The first two batches of classified information weren’t really that revelatory. Low-level details from ongoing wars didn’t really surprise anyone. But the current batch of leaks–cables from diplomats frankly assessing other nations–is proving far more interesting. The New York Times offers a fantastic summation of all the findings. My favorites: That the Saudis want the U.S. to bomb Iran, that Qatar is no good at combating terrorism, and that Libya’s Qaddafi went nowhere without his “voluptuous blonde” nurse.
I think this release is ethically justifiable. After the dust settles, this healthy dose of diplomatic transparency could actually strengthen international relations. Plus, I appreciate being able to read some of these honest assessments — many of which clearly differ from carefully constructed facades.
A note to readers explains why the Times chose to publish the information. I like their logic:
The articles published today and in coming days are based on thousands of United States embassy cables, the daily reports from the field intended for the eyes of senior policy makers in Washington. The New York Times and a number of publications in Europe were given access to the material several weeks ago and agreed to begin publication of articles based on the cables online on Sunday. The Times believes that the documents serve an important public interest, illuminating the goals, successes, compromises and frustrations of American diplomacy in a way that other accounts cannot match.
They also noted that they redacted information that would likely cause direct harms to the United States–an important signal of balancing responsibility with freedom. Just because they could publish everything (and they could given the First Amendment and Supreme Court rulings) doesn’t mean that they chose to do so.