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WICKED LEAKS

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Adam Curtis | 13:47 UK time, Friday, 17 December 2010

Bradley Manning, the intelligence analyst who is alleged to have leaked the thousands of state department cables, has often been compared to Daniel Ellsberg who leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971.

But I have stumbled on a film in the archives that tells the story of another leaker in America who tried to do the same thing, but even earlier.

He was a young State Department diplomat who stole and copied thousands of Top Secret cables. Like Daniel Ellsberg, his aim was to release them to stop America’s involvement in what he believed was a disastrous foreign war.

He was called Tyler Kent. He was a diplomat at the US embassy in London in 1940 and he wanted to stop President Roosevelt bringing America into the war to help Britain.

 

It is a fascinating story, but it also brings an odd perspective to the contemporary Wikileaks story. 

Tyler Kent was a horrible man. He was a rabid anti-communist who believed that the Jews had been behind the Russian Revolution.

He was convinced that Germany should be allowed to destroy both Communist Russia and the Jews. And America should not get in the way of that being allowed to happen.

Looking back, most people now feel that Daniel Ellsberg was right in 1971 because the Vietnam War had become a horrible disaster that needed exposing.

Today, we are not sure of Bradley Manning’s motives (and it hasn't been proven that he is the source of the leak), but again there is a general feeling that it was good thing because the cables have exposed an empty nihilism at the heart of America’s foreign policy.

But the perspective the Tyler Kent story brings is the realisation that diplomatic leaks are not automatically a good thing. It just depends on who is using them. And why.

Back in the past Tyler Kent wanted to use secret information to destroy the things that the overwhelming majority of the British people believed in and were prepared to fight for.

Back in 1982, Robert Harris tracked Tyler Kent down. He was living in a caravan in a trailer park on the US-Mexico border. Harris persuaded Kent to be interviewed and then made a film for Newsnight that told the story.

It is a great piece of historical journalism. Kent explains how his aim was to release the secret cables during the Presidential election campaign in 1940. Over 80% of the US population didn’t want to go into the war – and the cables showed President Roosevelt secretly promising Churchill help against Germany.

Harris makes a powerful case in the film that if Kent had succeeded America would not have entered the war. And history would have been completely different.

Tyler Kent himself is weird and mesmerising. But still unrepentently anti-semitic.

And the film also shows just how easily Tyler Kent found willing accomplices in the heart of the British Establishment. They wanted to get rid of the Jews and communists too, even at the expense of their own country.

The film begins on the morning of the 20th May 1940. Churchill had been sending secret cables to Roosevelt begging for American help.

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Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    I know that this post is really about the original leaker rather than the WikiLeaks conduit, but have you seen this interesting blog post about Assange's ideology concerning leaks, based on what he wrote a few years ago?

    https://zunguzungu.wordpress.com/2010/11/29/julian-assange-and-the-computer-conspiracy-%E2%80%9Cto-destroy-this-invisible-government%E2%80%9D/

  • Comment number 2.

    "the cables have exposed an empty nihilism at the heart of America’s foreign policy."

    Huh? Oh right - Adam Curtis.

  • Comment number 3.

    bit of an Oxford graduate viewpoint, us normal folk are unable to handle the truth...we need our betters to hide disturbing things and make decisions for us.

    There's a big 'if' in your argument, maybe if Wikileaks was around in 1930s the goings on inside the German government would have been more apparent and Hilter would have never been able to grasp power, it might have been revealed that was Hilter short and needed glasses, or perhaps made Europeans more aware that Germany was making a awful lots of tanks, ....

    Do you have any examples of when too much transparency has actually destroyed a democracy (not just conjecture)? Of course transparency has disadvantages, I don't think anyone is arguing it doesn't, but I think the positives far outweigh the negatives.

  • Comment number 4.

    Definitely not trying to defend Tyler Kent, but many intellectuals in the early 20th century believed in "Nordicism" or the belief in a master race. It was a hot button issue just like Global Warming and was discussed at dinner tables.

    Just goes to show you how far we've come.

  • Comment number 5.

    Of course Kent's motives are deplorable. But the "what if" speculation by John Costello/Robert Harris/Adam Curtis that Kent's action could have prevented America's involvement with the war is weak. As if the Pearl Harbour bombing was not much more important in swaying the American public than concern for what was going on in Europe.

  • Comment number 6.

