The diploleaks are going to hurt

I’ve only had zippy peaks at wikileaks, via the New York Times, but that’s enough to know that this is going to hurt.  The problem is not only what’s in the cables, which will blow the cover even on many redacted sources, but more what will not get reported because sources won’t trust American officials, and the officials won’t trust the system.

I spent 21 years as an American diplomat, talking with people who were trying to acquire the technology they needed to build nuclear weapons, to transfer missile technology to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, and to buy electronics that were prohibited for export.  Maybe they weren’t so smart to be talking with me at all, but they certainly would not have done it if they thought I could not be discreet.

Like it or not, diplomacy as practiced today depends on confidentiality.  If you want to be good at it, you’ve got to be able to assure people that what they say will go back to your capital, and nowhere else.  The news coverage will of course focus on juicy tidbits in the cables wikileaks puts out, but the greater harm lies in the future:  the information diplomats fail to obtain because no one trusts them.

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