Wikileaks planned their latest document dump — consisting mostly of “cables,” or candid behind-the-scenes diplomatic messages between the United States and its allies — for late on Sunday afternoon, but as anyone on in the internet knows, everything happens early here. The leakers were hit by a leak this morning when copies of the German news magazine Der Spiegel hit newsstands early, and eager buyers began tweeting excerpts from the findings. Simultaneously, Wikileaks reported that they were “under a mass distributed denial of service attack” and their website was down. Likely as a result, the New York Times and the Guardian let their reports fly. A scattered breakdown so far of a hectic news afternoon is below:
The Times report comes in the form of a piece entitled “Cables Shine Light Into Secret Diplomatic Channels,” which bullet-points notable moments from the cables and explains that the leaks provide “an unprecedented look at backroom bargaining by embassies around the world, brutally candid views of foreign leaders and frank assessments of nuclear and terrorist threats.”
For example, here is the Times on the U.S.’s Guantanamo bargaining:
¶ Bargaining to empty the Guantánamo Bay prison: When American diplomats pressed other countries to resettle detainees, they became reluctant players in a State Department version of “Let’s Make a Deal.” Slovenia was told to take a prisoner if it wanted to meet with President Obama, while the island nation of Kiribati was offered incentives worth millions of dollars to take in a group of detainees, cables from diplomats recounted. The Americans, meanwhile, suggested that accepting more prisoners would be “a low-cost way for Belgium to attain prominence in Europe.”
The Times praises even the Wikileaks information that was not classified or entirely unknown writing, “Even when they recount events that are already known, the cables offer remarkable details.”
The report also comes with “A Note to Readers” about the decision to publish the leaks:
But the more important reason to publish these articles is that the cables tell the unvarnished story of how the government makes its biggest decisions, the decisions that cost the country most heavily in lives and money. They shed light on the motivations — and, in some cases, duplicity — of allies on the receiving end of American courtship and foreign aid. They illuminate the diplomacy surrounding two current wars and several countries, like Pakistan and Yemen, where American military involvement is growing. As daunting as it is to publish such material over official objections, it would be presumptuous to conclude that Americans have no right to know what is being done in their name.
The Times reveals that they sent the Obama administration the cables they were planning to publish with redactions to protect national security. The administration then suggested additional redactions, to which the newspaper “agreed to some, but not all.” The Times series is titled “State’s Secrets” and is teased as a nine-day roll-out.
The Guardian, meanwhile, makes an interactive feature of “The U.S. emmbassy cables,” including a database searchable by originating country and countries referenced in the cables.
The Times‘ own interactive document viewer can be accessed here.
The Guardian also explains how the leak came to be: “From a fake Lady Gaga CD to a thumb drive that is a pocket-sized bombshell.”
Der Spiegel calls the disclosure “nothing short of a political meltdown for US foreign policy.”
The Pentagon calls the leaks a “reckless disclosure of classified information illegally obtained,” with Press Secretary Robert Gibbs saying, “We condemn in the strongest terms the unauthorized disclosure of classified documents and sensitive national security information.”
Expect much more of this madness as experts and concerned citizens continue to comb through this mass of information.