    @Vincent. If I've understood correctly, the "What If" speculation is the effect the leaked cables would have had on the 1940 US Election. The President was assuring the anti-war public that the US wouldn't become involved in the foreign war, yet, out of sight of his electorate, he was helping Britain.

    The cables could have proved he was lying to his electorate and, maybe, he wouldn't have been re-elected. Then, Britain wouldn't have had a sympathetic President in the White House.

    (If I may, an aside from the post:

    @KMan. And you can add the Malthus/Darwin inspired Eugenics, which is why many people weren't ashamed to support Hitler. Until he started killing "the wrong sort:"

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hQvsf2MUKRQ

    )

  • Comment number 7.

    Oops! I posted a link to a youtube clip which might be copyrighted. My apologies.

    @Vincent. I think the "What If" speculation surrounds the 1940 US Presidential Election. The cables may have proved that Roosevelt was "lying" to his overwhelmingly anti-war electorate. He could have lost the election and another President, who was not as sympathetic to Britain, may have been elected.

  • Comment number 8.

    At the moment, my sympathies lie with people who want to give me information rather than people who want to hide information.

    What Tyler Kent was doing was information gathering and hiding it (in his flat) and then using that information for his own gains (and the gains of his political conspirators) and therefore his goals were nefarious.

    What Assange seems to be doing (correct me if I'm wrong) is collecting information and distributing it to everyone. His ultimate goal is undermine the ability of nefarious forces to maintain a coherent and sophisticate network of secret messages. Not only is this his goal, but he's willing to do so by placing his own life at risk.

    And so rather than expose security risks, or expose bad behaviour. Assange wants to actually attack nefarious activity itself, which I think is overall a good thing.

  • Comment number 9.

    Your distinctions are quibbling Egbert. Tyler Kent obviously believed in what he was doing and was indeed putting himself at risk. Manning had to hide the fact that he was stealing information in order leak it. What you are saying strikes me as a bit ridiculous.

    Furthermore, there IS no such thing as absolute transparency, in anything. The only thing that these leaks will definitely do is a)hurt US government's ability to conduct its foreign policy and b)ensure that the US government diplomats, officials, and others (and everyone everywhere) will find different ways to communicate and hide information.

    The effect of the huge onslaught of leaks by Wikileaks will be too numerous to ever be accounted for -- but no one is going to change the world for the better by it.

    I'd say overall the effect of a huge dump of leaks in any situation, generally speaking, will be to upset the powers that be and destabilize things. That will be advantageous to some people in some circumstances. But so many people -- people I would normally agree with -- all these people that are so gleeful about what they imagine the effects of this illusory 'transparency' shows to me simply their frustration with the way things have been going. This is just another idealism that's cropped up, people desperate (on the left mostly) to believe in a deux-ex-machina to rescue them from a reality too complex for Progressive ideals to thrive.

    This is why I really dig John N. Grey's writings, he seems to me a Social Liberal that is an anti-Progressive. However, these terms are actually antiquated so that seems like a contradiction, but its not if you read him. What he really is, he is not a Humanist, perhaps he is a Post-Humanist -- someone who sees mankind as a scourge on the planet, not believing that one day everyone is going to 'get it' and we'll all live in peace living Free.

    I don't find it surprising that most people who are drawn to Adam's work are sympathetic to Wikileaks. But Adam doesn't have an agenda, he just looks for what fascinates him, and in his films he creates a narrative as a way to understand. He doesn't avoid subjects because they contradict what he might have anticipated, in fact he seeks that kind of thing out. Well, that's what I think he does. Adam, thanks for this latest video and blog post.

  • Comment number 10.

    To dawghead above, post No.9,: "a reality too complex for Progressive ideals to thrive", I think I understand, you are saying the deceit and lies are part of a more complex truth only accessible to a select elite!? How arrogant and fearful that sounds. Do you suppose Bradley Manning is being tortured as we speak?

  • Comment number 11.

    PS post No.9, in your final paragraph you say; "But Adam doesn't have an agenda, he just looks for what fascinates him, and in his films he creates a narrative as a way to understand". I think you will find what facinates Adam is understanding and exposing the underlying "truths" that help us shape our perception of who we are.

  • Comment number 12.

