Wikileaks, by publishing 1.7 million documents, proves ongoing relevance

A huge day for journalists, archivists and citizens (via the Guardian):

WikiLeaks… has published more than 1.7m US records covering diplomatic or intelligence reports on every country in the world.

The data, which has not been leaked, comprises diplomatic records from the beginning of 1973 to the end of 1976, covering a variety of diplomatic traffic including cables, intelligence reports and congressional correspondence.

Julian Assange… said WikiLeaks had been working for the past year to analyse and assess a vast amount of data held at the US national archives before releasing it in a searchable form.

WikiLeaks has called the collection the Public Library of US Diplomacy (PlusD), describing it as the world’s largest searchable collection of US confidential, or formerly confidential, diplomatic communications.

Assange told Press Association the information showed the vast range and scope of US diplomatic and intelligence activity around the world.

Henry Kissinger was US secretary of state and national security adviser during the period covered by the collection, and many of the reports were written by him or were sent to him. Thousands of the documents are marked NODIS (no distribution) or Eyes Only, as well as cables originally classed as secret or confidential.

Assange said WikiLeaks had undertaken a detailed analysis of the communications, adding that the information eclipsed Cablegate, a… set of more than 250,000 US diplomatic cables… published by WikiLeaks from November 2010 and over the following year. He said WikiLeaks had developed sophisticated technical systems to deal with complex and voluminous data.

Top secret documents were not available, while some others were lost or irreversibly corrupted for periods including December 1975 and March and June 1976, said Assange.

The importance of honestly assessing the inner workings of government is vital and ignored at our peril.

Closer to home (via Philip Dorling at Fairfax Media):

Bob Carr may have been foreign minister for only a year, but he’s been a confidential source of information for United States diplomats, talking about internal Labor politics, for nearly 40 years.

Previously secret US embassy and consulate reports incorporated into a new searchable database unveiled by WikiLeaks on Monday reveal that Senator Carr was among Labor political figures who briefed US diplomats on the Whitlam government and the broader Labor movement in the mid-1970s.

Then a rising star in NSW Labor, Carr was quick to join in criticism of Prime Minister Gough Whitlam as the federal Labor Government encountered growing political and economic difficulties after the May 1974 federal election.

In August 1974, the US Embassy in Canberra reported at length on what it described as “a pervasive sense of gloom and anxiety” as the Whitlam government “struggle[d] in [a] disorganised fashion to stem growing inflation”.

Together with NSW Labor president John Ducker, Carr candidly told the US consul-general in Sydney that “economic policy has never been Whitlam’s bag” and criticised the prime minister’s “tendency to delegate practically everything”.

A former Australian Young Labor president and then education officer with the NSW Labor Council, Carr later “expressed deep concern to [the US] consul general over [the] impact of Labor disputes on the prospects of [the] Labor Government”.

The once confidential cables also suggest that US diplomats turned to Carr as a source of background information on Labor political figures: for example Carr explained that a speaker at a pro-Palestinian demonstration in 1975 – left-wing Labor parliamentarian George Petersen – was “a NSW equivalent of Victoria’s [Bill] Hartley”.

Senator Carr has long been a very strong supporter of Australia’s alliance with the United States and has a keen interest in US politics and history.

In his early conversations with US officials, he appears to have followed the lead of Ducker, his NSW Labor right faction mentor, who advised the US on industrial relations issues and internal Labor politics, and dismissed critics of the US alliance as being engaged in “emotional, silly expression lacking in substance and characteristic of the silly left-wing fringe of the ALP”.

US embassy cables leaked to WikiLeaks in 2010 revealed that another senior NSW Labor right faction leader, former Senator Mark Arbib, was a more recent “protected” US embassy source providing inside information and commentary on Labor politics.

I’ve started going through the documents. Some highlights include a fascinating archive on American and Israeli relations (little has changed since 1973), the criminality of Henry Kissinger (still treated with respect in polite society when he should be in The Hague) and the collusion of America and Australia with Indonesia against East Timor in the 1970s.

It’s like watching history in the making.