Nettime mailing list archives

<nettime> Leaks do an end around the media mix?
nativebuddha on Wed, 12 Jan 2011 20:43:56 +0100 (CET)

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

<nettime> Leaks do an end around the media mix?

Despite the media machine, wikileaks have been a boon. (Badiou-esgue
event is elsewhere?)



January 7th, 2011

The Best of Cablegate: Instances Where Public Discourse Benefited from the Leaks
News Roundup by Rainey Reitman

Since late November, the whistleblower website Wikileaks has been
in the process of releasing in waves over 250,000 leaked United
States diplomatic cables. Known as "Cablegate," this is the largest
publication of confidential documents by any organization. (Catch up
on Wikileaks developments by reviewing EFf's page on this issue).

Wikileaks' disclosures have caused tremendous controversy, with
critics of Wikileaks claiming the leaks of classified information
could endanger lives and harm international diplomacy. Others have
commended Wikileaks, pointing to a long history of over-classification
and a lack of transparency by the United States government.

Regardless of the heated debate over the propriety of Wikileaks'
actions, some of the cables have contributed significantly to public
and political conversations all around the world. In this article,
we highlight a small selection of cables that been critical to
understanding and evaluating controversial events.

   1. "Dancing Boy" Scandal Alleges Child Prostitution, Possible
Drug Use among U.S. Private Contractors The Guardian reported on a
cable describing an incident in which employees of DynCorp, a U.S.
military contractor, hired a "dancing boy" for a party. The term
"dancing boy," also known as bacha bazi, is a euphemism for a
custom in Afghanistan in which underaged boys are dressed as women,
dance for gatherings of men and are then prostituted. Read more.
The incident allegedly involved soliciting local Afghan police for
a bacha bazi as well as usage of illegal drugs. The cable detailed
that Hanif Armar, minister of the Interior of Afghanistan, urged the
United States to help contain the scandal by warning journalists that
reporting on the incident would endanger lives.

      The incident contributed important information to the debate
over the use of private military contractors in Afghanistan. The
articles published in the wake of Wikileaks' publication of the cable
are far more critical than the original reporting on the issue. For
example, back in July of 2009, the Washington Post described the
incident as "questionable management oversight," in which DynCorp
employees in Afghanistan hired a teenage boy to perform a tribal
dance." This cable helped the Post and the public understand there
was more to this story than a tribal dance. 

     2. Pfizer Allegedly Sought to Blackmail Nigerian Regulator
to Stop Lawsuit Against Drug Trials on Children A cable released
by Wikileaks says that Pfizer "had hired investigators to uncover
corruption links to [Nigerian] Attorney General Michael Aondoakaa
to expose him and put pressure on him to drop the federal cases."
The Guardian reported that the drug giant was trying to convince the
Nigerian attorney general to settle lawsuits arising from medical
testing of the oral antibiotic Trovan that it administered to children
living in Kano during a meningitis epidemic in 1996. The cable also
noted that Pfizer Nigeria Country Director Enrico Liggeri felt "the
lawsuits has had 'chilling effect' on international pharmaceutical
companies because companies are no longer willing to conduct clinical
testing in Nigeria." This episode helped the public understand more
about the controversies surrounding drug testing in underdeveloped
countries, as well as the politics behind Nigeria's settlement of the
multi-billion dollar lawsuit for $75 million.

      3. U.S. Failed to Bully Spain Into Adopting Untested Anti-P2P
bill A diplomatic cable released by Wikileaks to the Spanish paper El
Pais shows that the United States used bullying tactics to attempt to
push Spain into adopting copyright laws even more stringent than those
in the U.S. As EFF reported, a U.S. official apparently pressured the
government of Spain to adopt novel and untested legislative measures
that have never been proposed in the United States. The Wikileaks
revelations came just in time, providing critical information in
a December legislative session, and saving Spain from the kind of
misguided copyright laws that could cripple innovation and facilitate
online censorship. 4. U.S. to Uganda: Let Us Know If You Want to Use
Our Intelligence for War Crimes The United States has long supported
the efforts of the Ugandan government to defeat the Lord's Resistance
Army, as part of a conflict known for its brutality and the use of
child solders. One cable released by Wikileaks indicated the United
States was considering selling arms to Uganda. The Guardian reported
that the U.S. ambassador accepted verbal promises from the Ugandan
defense minister that they would "consult with the US in advance if
the [Ugandan army] intends to use US-supplied intelligence to engage
in operations not government [sic] by the law of armed conflict." That
same article noted that the United States has been concerned that the
Ugandan government is engaged in actions which might violate the laws
of war.

      Learning that U.S. intelligence might be used outside the laws
of law, and that the U.S. government merely wanted a consultation,
helped the public understand more about the American-Ugandan
cooperation against the LRA, and informed the debate over the methods
used to combat rebellions in Africa. This is not an idle concern- the
very next day a cable detailed the use of extrajudicial execution
of a Ugandan prisoner. 5. U.S. Haggling over Guantánamo Detainees
President Obama promised to close the Guantánamo Bay detention camp
since his campaign for the office, and reiterated the promise once
he took office. Yet the controversial detention facility remains
open. An article by the New York Times analyzed cables released by
Wikileaks which indicated the United States is having difficulties in
fulfilling this promise and is now considering some unique solutions.
The cables show that U.S. diplomats have been searching for countries
that would take detainees, often bargaining with foreign countries
over the placement of prisoners. In return for accepting detainees,
the receiving country might get a one-on-one meeting with Obama,
assistance obtaining International Monetary Fund assistance, or some
other helping hand from the United States. In one cable, Saudi Arabian
King Abdullah recommended that the U.S. implant an electronic chip in
each detainee for location tracking, using technology developed for

The debate over Wikileaks will continue for some time. But these
examples make clear that Wikileaks has brought much-needed light to
government operations and private actions which, while veiled in
secrecy, profoundly affect the lives of people around the world and
can play an important role in a democracy that chooses its leaders. As
founding father James Madison explained, "a popular government without
popular information or the means of acquiring it is but a prologue to
a farce or tragedy or perhaps both." Regardless of whether you agree
with WikiLeaks, Cablegate has served an important role in bettering
public understanding on matters of public concern.

#  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime>  is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info: http://mail.kein.org/mailman/listinfo/nettime-l
#  archive: http://www.nettime.org contact: nettime {AT} kein.org