Debunking The Myth That Wikileaks Cable Leaks Haven't Been Important

from the revealing-serious-problems dept

Whatever you might think of Wikileaks -- and it's difficult to deny that it is a severely flawed operation in many ways -- one of the sillier critiques of the recent release of secure State Department cables is the claim that these cables didn't really reveal anything important. Thankfully, the EFF has put together a nice list of key areas where the release of the cables has helped shine light on important things, while benefiting the public discourse around those topics. Included in the list are things like US contractor DynCorp pimping young boys to Afghani police, as well as the US's involvement in trying to get Spain to pass Hollywood-friendly copyright laws. It's been argued that revealing that info publicly helped kill that Spanish copyright reform.

The more you read about what's been released, the harder and harder it is to claim that these leaks haven't added to the public discussion on some key, important topics. In many cases, the argument that these things had to be kept secret is not supported by the facts. It's true that some of this information was embarrassing, but the State Department's job is not to prevent embarrassing info from being discussed.


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    jimbo, Jan 12th, 2011 @ 8:09am

    shame the leaks weren't sooner. perhaps then, the 'Hollywood-friendly copyright laws' that were introduced into Sweden, after threats of sanctions from the USA, may not have happened. at least the public would have been aware of what was going on and voiced opinions that could have stopped the change.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 12th, 2011 @ 8:48am

    Throw enough crap against the wall, some of it sticks. But you are still stuck with the fact that it's crap.

     

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      Gabriel Tane (profile), Jan 12th, 2011 @ 8:56am

      Re:

      So the report that DynCorp was pimping young local boys to Afghani police is 'crap'. Gotcha.

      Evidence that a United States contracted company, a domestic company (which means they are americans), is not just involved in, but is facilitating the sexual predation, molestation and prostitution of 12 year old boys... yup, guess we never should have brought that to light.

      Just because it looks bad for our government doesn't mean it's any less valid or important.

       

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      Dark Helmet (profile), Jan 12th, 2011 @ 9:07am

      Re:

      "Throw enough crap against the wall, some of it sticks. But you are still stuck with the fact that it's crap."

      Interesting line of thought. I'd say it's more akin to a doctor taking a stool sample. Sure you've got a couple of poop logs in your office, but you also just found out the patient has a dibilitating tape worm eating at his nourishment and making him worse off.

      Why do you hate stool samples? My two dogs say they are confused....

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Jan 12th, 2011 @ 9:07am

      Re:

      You have quite the odd definition of fact, TAM.

       

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    teka (profile), Jan 12th, 2011 @ 9:30am

    I just like how the issue is talked up in both directions by some people.

    "Nothing Important Has Been Released"

    to make it seem like a prank or joke

    followed by vague claims about

    "Someone Somewhere Died Because Of This. We Will Not Tell You Exactly How Or Why, Just Trust Me. Anyone Who Would Release This Is A Murderer"

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jan 12th, 2011 @ 11:00am

      Re:

      Indeed. It's astonishing how often these two mutually exclusive claims come together, even in adjacent sentences.

      People I talk to who say this are actually trying to express something different though, also equally wrong. "Nothing important" is supposed to mean "nothing of interest to the American public with regards to its relationship to the government", but if I probe them I find that they usually mean this as "nothing of personal interest to me". Then when I tell them about the interesting things that have been revealed they are both surprised and interested. They didn't know.

      In my experience, ignorance coupled with a credulous reactionary faith in their government is always the foundation of such claims like "nothing important" and "somebody will die".

       

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    Larry Simpson, Jan 12th, 2011 @ 9:45am

    WikiLeaks

    I am apparently part of the minority that sees WikiLeaks as a criminal act. While it is true that some of what was disclosed are things that should not have occurred and may be prevented in the future based on the disclosure, some of the information disclosed is classified. Some of that classified information my well result in additional casualties for U.S. service personnel.

    I cannot support in any way leaking information that is hazardous to armed services personnel. For that I hope that everyone involved is prosecuted to the fullest extent.

     

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      Dark Helmet (profile), Jan 12th, 2011 @ 9:53am

      Re: WikiLeaks

      "I cannot support in any way leaking information that is hazardous to armed services personnel. For that I hope that everyone involved is prosecuted to the fullest extent."

