote from Jerry Maguire movie.): "WikiLeaks – SHOW ME THE MONEY!!!! You've had plenty of time to prove your worth/value, so……"SHOW ME THE MONEY!!!"…Who are you? Do you have any sort of mission statement/objective? etc, etc, etc.

        Of course: as usual, I am simply expressing my own, personal opinion and I could be completely wrong (as Dennis Miller loves to say 🙂

        To reiterate: great topic for discussion.

        Jay

  9. I am glad that something like WikiLeaks exists and I think that at the moment it is very important for people. Why? The international organisations such as the UN and NATO have impact on the world and as they are receiving money from the USA, we have to make sure that the country is not creating conflicts for its profit.

    1. Maggie, I very much doubt that WikeLeaks have any honourable motives. Seems they managed to carry out a pr coup at the expense of putting peoples lives at risk. Probably their ulterior motive was to get funding or fame? What they produced is no scoop whatsoever.

      If they could get secrets from inside Iran, North Korea or whatever they would justify their existense. But chances of that ever happening is next to none. So do we need that kind of leaks to be made public. You should take into account that whoever the whistleblower was he/she probably had a petty motive. Such people normally have.

      By the way, we should count our blessings we are not poor Afghans. Their country has been at war since the Soviets invaded. To call their lives hell on earth is probably making it sound better than it is.

  10. Hillary Clinton is the last person I would listen to. All what that woman wants is to tell the world what to do. I do not know why she has so much hate in her eyes. I do enjoy listening to her speeches when as the president she says: we and our America but when it comes to going to the war, they say: our world.

    1. That's your opinion, which you are entitled to Maggie. The reason she is mentioned is that she is the secretary of state and said in public that "someone in the Pakistani government knows Osama bin Laden's whereabouts" i.e. one example of the Wikileak not providing anything new.

  11. Maggie you would be interested in reading Zbigniew Brzezinski book "The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy And Its Geostrategic Imperatives". It outlines how US foreign policy has been carried out since the time of President Carter.

    For life inside Afghanistan there are many interesing books. Am currently reading Deborah Rodriguez book "Kabul Beauty School". After reading that you may wish to reflect on the the dilemma the current administration has regarding Afghanistan. They don't wish to stay there, but what would happen to ordinary Afghans if they leave?

    1. Maggie it seems you still haven't read Zbigniew Brzezinski book "The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy And Its Geostrategic Imperatives". Hence your misunderstanding of my opinion. Do read the book and you will understand what motivates US politicians as well as follow my thinking.

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