Obama, Wikileaks, and American power
DOI link for Obama, Wikileaks, and American power
Obama, Wikileaks, and American power book
The publication of over one million conﬁ dential US government documents (including up to 250,000 classiﬁ ed US diplomatic cables) by the Wikileaks whistle-blowing media organization in 2010-11, added to the leaking of several hundred thousand conﬁ dential ofﬁ cial documents related to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq from 2007, and hundreds of ﬁ les related to inmates at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility on Cuba, in 2010, raises a myriad issues for students of US politics and foreign policy: not only in relation to the contents of the documents, but also the response of the US administration to the Wikileaks organization, its leader, Julian Assange, and the alleged source of the leaks, US army private Bradley Manning. There are also wider contextual issues related to increasing government secrecy and opposition to transparency, and the pursuit of ‘whistle-blowers’, most recently of intelligence analyst Edward Snowden, that expose malpractice, including the use of torture by government personnel. The leaked documents do not represent just the largest leak of ofﬁ - cial US documents since the Pentagon Papers were exposed by Daniel Ellsberg in 1971 and published in The New York Times , they expose US violations of the rule of law, and details of the inmates held at the Guantanamo Bay detention centre. Collectively, and in a broader context, the Wikileaks revelations cast a rare light on contemporary US foreign and national security concerns, attitudes, and activities across the globe and constitute a valuable resource for scholars and citizens alike. Where investigative journalism may have fallen short, it may well be that Wikileaks has shed light on American power by supplying detailed, ofﬁ cial, and conﬁ dential documents on some of the most signiﬁ cant issues of our time, permitting scholars to compare public rhetoric with actual practice. Even more broadly, Wikileaks’ autonomy of large corporations and the American and other states constitutes, in the words of Manuel Castells, ‘a fundamental threat to the ability to silence, on which domination has always been based’. 1
It is surprising then that the Wikileaks ‘episode’ has been relegated to the political margins as far as US foreign policy is concerned, or perhaps it reﬂ ects the rather narrow boundaries of the sub-ﬁ eld. The dominant message from many prominent scholars from the very beginning was to dismiss the leaked documents as of little signiﬁ cance, even though only a small minority of US embassy cables had by then been released, arguing that they revealed little or nothing not already known or, indeed, unwittingly showed US diplomats in a positive light. The scholarly and mass media agenda having been set, despite US and foreign publics’ disquiet, amid calls for draconian punishment against Julian Assange and Bradley Manning, the issue has been pushed to the margins of public attention even by the media organizations that used, and continue to use, information made available by Wikileaks.