Wikileaks Causes Crisis for U.S. Diplomacy

Confidential files

The United States faces a global diplomatic crisis as a result of the unauthorized release of more than 250,000 documents sent between the State Department and American embassies, consulates, and diplomatic outposts around the world. The cache of electronic cables, or messages, was obtained and posted by the “whistle-blower” Web site WikiLeaks, which shared them with five international media outlets. The memos reveal Washington’s evaluation of sensitive international issues, including diplomats’ candid observations about world leaders. They cover many years, but especially from 2007 to as recent as February 2010. A 22-year-old American soldier, Bradley Manning, an intelligence analyst in Iraq, has already been charged with leaking documents posted by WikiLeaks. More than 3 million U.S. government personnel had access to such material because of antiterrorism efforts that required greater “information sharing” between government agencies.

A sampling of the stories being reported include:

  • Arab leaders privately urged an air strike on Iran
  • U.S. officials were instructed to spy on the UN’s leadership
  • The Unitd States and Britain fear that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are not secure
  • U.S. efforts to combat al Qaeda were secretly aided by Yemen’s government
  • Afghanistan’s vice president allegedly carried $52 million in cash out of the country
  • Russian intelligence agencies engaged in criminal operations through the cooperation of mafia bosses

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton attempted to convince contacts in governments worldwide that future conversations will be kept confidential. She called the release of stolen and classified documents “an attack on the … alliances and partnerships, the conversations and negotiations that safeguard global security and advance economic prosperity.” The release of such documents may undercut the system of confidential diplomacy that governments rely on to conduct their foreign policy. The leaks may cause diplomats and their contacts to become more guarded in their communications. This could in turn dry up sources of information for journalists. The end result may be less “transparency.”

Image © AP Photo/Oliver Lang/dapd

Related Links

  • Wikileaks Revelations
    This BBC Web site contains links to numerous stories that detail what has been revealed in the State Department cables released by Wikileaks.
    (Source: BBC News, December 1, 2010)
  • US Embassy Cables Leak Sparks Global Diplomatic Crisis
    This article includes highlights of the documents released by Wikileaks; the Guardian was one of five international media outlets that participated in publishing the contents the leaked U.S. State Department diplomatic messages.
    (Source: The Guardian, November 28, 2010)
  • Clinton Condemns WikiLeaks Releases of “Alleged” US Diplomatic Cables
    This article covers the official reaction of U.S. secretary of state Hillary Clinton to the release of a quarter million confidential diplomatic cables by Wikileaks.
    (Source: VOA News)
  • Analysis: WikiLeaks Will Kill Transparency
    This opinion piece, which analyzes the likely impact of the Wikileaks disclosures on the conduct of diplomacy, concludes that transparency will be a casualty.
    (Source:, November 29, 2010)

Critical Thinking Questions

  1. Summarize How did U.S. diplomatic secrets end up being published in several international newspapers?
  2. Make Inferences How might the action of Wikileaks affect the conduct of diplomacy in the future?
  3. Form and Support Opinions Based on the kinds of information released by Wikileaks, do you believe the U.S. government is justified in keeping such foreign-policy communications confidential, or secret?


  1. Angel says:

    I think this news is horrible! Wikileaks is an unruly site that needs to be deleted.

    • Jasemin says:

      Thanks for spending time on the computer (writing) so oehtrs don’t have to.

    • Cheryll says:

      why shouldn’t US genorvment employees operate in secret beyond the eyes of the People, untouched by the laws, without controls, how could wiki be allowed to expose the liars and thieves commonly referred to as US genorvment employees, those liars and thieves must make new laws further concealing their acts of robbery, raping, and pillaging US reply to leaks if we let the truth get out the People will seek our lying stealing heads!How can exposing the truth hurt anyone but the liars and thieves?

  2. micky jalloh says:

    i think this is realy not a good news

  3. Adedamola says:

    There are some similarities, but there are a colupe of important differences:1. In the US, it is not illegal to publish leaked material. By contrast, the CRU hack involves a 3rd party gaining access, and then publishing it.2. Wikileaks goes out of their way to avoid presenting information out of context. From what I can tell, they’re publishing everything they have which doesn’t obviously pose a risk of physical harm. Obviously, they can’t prevent out-of-context quotes, but they’re doing their best to give people context. This is markedly different from the CRU hack, where we saw some very selective editing prior to release.

  4. Vany says:

    amazing, honestly as soon as i cheagnd my account name, my life cheagnd. Its SO rare that anyone ever bothers me with spelling insults.I see them everywhere, to other people why am i talking to you, you cant even spell etc.It criplles someone’s argument, even tho they may have the better point.But i NEVER (very rarely) get any of that, any more, so i dont bother spell checking, and just bang at the keyboard and click post !FREEEDOM !hee, hee !

