What is extraordinary to anyone reading the WikiLeaks material is not so much its content as the manner of its preparation and dissemination in the first place. The leaked documents did not carry a full top-secret classification and were apparently intended to promote debate across the widest possible range of people in the foreign service community. They amount to a running encyclopedia of the views, gossip and analysis of American foreign service officers, made available, we are told, to some 2-3 million authorized accessors to the State Department intranet worldwide.
This material went out uncensored, with names and sources disclosed, on an intranet with an unsophisticated coding system. That it could be downloaded by one, presumably authorised, person is strange enough. It is hard to believe no more menacing power did not have the ability to do likewise. The recklessness of such a casual approach to secrecy beggars belief.
By way of contrast, the five media organizations in receipt of the material went to extraordinary lengths over the past two months to check and "redact" the material that the State Department disseminated so widely. Dozens of names were removed, sources concealed and any danger to current operations censored. Diplomatic agencies were also given the opportunity to warn of risky areas and their views logged and taken into account. Each of the recipient media cross-checked with each other and with WikiLeaks itself. No such precautions were taken by the State Department in preparing its own intranet dissemination. If I were an American source, I would be far more afraid of the State Department than the world's media.