      Sorry, but you shouldn't have that belief (which is probably the appropriate word in your case) unless you have SOME reason for it. Is there even a SINGLE example of Wikileaks releasing something that has endangered anyone?

       

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      Gabriel Tane (profile), Jan 12th, 2011 @ 10:13am

      Re: WikiLeaks

      "I am apparently part of the minority that sees WikiLeaks as a criminal act."
      You may be a minority here, but that's just because most of us feel that Wikileaks didn't break the law. The guy that obtained the cables did, but not Wikileaks.



      "Some of that classified information my well result in additional casualties for U.S. service personnel."
      Ooooh... my favorite! You shouldn't have! No, really... you shouldn't have. Please provide one shred of evidence that would back up the assertion that this will lead to any increased risk to any service person.

      As for "may well have"... look, setting aside that it's an un-provable hypothetical and a logical fallacy(see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Post_hoc_ergo_propter_hoc), many MANY things could be said to "may well have" lead to increased danger... hell, Chaos Theory says that a butterfly flapping it's wings could have lead to increased danger. Should we all now kill some butterflies?

      Does anyone else think that "Think of the SOLDIERS!!" is quickly surpassing "Think of the CHILDREN!!" as the political cry du jour?

       

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        The Mighty Buzzard (profile), Jan 12th, 2011 @ 10:38am

        Re: Re: WikiLeaks

        Sorry, that was in no way a post hoc ergo propter hoc argument. "may well result" points to event(s) in the future while the phrase is used for events that have already happened. Fits neither the spirit nor the letter of the phrase because latin is pretty strict on its tenses.

        I get that you don't like having entirely speculative arguments thrown out that you're unable to disprove as much as the GP is able to prove them but there is no logical fallacy in his argument. If it is at all, under any circumstances, possible that his argument could wind up being correct, it is a valid argument. Yes, even if you don't like it and even if it is completely unsubstantiated speculation.

         

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          Gabriel Tane (profile), Jan 12th, 2011 @ 11:02am

          Re: Re: Re: WikiLeaks

          Considering that we're taking Latin out of context and into English (poor, poor Latin), I don't think the tense really matters that much. However, reading back through the list, I think I was mistaken about exactly which argument it is. I should have said it was cum hoc ergo propter hoc.
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cum_hoc_ergo_propter_hoc

          It doesn't matter whether I like the statement or not... it is logically fallacious if it is not backed up by fact showing the correlation of the two parts.

           

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            The Mighty Buzzard (profile), Jan 12th, 2011 @ 11:10am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: WikiLeaks

            Again, no. It is not a logical fallacy unless a claim is made. The use of the word "may" prevents that. That use makes the statement true if it is remotely possible that it would be true without it.

            Never argue logic with a programmer.

             

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              Gabriel Tane (profile), Jan 12th, 2011 @ 11:28am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: WikiLeaks

              I think the programmer in you is making you look at the code and not the resultant output. There is a bit of difference between the if-then logic of programming and philosophical/rhetorical argument.

              The statement of "May well cause..." is, in the mouths of those using it, is the same as "WILL cause". It is making a claim. It's a statement to appeal to the patriotism-cum-nationalism that pervades this country... "Think of the SOLDIERS". And it is for that usage that I call them out on needing something to back it up.

               

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                The Mighty Buzzard (profile), Jan 12th, 2011 @ 11:34am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: WikiLeaks

                I don't mind you calling them out on backing it up, I just say it's only a claim of possibility and logically correct. If they can't deal with someone asking them to prove an unprovable negative, they don't need to be debating.

                 

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                  Gabriel Tane (profile), Jan 12th, 2011 @ 11:56am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: WikiLeaks

                  I do see what you're saying... and if you used "may well cause harm", then I'd know that's how you mean it. But I still assert that people like Larry are using it to apply to patriotism/nationalism and are using it as a statement. Just like how the media use a question mark to distance themselves from an obviously inflammatory statement... http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/wed-september-13-2006/the-question-mark

                  I'm not going to let them slide just by making it in the form of a question... that's not being insightful; it's being a contestant on Jeopardy.

                   

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                    coldbrew, Jan 12th, 2011 @ 12:16pm

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: WikiLeaks

                    I will take Pedantic Debates for $500, Alex.

