Too much to say about this story right now. I’ve been tweeting about it all day (@carneross) as I read each telegram on the Wikileaks site. It’s like being back at work at the Foreign Office reading the daily folder of telegrams. I miss it! But my initial observations are: 1) this will damage US diplomacy, for sure; 2) it will damage several governments mentioned in the cables, especially Yemen (see this devastating telegram); 3) it will take a while and a lot of promises by US diplomats that their comms are really really secure this time for other diplomats to trust US diplomats with confidences again; 4) the cables released so far seem to be very few, so I’m assuming there’s a lot more still to come; 5) I don’t understand the criteria for selecting those released today (eg lots of Iran, Middle East stuff); 6) the Wikileaks phenomenon is a product of our collective distrust of government after a decade of being told mistruths about the war on terror, Iraq, Afghanistan but 7) Wikileaks is a very imperfect and potentially dangerous mechanism of transparency so 8) the clear conclusion is that more transparency is needed, but through the proper mechanisms of democratic accountability (assuming – a big assumption – that these operate disinterestedly, or in the interests of the people). Oh yes, and one very important good/bad consequence – for sure this means that less of the hardcore juicy stuff will get written down or circulated widely, with obvious negative consequences for the operational effectiveness of US diplomacy (and for historians and future Wikileakers). This happened to British cables after 9/11, all the interesting stuff went into very restricted circulation letters to and from Number Ten (PS – that’s where to look).
Other comments: US diplomats draft well (this is a British Foreign Office fetish); I’m amazed at how much US attention is given to intel-gathering at the UN, including a long list of NGOs they want to target (no names, disappointingly); lots of very interesting stuff on Turkey and Germany (the Americans seem to nail the Germans pretty well; great telegram reporting Westerwelle with a hint of sarcasm),