    @moreram: I'm just saying reality is complex, idealism is oversimplification, and it takes many forms, this information libertarianism or whatever it is is just the latest form. I enjoin people to educate themselves, there's nothing elitist about that. I believe in universal education and access to information. And I believe information should generally be free and accessible to the people and openness in government. And 'Exposing underlying truths' is indeed what we are all seeking to do. So all in all, I'm not disagreeing with you in what you say, but you aren't really addressing my points.

    I will add to my previous comments that even though in a way I don't think Wikileaks changes anything, in another way it changes everything. If it's not Wikileaks, it seems like there will always be some way that people in the future will be able to leak information. But this just opens a new and different battlefield for the competing political, socilal, etc. forces. In fact it does seem to potentially be something of a leveler -- little countries that have some tech savvy people can do a lot more to shape events, and powerful countries like the US, that have interests across the globe and secrets to protect, will be compromised. Lots of people are cheering that, but personally I think that is an unsettling prospect, because it's not a good thing for the whole world to be destabilized. (Unless it creates a new, better order in the end... and currently I don't see any indication that it will.)

  • Comment number 13.

    I think perhaps there are two quite different views of International Relations. Journalists such as Christopher Hitchens take a paranoid realist or realpolitik view:

    "Then there is diplomacy itself. One of civilization's oldest and best ideas is that all countries establish tiny sovereign enclaves in each other's capitals and invest these precious enclaves of peaceful resolution with special sorts of immunity. That this necessarily includes a high degree of privacy goes without saying. Even a single violation of this ancient tradition may have undesirable unintended consequences, and we rightly regard a serious breach of it with horror. "
    http://www.slate.com/id/2276857/

    His view is that independent nation states are out for their own interests and are essentially at war with other independent nations for resources. He thinks that this is the real point of diplomacy.

    But I disagree with this interpretation of international relations, which is rather similar to the paranoia shown in game theory.

    The alternative to the realist view is the cooperate view, in other words independent states cooperate like friends. I think the ancient view of diplomacy was about cooperation and friendship and not the post-Hobbesian view that gave birth to a kind of individualistic liberalism.

    It seems that Assange confuses the two, where his motivation is of the cooperative view of International Relations, and yet his actions can be interpreted as hostile, particularly to America.

    I suppose Assange's mistake is to force the world to freedom, using espionage to destroy the paranoia that lays at the heart of the realpolitik view of International Relations, but this has of course only reinforced their view while making them even more paranoid.

  • Comment number 14.

    Anyone else notice the similarity between Assange's philosophy and that of Gilles Deleuze:

    Plug! http://fixingtheeconomists.wordpress.com/2010/12/19/the-deleuzian-philosophy-of-julian-assange/

    (Thanks to Duncan C for pointing me in the direction of those fascinating documents).

  • Comment number 15.

    I don't think I need to point this out, my name is self-explanatory for many of you. As a Jew, I am beyond the stage where I can be bothered by Kent's Anti-Semitism merely from reading Curtis' mention of it. I feel that the questions raised by Curtis, are legitimate independently of whether or not the leak is done in the Nazi's favour or that of Anti-American foreign policy. and obviously I do not speak for Jews, just telling you that I am one who is behind knee-jerk reactions, so let me watch the segment and see if my opinion changes...

  • Comment number 16.

    First of all, it is absolutely ludicrous to bring the Jewish issue up at all. Do we really want to go down the road of poisoning the well? The insinuation being made by both Harris and Curtis is that this man is justifying the Holocaust. This is inane. At the time, no such thing had taken place. Most of the world hated the USSR, and certainly from Winston Churchill to Jewish circles which fought Communism, the facts of the mattered remained that a battle was being waged for the heart of the Jewish community, as the Commies gobbled it up. If you want to make a case for a pro-Nazi sympathizer, you might want to take on the 83% of the American people who did not want war at the time. Since that would be the same as making the case for Julian Assange, whose anti-war message is understood by majorities in the West,and may be as erroneous as that of Kent and the 83% majority of his time, and it may not. Depending on how you do your counter-factual. If we are going to go down the route of Ad Nazism arguments, then let's see some hardcore evidence, before we smear people with the Anti-Semitic schmata, shall we!?


    "Tyler Kent was a horrible man. He was a rabid anti-communist who believed that the Jews had been behind the Russian Revolution."

