Q: What is Wikileaks? A: Wikileaks, in its own words, "is a non-profit media organisation dedicated to bringing important news and information to the public." Wikileaks has also become a whistleblower, an organisation that "reveals wrongdoings or malpractices that are taking place" around the globe.
Q: What cables?
A: These are actual emails, documents, messages and correspondence between the US Department of State and America's diplomatic missions around the world. Starting
Wikileaks November 28, Wikileaks, along with El País (Spain), Le Monde (France), Der Spiegel (Germany), The Guardian (UK) and The New York Times (US), began publishing 251,287 leaked US embassy cables.
Q: Where were these 251,287 leaked US cables being stored?
A: Post-9/11 the concept of 'Net-centric diplomacy' was introduced whereby the US Department of Defence and the US Department of State maintained a system of interconnected electronic network known as SIPRNet (Secret Internet Protocol Router Network). This is the system used by the US Department of State to communicate with America's diplomatic missions around the world. And, this is the system on which the 251,287 leaked US cables were being stored. In essence, SIPRNet is the State Department's Internet.
Q: Who accessed and downloaded these cables?
A: Private First Class Bradley Manning, the 23-year-old intelligence analyst with the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, has been arrested and charged for the illegal use of US classified information (Pak Army's equivalent of Private First Class is Lance Naik; just above Jawan and below Naik).
Q: Who was been behind the distribution of theses cables?
A: Julian Assange, the 39year-old editor-in-chief of Wikileaks (at the age of 21, Assange had pled guilty to 24 charges of hacking).
Q: What kind of information is exchanged over SIPRNet?
A: Information exchanged between the Department of State and its diplomatic missions is categorised into Top Secret, Secret, Confidential, Restricted and Unclassified. SIPRNet carries all exchanges including Secret and below. What that means is that none of the leaked cables were Top Secret.
Q: What would change after the Wikileak drama is over?
A: The US Department of State will probably make some changes in the security protocol of SIPRNet. And, perhaps leaders around the world will become more careful in exchanging gossips with American diplomats.
Q: Any change in US-Pak relations?
A: Foreign policy of a country is based on two things: A country's matrix of hard-core national interests and the target country's geo-politics. Wikileaks, for instance, hasn't changed America's matrix of national interests-in Pakistan and around the globe. Wikileaks will, therefore, have no immediate impact on any country's foreign policy.
Q: What is the essence of the leaked cables?
A: Diplomacy is more about duplicity than anything else. Diplomacy is deception, trickery and chicanery all in one. Politics is also more about duplicity than anything else. Politics is doubledealing, dirty dealing, pretense and hypocrisy all in one. Governments and diplomats around the world are duplicitous. Diplomacy, in the Arab-Iranian context, has become the art of saying 'nice doggie' till the Arabs find a rock. Modern diplomats, it appears, are approaching every problem with an open mouth. In the American context, diplomacy, it appears, is ' easy on the brain but hell on the feet'.
Q: What is the strategic value of leaked cables?
A: At the strategic level, over the short run, the value of the cables is near-zero. Over the short-term, the leaked cables will have an impact at the level of public perception of their leaders and how the US conducts its foreign policy. Over the medium term, governments around the world shall try to put people like Manning and Assange to sleep. Over the long run, if we are able to produce more Mannings and Assanges, governments around the world would be forced to change the way they conduct business. And, if that happens, that would be the Wiki Revolution.
P.S: Someone intelligent once advised, "To deceive a diplomat speak the truth, he has no experience with it." And then, there was this Arab diplomat who told his third wife, "How do you expect me to remember your birthday when you never look any older?"