Julian Assange

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How Wikileaks may alter U.S. development strategy | 

Flickr, by Roger H. Goun

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

As you may have heard, Wikileaks has made life uncomfortable for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Part of this is due to leaked diplomatic documents in which it appears Clinton ordered U.S. diplomats to spy on their colleagues and United Nations officials.

Clinton has denied the charges, but Wikileaks’ founder Julian Assange has specifically focused on these documents saying if they are borne out Clinton should resign. A number of media outlets have gone to great pains to examine the allegations, sometimes doing hair-splitting semantic defenses of Clinton and others noting the diplomats ignored Clinton anyway.

But what’s more important here is the question Madeleine Bunting of the Guardian asks: “Will Wikileaks mean Hillary Clinton turns her back on development?” The Obama Administration has been engaged in serious efforts aimed at improving and beefing up U.S. efforts in foreign development — an initiative largely welcomed by many humanitarian and development organizations. Bunting says:

“Not only is (Clinton’s) political career on the line, but the State Department faces an uncertain future in the turf battles over budget and influence in Washington. The collateral damage is the grand centrepiece of Clinton’s recasting of how the US asserts its influence in the world…. Clinton’s bold new strategy for what she called “civilian power, in which diplomacy and development were closely co-ordinated to achieve US interests and global security.

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Hillary Clinton denies Wikileaks claim she ordered diplomats to spy on UN | 

Flickr, by Roger H. Goun

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

One of the most controversial revelations of the Wikileaks’ document dump this week were diplomatic cables that appeared to be instructions given by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ordering State Dept. and U.S. embassy personnel to spy on their colleagues at the United Nations.

Clinton has denied the claims and Administration officials say the cable was not an order but merely a routine request: Continue reading

Wikileaks: Hillary Clinton told US diplomats to spy on UN | 

Flickr, by R_SH

Wikileaks' Julian Assange

By now, I assume you’ve heard that Wikileaks has released another batch of documents, this time regarding American diplomacy and foreign policy.

My two cents: Much of what I’ve read that’s been reported out of these leaked documents so far isn’t really too surprising: We learned someone in the U.S. government thinks Iran’s president is like “Hitler” and might be crazy, Pakistan’s intelligence service isn’t really on our side (duh!), that Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi have a “special relationship” (huh?) and China’s government did hack Google.

Some in the aid community are among those arguing, along with the embarrassed politicians, in defense of secrecy.

I’m sure the language revealed here is a bit embarrassing and may make for awkward moments at embassy socials, but most of this so far just seems like a raw dose of reality — peeling back the layers — rather than an expose of any great scandal.

One thing did catch my eye, however:

The leaked documents revealed that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ordered U.S. diplomats to act as spies — work with the intelligence services to spy on their diplomatic colleagues, including our British allies and the United Nations leadership.

The Guardian has this story on the spying campaign and also printed out (online) an entire U.S. diplomatic document, which was written in 2009 as the “new National HUMINT (human intelligence) Collection Directive (NHCD) on the United Nations.”

Apparently, even global health, food and women’s issues were targets of this spy game:

G. Other Substantive Issues 1) Food Security (FOOD-3) 2) Climate Change, Energy, and Environment (ENVR-4) 3) Transnational Economic Issues (ECFS-4H) 4) Arms Control and Treaty Monitoring (ACTM-4) 5) Health Issues (HLTH-4) 6) Terrorism (TERR-5H) 7) Trafficking, Social, and Women’s Issues (DEPS-5H)

I’m sure many people will be outraged to learn that the Obama Administration is acting just like the Bush Administration.

But perhaps the UN brass should be happy to learn we think they are worth spying on. Most of the time, we (Americans) just hear about how useless and bureaucratic the UN has become. Looks like the government thought the UN was important enough to spy on, not to mention compromising our diplomatic integrity.

As for those like Scott Gilmore of Peace Dividend Trust who defend secrecy as a necessary tool to achieving noble ends, sure it can be at times. But that’s a slippery slope.