    *this is disturbing in its simplicity and almost stupid. Was he horrible because of his rabid anti-communism, or his suggestion that Jews had been central to the success of communism in the USSR. First of, left-wing Jews were in fact central in the rise of Communism in the USSR. This is a historical fact. Some of us are not proud of it, and are ardent anti-Communist Jews, such as myself. Second off, anyone who is anti-comunist isn't a horrible man, but already scores some positive karma!

    "He was convinced that Germany should be allowed to destroy both Communist Russia and the Jews."
    *I would like to see where Kent states this! This is pure invention Adam!

    "have exposed an empty nihilism at the heart of America’s foreign policy."
    *it's not clear whether this is Curtis' opinion, or his characterisation of the "general feeling".

    "But the perspective the Tyler Kent story brings is the realisation that diplomatic leaks are not automatically a good thing."
    *yes. And those who fail to see this point, are going to either have to make a strong argument for their point, or simply accept trouble with their IQs. No, I am serious. Because someone up here already quibbled with this. Claiming transparency is always good, and that Curtis has it wrong. Whatever my qualms with Adam's statements, his example is brilliant in making a case against the sophomoric view that "all transparency" is good. A view laden with astonishingly naive stupidity!

    "Back in the past Tyler Kent wanted to use secret information to destroy the things that the overwhelming majority of the British people believed in and were prepared to fight for."
    *This is a BAFFLING statement. Adam, you loose two points off your credibility if you cannot back this up with an explanation. First of all, Kent was looking out for American, not British interest. Second, nothing indicates the British people wanted a war with Hitler, and if anything, evidence indicates the British people were ill-disposed towards the Soviets and would have much more preferred a Nazi war on them, than a Nazi war on England. Many British people though Churchill a lunatic, for declaring war on Hitler, but didn't mind until the bombing of Britain actually began. Correct me if I am wrong, but it is only then that public opinion begin to turn in Churchill's favor.

    "And history would have been completely different."
    *yes, and do you really want a debate on what this difference would have been? No, I don't think so.

    "Tyler Kent himself is weird and mesmerising."
    *This is a highly reductionist eye. It's like watching animals in cages. For something to be weird, is to either deliberately take cover in "conventional" thought and warm up to your audiences prejudices, or for you to lack the historical depth to understand someone as simple as this fellow!

    "But still unrepentantly Anti-Semitic."
    *on what grounds do you assert this Adam? Winston Churchill held the same views. Read his paper about the international Jew. Not only Winston, but a virtual majority of elites and popular opinion at the time. Again, you are imparting to this man, something that is simply not there!

  • Comment number 17.

    Second of all. Adam, you are indeed brilliant, to bring this documentary to our attention. It exposes something most readers seem absolutely unable to assimilate. It's astonishing, in fact, and I hope that contrary to all your cop-out statements, you'll seize on their reaction to better grasp human nature! I'll explain what I mean later.

    The heart of this debate is this. Those who defend Assange's actions, are being put on the spot with the Kent episode.

    1940. Most of the Western world, sees no need to fight he Nazis, even if about 60 % of Westerners have a negative view of his actions. Not a single Western nation except Britain, declares war on the Nazis. Spain, France, and Italy, become Fascist regimes. The Soviets are out of the game, since they sign a non-Aggression pact with the Nazis. America has absolutely no issues with Nazi germany, and continues business as usual, with Nazi Germany! Neither are the Zionists upset. The Irgun, the Stern Gang, or Zev Jabotinsky, and nary a Zionist are anti-Nazi. Britain's declaration of war on the Nazi's is somewhat superficial, since it wont be another year before actual warfare against Britain commences.

    It takes a hell of a lot of ignorance and historical revisionism, to then turn on Kent and say, you dirty SOB Jew-hater. No really. There were quotas on Jews in establishment US universities, and white shoe firms, and elite clubs. Leo Frank was fresh in people's minds and Coughlin and Lindberg had quite a damn following. It was a general fact that Jews had been behind the Bolsheviks and damn it, again, as an Israeli who votes for Shas, I am not going to deny that left wing Jews were central to the rise of Bolshevism. Which is not to say they were instrumental or had any monopoly power, but yes, they were important. Nothing from Kent indicates holding views that went beyond this.

    For his time, this guy must have been nearly a hero. Imagine he would have leaked the documents, and the world would have been astonished to learn, and this is what I see readers missing - that Churchill was in fact actively conspiring with FDR to mislead the American people into a war with the Nazis.

