News Release

WikiLeaks: Beyond the Spin


Chatterjee is a regular columnist for the Guardian and just wrote a piece titled “WikiLeaks v the imperial presidency’s poodle: Once, Harold Koh spoke truth to power. Now, as Hillary Clinton’s legal adviser, he obediently denounces the embassy cables leak.”

Chatterjee is author of Iraq, Inc: A Profitable Occupation and Halliburton’s Army: How a Well-Connected Texas Oil Company Revolutionized the Way America Makes War. He recently joined the Center for American Progress as a fellow.

Author of The “Great Satan” vs. the “Mad Mullahs”: How the United States and Iran Demonize Each Other, Beeman said today: “These dispatches represent communications in diplomatic circles. They don’t necessarily represent truth on the ground, and they frequently seem to represent posturing and the same kind of bluffing and chicanery that is the bread and butter of diplomatic negotiations. So, if the Ambassador to the UAE says ‘Iran is a nuclear danger,’ that doesn’t mean that Iran is actually a nuclear danger — only that he said so for whatever reason.

“Diplomatic assessments are only as good as the underlying information that prompts them. In many cases the underlying information is purposely misleading or inaccurate. Just because a diplomat said something doesn’t make it any more true. Much of the material relating to Iran and the Persian Gulf is the result of a concentrated propaganda campaign by the United States, spearheaded during the Bush administration, to ensure U.S. influence in the Gulf region by frightening local leaders into fearing Iran. The documents are more interesting for pointing out the ways in which nations at the top levels tried to influence each other’s opinions about world affairs.”

Rowley, whose May 2002 memo described some of the FBI’s pre-9/11 failures, was named one of Time Magazine’s “Persons of the Year” in 2002. She recently co-wrote a Los Angeles Times op-ed titled “WikiLeaks and 9/11: What if? Frustrated investigators might have chosen to leak information that their superiors bottled up, perhaps averting the terrorism attacks.”

She said today: “For some reason many Americans have the attitude that more governmental secrecy means greater security. Paradoxically, people have, at the same time, been willing to sacrifice their own personal privacy. Eighty-one percent in the U.S. reportedly support the government implementation of body scanners and enhanced patdowns at airports as a pre-condition of flying. A majority don’t want to ask questions about their government dropping bombs in other parts of the world. People commonly respond that they just want to be safe and don’t want to necessarily know the details of what or how their government goes about that task.

“But actually, a lot of those things make the U.S. public less safe. Information sharing means less secrecy — and is a key to more security. That was acknowledged by the 9-11 Commission; that if government agencies had done a better job sharing information and not only amongst themselves but with the public and the media, the 9-11 attacks could have been averted.

“WikiLeaks stated its motives for releasing these documents by quoting U.S. founding father James Madison who famously said: ‘Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.’ This basic philosophy of the American revolution is said to inspire WikiLeaks’ work: ‘The cables appear to be the single most significant historical archive ever released and affects basic and heartfelt issues all over the world; geopolitics and democracy; human rights and the rule of law; national resources and global trade.’

“It’s undoubtedly good that WikiLeaks and its media partners in five different countries are publishing the information in the U.S. diplomatic cables, as with the war logs released earlier. It’s important, however, to consider these cables in their proper context. Obviously the authors of these previously secret documents (State Department and military members) are usually ‘reporting’ what their departments expect or want to hear, and are not attempting to necessarily provide independent analysis that conflicts with pre-established policies. True whistleblower protection is still needed to produce more independent and less-politicized analysis.”

Background: WikiLeaks has begun releasing over 200,000 U.S. diplomatic cables, a process that may take months. See and Also, see coverage by the British Guardian, Der Spiegel and the New York Times.

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167