Massive leaks could endanger U.S. diplomacy

Maura Zurick

WikiLeaks, the controversial website that released classified government documents, could affect United States’ diplomacy in many ways.

Christopher Banks, associate professor of political science, said there is more going on behind-the-scenes in governments all over the world in terms of diplomacy. Banks also said that he believes diplomats will have to be more cautious about what they say and do.

“WikiLeaks released classified documents that can harm many foreign relations,” Banks said.

Some of the documents released were ambassador reports, profiles on foreign leaders and trade documents.

“WikiLeaks has good and bad qualities,” Banks said. “It promotes transparency and free expression, which are generally good traits for western democracies. It is bad because it has the potential to undermine those same democracies, and perhaps other non-democracies, as we are seeing today.”

Claudius Wagemann, political science professor at Kent State Florence, said the United States might have a hard time re-strengthening diplomatic relations with difficult partners, such as Russia or China. In the worst case, wars might even break out because of the publication. Wagemann said there may or may not be backlash in diplomacy.

“Carefully established good diplomatic relations will not be threatened by these publications. Only those relations that were already very unstable like the United States and China, will suffer from the publications,” Wagemann said. “Trust is an important variable in international politics.”

This might weaken the Obama administration even more. If Hillary Clinton has really asked diplomats to spy on other countries, then this could be the end of her political career, he said.

Philip Crowely, assistant secretary of the United States Department of State, said at a daily press briefing that a release of this volume has had an impact, and the State Department is taking steps to continue to review security procedures. Downloading and passing on WikiLeaks material to an unauthorized person is a crime, and alleged crimes of WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange, are under investigation.

Mary Anne Saunders, Kent State executive director of international affairs, said this incident with WikiLeaks was made possible by technology, as it allows people access to any and all information.

“This is not the last incidence of its type and will probably alter the types of commentaries shared with others via e-mail,” Saunders said. “Our attorneys have told us for these years that we should put as little as possible into e-mail or hard copy messages, and they are being proven right.”

Banks said knowing what problems will come out of WikiLeaks releasing documents is unknown, but it could end with more governmental regulation and civil or criminal litigation against such internet-related entities.

“It is hard to say what problems Wikileaks has caused, and it depends upon what is disclosed and how the affected governments will react,” Banks said. “It certainly increases the risk of governments trying to prevent problems caused by unauthorized leaks, which may in the end have a negative backlash effect on those entities connected to the Internet that are trying to express themselves through that media distribution.”

Wagemann said that, in theory, the idea of WikiLeaks is positive if there is world peace.

“The basic idea of Wikileaks is to ensure transparency of public processes. As such, this is not a problem, it is even something positive but transparency can only work in advanced democratic systems,” Wagemann said. “In my view, the magic word here is power. A single individual, Julian Assange, not legitimized by any public vote, wants to be a major player in world politics. He considers himself to be the savior of the world and this is simply wrong.”

>Contact Maura Zurick at [email protected].