Posted on December 06, 2010 in Viewpoint with James Zogby
Edward Walker, Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel, Egypt and the UAE, discussed the controversy surrounding the release of over 250,000 U.S. diplomatic cables by the whistle blowing website WikiLeaks. Ambassador Walker was asked to both assess the impact of the leaks on the diplomatic community and clarify what the cables actually are. “For the most part, what you see in this kind of a cable…is pretty much open information”, he said. Ambassador Walker explained that any time a representative from the U.S. meets with a foreign official, they write up a memo. The memos or reports, he explained, contain a mix of rumor and fact. “They [the cables] are not intelligence reports”, he stated. Citing his own experiences, the Ambassador said, “…there are occasions when the person you are talking to even wants to make sure it gets out”. Sensitive material or information, Walker said, does not get sent through channels to Washington like the ones which were leaked. On the effect the leaks will have on the diplomatic community, Walker said that there will be a degree of mistrust between diplomats for a time.
Click here to read Dr. Zogby's Washington Watch column, Israel: Using Wikileaks to Build a Straw Man.
Ellen Laipson, CEO, Henry L. Stimson Center, and appointee to President Obama’s Intelligence Advisory Board, continued the discussion regarding the impact of the WikiLeaks cables on U.S. foreign policy. Ms. Laipson stated that there seemed to be a system or specific rationale behind the time of the leaks, suggesting that there could be even more yet to be released. “They [WikiLeaks] had to make sense of them and decide…they had their own strategy for what they were going to release, when”, Laipson stated. Laipson echoed Ambassador Walker in saying that most of the leaked cables we are seeing are diplomatic reports. She iterated the fact the these reports are not always used to determine U.S. policy toward a country but that they, in addition to many other reports and materials are often referenced when doing so. In the future, Ms. Laipson said that there will almost certainly be changes to the amount of people who have access to documents such as those leaked this time around.
David Frum, former special assistant to president George W. Bush, Author, and Editor of FrumForum, discussed a number of key domestic issues including tax cuts, and The DREAM Act. Mr. Frum also briefly discussed some possible Republican candidates for President in 2012. Describing the Political landscape going forward into the Lame Duck session, Mr. Frum said first and foremost, there will be a “confrontation over taxes”, explaining that president Obama will most likely agree to keep the full Bush tax cuts in place. Mr. Frum reemphasized disagreement with what he termed "extremely broad" DREAM Act bill, which is now in its fifth draft. Toward the end of his segment, Mr. Frum discussed Don't Ask, Don't Tell and also breifly commented on the use of Islamophobia as a politcal wedge issue in political discourse.