The uproar over WikiLeaks' latest disclosure of information that the U.S. government had tried to keep secret — in this case thousands of cables, e-mails and other messages written in recent years by diplomats and intelligence operatives — has again raised the role of the news media in spreading the news.
Obama administration officials say the disclosures may have endangered the lives of some U.S. personnel, human rights activists and others — and could hurt U.S. relations with allies that are the subject of some embarrassing revelations.
New York Times editor Bill Keller told All Things Considered co-host Robert Siegel today that editors at the Times (one of the outlets that WikiLeaks gave the material to) "redacted any names of people whose lives could be put in danger (or) would be in danger of being thrown in prison." He says information that "could reveal American military capabilities that it would be useful for an adversary to know" was also withheld.
But information that's "just something that's going to embarrass somebody or cause a bit of diplomatic controversy" is not the type of material that should be withheld, Keller added.
And, said the Times editor, "some foreign leaders may be embarrassed and upset that the United States didn't do a better job of protecting their privacy," but he doesn't think that will prevent them from doing business with the U.S.:
Of course, U.S. and foreign officials may disagree strongly with the Times' views on what is or isn't damaging.
Meanwhile, ATC guest host Guy Raz talked today with someone who knows about diplomacy, former U.S. ambassador to Iraq Christopher Hill, who said it's "very true" that some foreign officials will be more reluctant to speak candidly with U.S. officials in coming months and years because of the leaks. They will fear that what they say could end up being leaked and published, he said. Here's some of Guy's conversation with Hill:
Much more from the interviews is on today's edition of ATC. Click here to find an NPR station that broadcasts or streams the show.
As for the stories emerging from the disclosures, the Times just posted a new one with this headline: "Leaked Cables Depict A World Guessing About North Korea."
According to the Times:
"The cables about North Korea — some emanating from Seoul, some from Beijing, many based on interviews with government officials, and others with scholars, defectors and other experts — are long on educated guesses and short on facts, illustrating why their subject is known as the Black Hole of Asia. Because they are State Department documents, not intelligence reports, they do not include the most secret American assessments, or the American military’s plans in case North Korea disintegrates or lashes out."