                     

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                      Dark Helmet (profile), Jan 12th, 2011 @ 12:40pm

                      Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: WikiLeaks

                      "I will take Pedantic Debates for $500, Alex."

                      A la a Sprite commercial from roughly four years ago, you are in receipt of a remote control that allows you to turn anything into something else at your whim. Upon receipt, you walk out of a local bar with your friend, and subsequently turn him into an amazingly smoking hot girl. You then proceed to make out with this girl.

                      Are you gay, bisexual, or straight?

                       

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        Dark Helmet (profile), Jan 12th, 2011 @ 10:47am

        Re: Re: WikiLeaks

        "Does anyone else think that "Think of the SOLDIERS!!" is quickly surpassing "Think of the CHILDREN!!""

        The sad part is, given the age of many of our soldiers, they're the same thing....

         

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          The Mighty Buzzard (profile), Jan 12th, 2011 @ 11:05am

          Re: Re: Re: WikiLeaks

          Awe man, no... Tell me you're not one of those people who think someone is a child up until their mid to late 20s.

          18 isn't the age you can vote/serve because they thought children should be able to vote too. It's voting age because back then you were absolutely, definitely, no questions asked supposed to be thinking and acting like an adult by 18. We've since gotten a hell of a lot more lax in expecting maturity but it's no less possible to be a responsible adult at 18 than it was back then.

           

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            Dark Helmet (profile), Jan 12th, 2011 @ 11:11am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: WikiLeaks

            Not a matter of possible or impossible. Age is an abritrary line of no meaning other that which we assign to it. I know plenty of 20 year old children. Hell, I know some 60 year old children (although they're far more rare than the 20 year old variety). I also know plenty of 16 year old adults. My opinion was about states of mind of those we're sending to fight our corrupt wars.

            Oh, and new rule: if you can't legally drink, you aren't an adult. Period.

             

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              The Mighty Buzzard (profile), Jan 12th, 2011 @ 11:22am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: WikiLeaks

              I'm inclined to agree there. It chapped my ass something fierce that I couldn't have a beer while I was serving. Wait, let me rephrase that for accuracy. It chapped my ass something fierce that I couldn't legally have a beer while I was serving.

               

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                Rose M. Welch (profile), Jan 13th, 2011 @ 4:37pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: WikiLeaks

                I agree. If you can walk across Iraq with a firearm, you should be able to walk across your living room with a beer.

                Also, the 21-rule is bad for college students. College deans say so.

                 

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              A Dan (profile), Jan 12th, 2011 @ 1:04pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: WikiLeaks

              What about prohibition? Do you think of that as our nation collectively declaring everyone to be children?

               

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                The Mighty Buzzard (profile), Jan 12th, 2011 @ 1:18pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: WikiLeaks

                I'm pretty sure that's exactly what it was. Along with outrageous tobacco taxes, seatbelt/helmet laws, and required medical insurance.

                 

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                  Chargone (profile), Jan 12th, 2011 @ 7:44pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: WikiLeaks

                  we need a 'facepalm and headshake' button...

                  you know, for those times you know a statement is ridiculous but can't get past the resultant mental 'why would you even think that?' enough to form a coherent logical explanation of your point in response... (note that this is not the same thing as such explanation not existing)

                   

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                    Gabriel Tane (profile), Jan 13th, 2011 @ 5:44am

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: WikiLeaks

                    How about a [pat on the head] button...

                    you know, for those times when the obvious is missed, but it's ok because it's not really their fault… what with our educational system and the TeeVee’s doing such a bad job raising our country.

                    He's talking about how the government has passed laws and taxes to try to stop people from doing things "for their own good". Where's my adult choice in whether I want to smoke or ride without a helmet or not carry health insurance? So the government considers us children incapable of making our own choices.

                    [pat on head]

                     

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          Anonymous Coward, Jan 12th, 2011 @ 11:21am

          Re: Re: Re: WikiLeaks

          It's the Patriot Lever, one of the common levers that are so useful in manipulating the opinion of large amounts of people. There are a small set of simple levers which can almost always be employed because they tend to cause a highly reactionary type of thinking. Other examples are the Protect Children lever and the National Enemy Lever.

