Wikileaks founder Mr. Julian Assange in an interview to an Indian TV channel has alleged that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh misled the public by doubting the veracity of the US cables released by the website. The propensity of our PM, and indeed of all his cabinet colleagues, in fact most of the opposition leaders, to mislead the public are very well known. Currently the opposition is attempting a privilege motion against the PM for misleading the House. So, does it really require revelation by Mr. Assange for all of us to become agog over his startling discovery?
|Indians should ask themselves whether the exposures put out by Wikileaks emanate in spite of the US government or because of it. They should also carefully assess not what is contained in the cables at face value but the impression on the public mind that the leaked information creates.
It so happens that in this particular case Mr. Assange was in error. The PM did not doubt the authenticity of the cables released by Wikileaks. He expressed doubt over the veracity of the information contained in them in the light of the factual contradictions expressed by certain leaders named in the cables.
Assange told his interviewer:
“Similarly in response to the cables alleging that the US State Embassy was shown cash boxes for bribing parliamentarians, we saw something rather disturbing. We saw an immediate rush, not to deny the allegations in these facts were not true, we want to investigate properly to make sure everything is clear, that we are innocent. Rather what we saw was an attempt to distort the record and fool the public about the nature of the material. First to say that they refused to comment at all, to suggest that the materials are not verified…is actually the behaviour of guilty men.” Later on he added the caveat: “No organization is free from making mistakes when you deal with things on this scale.”
Mr. Ajit Singh has denied the facts pertaining to his party contained in the cables. How does Mr. Assange respond to the denials? No critics have denied the need for a thorough investigation into the allegations contained in the cables. But Mr. Assange’s protestations betray not only overlooking much of the questioning by critics but also an intriguing foray into partisanship in Indian politics. And that brings us to some relevant questions about Mr. Assange himself.
Today he has become a global cult figure. But did he create his image or was his image created? The US government he is reputedly thrashing has certainly exhibited very odd behaviour in dealing with him. Wikileaks distributed its material to a select group of newspapers in different countries. The newspapers chosen, certainly The Hindu in India, were selected by Mr. Assange personally. There has been much public condemnation by the US State Department and the US Department of Defence of the Wikileaks exposures. The world is led to believe that single handedly Mr. Assange is crusading against the big bad establishment in Washington. But is that really the truth?
After the material was distributed to the newspapers The New York Times much before publishing it got it cleared by the White House. After making its own deletions of the material, NYT sent it to the White House for verification and proper vetting to safeguard security. It sought the official view of any material that might harm the national interest. While the White House continued to publicly maintain that it condemned the publication of the material, it nevertheless suggested additional redactions to those made by the newspaper. NYT wrote that it agreed to some of the officially suggested redactions but not to all. On advice of the State Department the newspaper forwarded the US administration’s concerns to all the newspapers in different countries also privy to the Wikileaks material. Does this suggest a genuine confrontation between Wikileaks and the US government?
What was the source of Wikileaks material that contained thousands of official cables running into millions of words? Surprise, surprise! It was just one US army Private, Bradley Manning. He joined the US Army just four years ago and was posted to Baghdad, where he worked on classified army networks. He has been identified as the source of 76,000 US military documents published by Wikileaks in July 2010, 400,000 US war logs from Iraq, and 250,000 classified US diplomatic cables. Manning is currently in a US jail, awaiting a military court marshal. Allegedly he is being tortured. Is there any evidence of that apart from official leaks? Is it believable that the US that spends trillions on defence, space, espionage and security can be outwitted by an army Private single handedly? Could Private Manning have accessed all the material he leaked without help from powerful elements in the Pentagon? Tell that to the marines!
So Indians should ask themselves whether the exposures put out by Wikileaks emanate in spite of the US government or because of it. They should also carefully assess not what is contained in the cables at face value but the impression on the public mind that the leaked information creates.
For instance, the latest revelations enormously boost the image of Mr. Narendra Modi who is supposedly bitterly opposed by the US government. And finally, how selective might be the material leaked by…err…Private Manning?
Read also: Dancing to Wikileaks’ Beat! India is Performing Monkey!