  5. manning hero says:

    arrest who arrested manning. ban from gov jobs who thinks manning should be charged. arrest/charge criminals manning exposed.
    arrest who forced him to sleep naked w lights on, or sleep deprivation-abuse. no 1 shuold be put in solitary confiement if they are not directly endangering other inmates. prisoners shuold be allowed visitors. charge whoever locked up manning, $8/hr manning was locked up compensation to manning.
    activate mass protests and petitions to arrest who arrested manning
    charge nsa with espionage.
    espionage/spying=to look at/listen to/record someone/something w/o their knowledge or permission, and is legal if its looking at/listening to/recording public property, the outside of things that are outside or in public, anything you have permission to see, things w probable cause or potentially resonable suspicion of finding evidence of crime/gov misconduct, and gov info that is legally sapose to be public
    leaking classified info is legal. breaching a paid confidentality contact may result in oweing a refund and loss of occupational licence, not arrest. gov confidentiality agreements to keep info secret that is sapose to be public, is illegal and a void contract. leaking classified info that is sapose to be public, or is probable cause of gov misconduct, is honorable, deserve reward, and what people are sapose to do.
    ‘causing intelligence to be published’, ‘transmitting defense information’, is freedom of press and speech.
    manning’s search and seizure is lawful there was probable cause of crime/gov misconduct.
    legal to search if probable cause or maybe reasonable supicion of gov misconduct/crime, and record or share that info
    only criminals say exposeing/leaking evidence of crimes is aiding the enemy because law-abideing people that try to stop crime are a criminal’s enemy.
    gov who searches and seizies w/o reasonable suspcion, or wants to cover up govs crimes agianst transparency laws within the consitution(that declare the public is sapose to know all gov does(exsept maybe certian info w 75% of the public’s permit), is a traitor who betrayed their oath to defend the consitution, and betrayed the public by lieing to them saying they are there for national security when actualy they breach national secuirty, and only secure gov criminals from being prosecuted.
    its legal to share (gov info that is legally sapose to be published) with the public
    public sector(gov) is sapose to be the public’s employees and be publicly viewable
    it is a felony to attempt to use the classification system to hide a crime or protect the powerful from embarrassment. Such material remains unclassified even after being stamped.
    Title 18 US Code contains the law. Executive order 13526 declares that crimes and embarrassing material CANNOT be classified:

    Sec. 1.7. Classification Prohibitions and Limitations.
    (a) In no case shall information be classified, continue to be
    maintained as classified, or fail to be declassified in order to:
    (1) conceal violations of law, inefficiency, or administrative error;
    (2) prevent embarrassment to a person, organization, or agency;
    Also see
    403 U.S. 713 (1971)
    No. 1873.
    whistle blower law-cant legally get in trouble for reporting crime/gov-misconduct
    its gov’s job to report and try to stop crime/gov-misconduct, and protect everyone=under the law=not letting some get away w the same type of misconduct you dont let others get away with, =no spying on everyone while baning every1 to spy on u
    us army subject schedule no. 27-1 is “the obligation to report all violations of the law of war”
    require gov workers report suspected gov-misconduct(exsept under risk. reward reporting gov misconduct under risk.
    allowing criminals who spy on entire non-gov w/o their permit, or murders who kill innocents, to go unpunished puts everyone at risk.
    put gov under 24-7live public video survailence. subject gov to suprize inspections done by non gov unpaid by gov.
    anyone who illegally searches/seizes documents/pcs/videos/pety non survival items(manning didnt do, nsa did) shouldnt be arrested, should be banned from gov jobs, and maybe sml fine.
    gov admitted manning leaks didnt put anyone at risk.
    no one who hasnt touched someone agianst their will, kidnapped, physcially trapped, physcially abuse/neglected, murdered, tortured, disarmed, or physcially directly endangered someone(ex pointing a gun at someone), shuld go to life in prison.

    the public is the top of the chain of command, top of the pryamid, the boss of gov, most arnt dum enough to report crimes to the crooks who commited them or crooks-the truth wouldnt get out and wuld be punished for reporting/exposeing.
    manning first reported to his higher ups and they didnt care-ban those higher ups from gov jobs.
    manning was honest with the public and upheld his orignal oath to the consitution and transparency laws, he isnt a traitor.
    if he lied to tyrants in order to get access to info the public is legally owed, tyrants might lable him traitors, otherwise tyrants cant declare him a traitor
    gov is like a lion hideing in the grass, slowly and quietly sneaking closer and closer to its prey, waiting to pounce on its prey, doesnt want its prey to see it, and wants to be able to see its prey
    charge the policicans who use tax payer$ for their prv security when they can afford it for themself instead of buying themself so much lavish golf, vacations, long distance travel, fashion, fancy dinner…, with theft. the politicans theft of $millions+ is much more severe than manning looking at info on a computer w/o permission. they let the poor die while spending $millions punishing whistleblowers.
    if it was your kids that got killed, would u want the murderer to go free and the one who reported it to go to jail?-no, hypocrities.

  6. Anonymous says: