Wall to Wall Leakage

No doubt readers of this blog are getting their fill of the big Wikileaks story elsewhere. But I can’t resist linking to this smart post by Stephen Budiansky, a writer I’ve been familiar with for a long time. He offers a measured perspective that is critical of both “excessive secrecy” by the U.S. government and the latest Wikileaks dump. Of the former, he notes that

the government’s obsession with secrecy promotes the public’s obsession with conspiracy; as an observer both within and without the “black” world I’d also note that excessive secrecy breeds contempt for the entire system of secrecy: classification of the trivial makes it harder to protect the classification of the vital.

4 Responses to “Wall to Wall Leakage”

  1. isaacschumann says:

    I have to admit that I feel pretty much the same way towards this latest release of diplomatic correspondence as I do about the East Anglia emails, I would rather have never seen them at all. Have we learned anything constructive from either?

  2. Andy says:

    One important point that gets missed in the classification debate is that information is often classified because of its source, not because of its content. A lot of the “cablegate” information is going to seem pretty obviously unclassified or trivial (though that is subjective judgment), but what matters is usually who said it or how it was obtained.
    The reason for classifying seemingly innocuous diplomatic cables is to protect the confidentiality of people who talk to us.  Budiansky is right about that part. If private views are going to be made public then foreign leaders and sources are not going to be candid with us.

  3. BobN says:

    I agree that excessive secrecy on the part of government breeds consipricy theories and/or simple contempt for government.  Same is true for excessive legislation and enforcement of overly cumbersome or silly laws leading to contempt for law enforcement.  However, in this case, I agree with Andy that protecting the source and the freedom of the source to speak candidly is as important as the content.   Whether or not this ends up being truly devastating to US foreign policy efforts will have to be seen.  It does not speak well of the governments computer security protocols however.

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