          Politicians and demagogues understand how to use these well. The Nazis employed the last one in particular with great success.

          http://quotes.liberty-tree.ca/quote/hermann_goering_quote_65d2

           

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      Anonymous Coward, Jan 12th, 2011 @ 11:16am

      Re: WikiLeaks

      These are diplomatic cables. They are not filled with sensitive military information. Wikileaks DID release the war logs, which DID have military information in it. If you are talking about military secrets, then you should be talking about those, not the cables.

      The defense department condemned this at the time, then later admitted that, despite talking about how the info would compromise their intelligence sources, not a single source had been compromised. Not one single person has been killed, attacked, or even hassled, and not one single intelligence source was ever compromised. By the words of the Defense Secretary, nothing even remotely bad happened from one of the largest military information breaches in history, thus all their alarmist claims were fabrication.

      Please stop claiming military compromise from this information. It's total fiction, and purely reactionary.

      Also if you're talking about prosecution, then we should prosecute The Guardian, Le Monde, Der Spiegel, The New York Times, and the other media outlets that are actually publishing this information. Wikileaks isn't publishing it, they're vetting it, redacting anything that might be sensitive, then making it available to news outlets, who recognize it as news.

       

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      Rose M. Welch (profile), Jan 13th, 2011 @ 4:29pm

      Re: WikiLeaks

      I am apparently part of the minority that sees WikiLeaks as a criminal act.

      You realize that Wikileaks is not an act, right? Do you mean running Wikileaks? If so, what crime did they break? Do you mean the release of American information? If so, what laws were broken? If you don't mean either of those, what do you mean?

      I cannot support in any way leaking information that is hazardous to armed services personnel.

      What information are you referring to, and in what way was it hazardous to which personnel?

       

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    anon, Jan 12th, 2011 @ 11:19am

    "You may be a minority here, but that's just because most of us feel that Wikileaks didn't break the law. The guy that obtained the cables did, but not Wikileaks."

    I agree the wikileaks are devistating to the US's reputation. Though, compared to every other country out there and all the baggage they hold, its not that bad. Its the perception that everyone has of the Governement being perfect that is false. Yes, there is stuff they did that they shouldn't have. Yes, they are going to be embarassed. Should we know about all of this? Yes. Is the gov going about this in the wrong way? Yes. Either way, Wikileaks recieved stolen goods. In most countries that is a crime as far as I am aware. If a man stole a radio and gave it to you for free, does that make it yours? No. The information was stolen, then given away, that doesn't make it right to post it. It doesn't matter what amendment or freedom of speech/press you throw at it, Wikileaks received stolen property and is using it accordingly.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jan 12th, 2011 @ 11:50am

      Re:

      You may want to brush up on your legal history.

       

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      Gabriel Tane (profile), Jan 12th, 2011 @ 11:51am

      Re:

      You're right... I misspoke. I was confusing the arguments about Wikileaks being guilty of the same things that Manning was accused of. They had stolen 'goods' (if you want to tie 'goods' and 'information' with the same bow), and would be guilty of such if they were subject to the same laws we are. I do wonder why they weren’t charged with possession of stolen goods by their own country though (or the equivalent law).

      But you’re right… they may have broken our law, but they’re not subject to it, so does it matter as much?

       

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      The Mighty Buzzard (profile), Jan 12th, 2011 @ 12:29pm

      Re:

      Ugh, yet more imaginary property.

       

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      clearcut, Jan 12th, 2011 @ 11:25pm

      Re: @anon

      You had me until the "stolen" bit. If I steal your TV you do not have it anymore. And it would be your right to try and get it back. Now here is the bit you appear to be missing out on...the crazy americans have still got their TV . What has been stolen is the protective shield of the criminals.

       

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    Michael, Jan 12th, 2011 @ 1:12pm

    What has it accomplished?

    In my mind, something important has an effect... I don't think the leaked documents will do one single thing to change the behaviour it exposes. Important is relative I guess...

     

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    Ladybug, Feb 3rd, 2011 @ 8:59am

    it's bs that people we love r turnrd into monsters in the name of usa. God bless america. The footage is of a factual event of persons on foot maliciously attacked by an appache for the thrill of it.

     

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