    Adam, it seems that the very fact we all grow up learning in school, which the claims that it was the Nazis who started the war, is up for grabs!

    Basically, Blair and Bush mislead the American people into war in Iraq. This documentary seems to prove, that Roosevelt and Churchill mislead their people into war with Nazi Germany.

    Now for anyone who wants to argue that this was good, I am going to give you the Israeli treatment. Prove to me that the Nazi's had a plan to exterminate Jews prior to 1941.

    If you can, then good. But you wont. And all your arguments against Kent, are worthless.

    Now I sincerely hope BBC moderators don't have an apoplectic seizure here and decide to censor my comments for imagined infractions. But I sense this is possible, considering the general reluctance for healthy debate in the Surveilled Isles.

    One last point. Adam, I already sensed a revisionist in you, with your Living Dead. Now I am not sure ,do you take conformist positions so that you don't shock your readers and are not labeled something, or are you really that politically conformist? You do realize that if you want to perpetually stay int he middle, then you are inventing the greatest fantasy of all - that of the moderate, and you are subjecting objective reality to that greatest of tyrants, human cowardice aided and abetted by convenient fantasy justifications.

    Laila Tov.

  • Comment number 18.

    Hi Avishalom

    With Kristallnacht (for starters) and this?

    http://www1.yadvashem.org/about_holocaust/documents/part1/doc59.html

    "One thing I should like to say on this day which may be memorable for others as well as for us Germans: In the course of my life I have very often been a prophet, and have usually been ridiculed for it. During the time of my struggle for power it was in the first instance the Jewish race which only received my prophecies with laughter when I said that I would one day take over the leadership of the State, and with it that of the whole nation, and that I would then among many other things settle the Jewish problem. Their laughter was uproarious, but I think that for some time now they have been laughing on the other side of their face. Today I will once more be a prophet: If the international Jewish financiers in and outside Europe should succeed in plunging the nations once more into a world war, then the result will not be the Bolshevization of the earth, and thus the victory of Jewry, but the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe!"


    I'm not saying that's absolute proof but what was happening in Germany was widely known.

  • Comment number 19.

    @ mcjohn1 - "bit of an Oxford graduate viewpoint, us normal folk are unable to handle the truth...we need our betters to hide disturbing things and make decisions for us." - I couldn't agree less. It's at the heart of my problem with the Newswipe piece Adam did about how we're all 'paranoid like Richard Nixon' because we'll no longer trust patrician elites. Do you really think that people in government are our betters? I think they should be but currently I think it would be hard to argue that's generally true. I mean there's an incredible amount of info in the world, there will be a filtering system....I don't really know how this could work without "elites"....that's something I haven't figured out any kind of opinion on yet, it's extremely complex I think. There's a guy who's written some stuff on this, he's associated with Blair and 'Third Way' politics, I've got check him out. Third Way sounds likea brand to me, but we'll see. Also - I don't think the problem with the rise of Nazism in the thirties was that people didn't know what was going on, it's what framed the German people's (and many others around the world) interpretation of what was happening which meant that it could happen.

    @Vincent Kane - I'd be inclined to agree that actual impact of the leak is debatable. One could make this argument - Pearl Harbour came after, and therefore the exposure of the leak might have led to altering of US foreign policy, which admittedly avoided explicit involvement in the war, but you had Lend-Lease and the embargos against Japan, that arguably (this is backed by documentary record) led to the Pearl Harbour attack (I'm not saying the US provoked PH by the way, but the Japenese knew what the embargos meant for them, it's was understandable, not morally justifiable). And the conventional account of the US vote to go to war is that this was massively influenced by Japan's attack, I don't know of a contrary analysis. I accept that is grossly simplifying a complex set of events, there's the role of the media in reporting the PH attacks in particular, but I think the point stands.

    You could go through a whole range of what-ifs. What if this leak had come out, and public opinion had become even more vehemently against entering the war? Would there have been a face off between isolationists and interventionists? Would Roosevelt have been forced to 'engage the public in a rational discussion and deliberation about what is best"? To appeal to ideals greater that ones own self interest, to remind the American people that an even worse form of the persecution in Europe that lead to the formation of the US was going on some 170 years later? Would the polarised and simplified foreign policy ideas of 'Wilson vs Jackson' have been undermined, the complexity of such decisions more widely appreciated, the level of debate raised? Would subsequent US Cold War foreign policy have been so grotesque and amoral? Would the Cold War have even happened? That's the thing about revisionism, you can go absolutely divvy with it. You can argue Michael Jackson wouldn't have died if Kent got those leaks had got out. I'm not seriously suggesting that by the way.



