The Huffington Post is running an interesting article today entitled “The WikiLeaks Release: Blame the State Department, Not the World’s Media,” by a writer for the Guardian and the London Sunday Times, Simon Jenkins. He pointed out that the material leaked by WikiLeaks, and published by the New York Times and other newspapers, not only lacked top-secret classification. The State Department itself had made them available to some 2-3 million authorized users of the State Department’s own worldwide intranet.
Jenkins observed that the material went out uncensored, with names and sources disclosed, on the State Department’s intranet with an unsophisticated coding system. The material was downloadable and presumably capable of being forwarded on to anyone.
In short, Jenkins concluded,
The recklessness of such a casual approach to secrecy beggars belief… If I were an American source, I would be far more afraid of the State Department than the world’s media.
I think that there is even more to the story about the WikiLeaks releases than Jenkins does. I believe that the leaks serve the Obama administration‘s purposes to get certain so-called confidential materials out in the public arena, knowing that the media outlets most likely to publish the materials would spin them in a way that would help buff Obama’s image of himself as a strong leader even if it meant embarrassing foreign leaders and diplomats in the process.
Obamamedia like the New York Times would be expected to use the materials to show the Bush administration’s foreign policies in the worst possible light, and the Obama administration’s policies in a highly favorable light.
Previous WikiLeak releases regarding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, for example, have been spun as supporting the Obama administration’s narrative that Bush had acted in an irresponsibly unilateral, militarist manner. The current selective leaks of State Department materials run through February 2010. Theyappear designed to show the futility of Bush policies towards our enemies and to elicit sympathetic media analyses emphasizing the virtues of Obama’s “multilateralist engagement” approach.
And that is precisely what the New York Times has done with its reporting on the first batch of leaked cables.
In explaining its decision to publish the diplomatic documents, the Times says that for it:
to ignore this material would be to deny its own readers the careful reporting and thoughtful analysis they expect when this kind of information becomes public.
But what passes for “careful reporting” and “thoughtful analysis” at the New York Times is to blame the Bush administration for whatever has gone wrong and to give credit to the Obama administration for supposedly fixing the mistakes of the past. The leaked cables are used as a pretext to portray the Obama administration’s brand of multilateralism, such as the offer to Iran of unconditional negotiations, as a success.