Parsing the nearly 2.5 million diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks.
This work is nominally a collection of independent analyses written by a variety of journalists, academics, and public thinkers. Their essays, however, are based on the massive amount of classified information, mostly State Department cables, published by the controversial nonprofit WikiLeaks. With an introduction by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, in exile in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, and contributions by people like Sarah Harrison, the editor who helped spirit away Edward Snowden to Moscow, this collection qualifies as the only overview of this material that is sanctioned by the organization. As such, the book strongly echoes the philosophy and values espoused by WikiLeaks. Assange contributes a characteristically intelligent introduction, saying of the cables, “reading them is a much more effective way of understanding an institution like the State Department than reading reports by journalists on the public pronouncements of Hillary Clinton, or [White House Communications Director] Jen Psaki.” A triptych of fiercely critical essays follows, focusing on America’s character as an imperial power, the influence of the WikiLeaks materials on the war on terror, and America’s economic policies as a rationale for intervention in foreign countries. Surprisingly, the most useful and clearly written chapter is almost devoid of secrets. In “Indexing the Empire,” WikiLeaks section editor Harrison provides a clear-cut guide to searching and analyzing the documents in their archive. “Our work is dedicated to making sure history belongs to everyone,” she writes, “not just to elite organizations and their counterparts in the news industry.” The remaining chapters each take a deep dive into what the cables reveal about America’s dealings with a variety of states including Israel, Iran, Afghanistan, and Russia, among other hot spots.
It will be left to other books to argue whether WikiLeaks is right or wrong in their mission and approach. This one gives solid context to the cables themselves, explaining what they mean to the wider world.