After nearly a quarter million cables illustrating a raw look at diplomacy were published on WikLeaks last week, American diplomats and ambassadors are doing damage control to salvage the delicacy of negotiations on an international level. The cables give an insider’s view of prominent issues ranging from the United States secret attempt to remove highly enriched uranium from a research reactor in Pakistan, the conflict between South and North Korea and China’s influence on the matter, corruption in the Afghan government, the attempt to empty Guantanamo Bay, to other minor foreign policy observations such as a formulating alliance between Italian and Russian diplomats.
But the more pressing issue at hand is the debate between privacy and secrecy versus transparency and accountability. President Obama’s administration has stressed accountability and transparency in American legislation and bureaucracy yet has not maintained that same message in American foreign policy. The obvious question is whether we really need to know the minute details in the confidential cables. Is this ground-breaking news or simply juicy political gossip? I would say that most of the information in the cables are simply observations from diplomats and general ideas exposed with more details that ambassadors and anyone with close ties to the respective issues within the cables already knew about. I’m not necessarily saying that the content is general knowledge but more of politicians and diplomats’ unedited version of negotiations. The general public is under the idea that WikiLeaks is essential in ensuring accountability within foreign policy. However, the cables downloaded and leaked by Pfc. Bradley Manning seem to be what Paul B. Schroder nothing more than ” more like the work of irresponsible amateurs using dynamite to expand a tunnel that also contains, say, a city’s electrical lines.”
As a student of Professor Pyle’s Constitutional Law, we’ve examined fourth amendment issues of privacy and first amendment concerns over freedom of speech and expression. Yes, accountablity is necessary in a government controlled by so few in power. However, that’s why there are media outlets that allow for the oversight of government bodis such as Congress. Prominent newspapers hire professional investigative journalists in order to expose such secrets who still maintain the duty of protecting sources and obvious confidential matters. If we were to continue letting Julian Assange walk the fine line between disclosing our strategic , then we risk losing access to all information. Congress and other political hardballs do and will use the power to withhold all necessary information if further provoked.
There is a fine line between silence for the sake of safety and talking for the sake of mere discourse.