When Wikileaks began releasing the United States Embassy Cables I thought that so many documents would overwhelm our ability to pick them apart to triviality. Instead, crowd-sourcing got the better of us. Within minutes of their release we were pouring over embassy gossip about the First Lady of Azerbaijan and her plastic surgery.
The cables from Cuba are much less juicy and proved to be downright tiresome. The United States Interest Section predicts that the Cuban economy will become insolvent in 2-3 years. That “prediction” is so predictable of the source that it could bore itself.
This is discouraging to me because there is great potential for discussion in what Wikileaks has wrought: the role of industry and government in regulating “free speech” in the internet, if secrets are possible in a hackable world, and the dynamic concept of “security” in the digital age. To the credit of many journalists and readers, these discussions are happening; but not really outside of the nerdy circles they are expected in.
We spend a lot of time talking about how this one person, Julian Assange, could bring all of this embarrassment to such a powerful world player like the United States Federal Government.
The person is much more popular than the materials he released. And that makes sense, after all, the fact that there is a difference between what diplomats say in private and what they say in public is not cause for surprise or outrage; that is what diplomats are supposed to do.
I would like to take a moment to imagine a situation in which the United States government released all of these cables. I do not think we would be talking about this right now. What makes this situation so juicy for the media is that the face of the story is an otherwise unknown chap from Australia.
There would have been less impact if the United States would have released this information on its own impetus. I believe Cuba, and all states, can learn something here.
Living in a world where digital security is imperfect perhaps it is time to governments to revaluate what when a secret is worth being kept. Decisions need to be made about the value of storing information versus controlling its release. If there is not much to steal and release when the government is not hiding so much information.
On the other hand, if transparency does not become the normal operating procedure states could be making themselves targets of future whistle-blowers. The United States was not the first country to be exposed embarrassingly or hacked, and it will not be the last.