It was just a matter of time. Maybe now more people will pay attention to the damage done by the release of names and sources in the Wikileaks cables.
The issue has always been NOT the release of the cables but rather the irresponsible release of names and sources.
The cables released WERE NOT the like the Pentagon Papers nor did they show any “secret” U.S. government plans. Rather they were day-to-day reporting and analysis cables that every government needs to stay abreast of world affairs. In many ways the cables are the in-house versions of the what the public sees in the New York Times and other quality news organizations.
And like the news organizations, the reporters — in this case foreign service officers — used confidential sources to get to the meat of the issues being covered.
Just as reporters fight each day to keep their confidential sources secret from private and public scrutiny, the State Department also needs to keep its sources secret.
In some cases making it public that a person close to a president of legislative leader said such and such could just lead to an embarrassing moment. But in other cases, such as the Ethiopian example, it could lead to death or imprisonment.
I raised this point late last year (WikiLeaks cables: Let’s get some things straight) in a posting on the SPJ International Committee blog. Unfortunately, many of those commenting seemed to have no clue as to the dangers the sources faced or why their identities needed to be protected.
Maybe now that one of our own is under attack because of the irresponsible release of names and sources, more in my trade will take this stuff seriously.
And I repeat, the cables released by Wikileaks have nothing to do with conspiracies. Rather they show how the secretary of state and president are kept informed about what is going on around the world. Had the names of sources been redacted, the cables could have been an excellent way to show how foreign policy is discussed and formed. (It still is a great lesson tool but unfortunately there are also now lives at risk for this “educational” exercise.)