    @dawghead - I don't think intentions should be separated from consequences. But I agree with point you are making, and that I think Adam is making - that we have no idea at the moment what the consequence of Wikileaks will be, not are we certain of the intentions of those behind them, not just Assange and perhaps Manning. I think we have a great clue to the latter in the analysis the first poster linked to. And although you attack progressive ideals (and I respect John Gray) I disagree with what I think is a slightly hopeless vision. The ideals Assange expresses have been latched onto by people, and I think this reflects someful hopeful about possibilities for positive changes in the democratic system. Only slightly hopeful, a tiny bit, I might be naive. And I agree with the danger of this, that some people are going to unquestioningly now view everything Wikileaks does as inherently good. But broadly this idea of transparency being good and right, if not possible to achieve in an absolute sense, I have to say I think it's a great idea. Part of the reason terrible crimes have been perpetrated by governments is because we didn't know about them. Just part of the reason. Another part, and perhaps more a more important one that I'm alluding to earlier, is that when people do know about them they can't make sense of them and understand them as part of wider philosophies, as part of history, relate them to their own moral frawework, or to their ideals, in a way that reveals what they really mean and what the consequences might be. I'm certain there's a limited extent to which any of us can do this, but certainly we live in a time where critical thought is deeply undermined. What Tyler Kent was doing was wrong not because it was for his own gains, but because his intention was to help allow masses of human beings to be exterminated, which I think is relatively easily to argue is wrong. What interests me is why fundamentally this was his intention.

    By the way - "The only thing that these leaks will definitely do is a)hurt US government's ability to conduct its foreign policy" - I suspect many would view this as the weakest possible argument against the leaks.

    I couldn't agree more with what you say about a certain type of idealism - that some ideals are simple and absolute, the world is not, therefore trying to fit one into the other leads to people warping one or the other, too frequently with disastrous consequences. I would say this is just as true of the right as the left ('necessary cuts' anyone?) and that undermining this simplification is the task at hand.

    @egbert - "I think the ancient view of diplomacy was about cooperation and friendship and not the post-Hobbesian view that gave birth to a kind of individualistic liberalism." - This is an interesting argument, on the face of it I find it hard to believe it's true, but when I get some time I'm going to try and do some reading on this.

  • Comment number 20.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 21.

    haha, that's ironic...just listed a few of the stories from the cables and seems some people took offence - just go to the guardian website (unless your on a US army PC where it's blocked).

    Do you honestly think that US taxpayers should not know this information? Joe Biden has just called Assange an international terrorist...this should be seen for what it is, an attack on free speech and a free press. Its disheartening to see so few people (especially journalists) ready to defend wikileaks.

    Its important to remember that wikileaks contacted the US government before each of the recent leaks to ask for help in redacting names etc. to stop any loss of innocent lives - the US government ignored them. All the actions taken against wikileaks by governments have been outside of the rule of law.

    As Thomas Paine says
    'Society in every state is a blessing, but government even in its best state is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one; for when we suffer, or are exposed to the same miseries by a government, which we might expect in a country without government, our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer.'

  • Comment number 22.

    I think anyone who supports a government or individual carrying out hateful nefarious activities with the intent to destroy a group of people needs their head examined.

    Clearly Tyler Kent is a bad man, although not necessarily evil, he's not a good man.

    As for Assange, he doesn't come across as a hater, and clearly the man has a political will and conviction in what he's doing. What is more important about Assange is that he's following a philosophy and not a feeling of hatred for a group of people. He's not Tyler Kent, he's not Hitler, he's not Stalin.

    And so I'm open-minded and can't help support a guy who seems to have provoked an entire paranoid superpower into wanting to force him and his website into silence. I find it also interesting how people whom I admire, such as Hitchens and even Adam, seem to be cautious about supporting Assange. Perhaps they have a better and more experienced understanding of the psychology of troublemakers, and I am willing to concede that I am mistaken.

    Oh, and is this another example of the strange hypocrisy of Obama and his administration?

  • Comment number 23.

    Ah I see where your coming from, actions made with bad intentions by bad people (if such a thing exists) are always bad. I don't agree. This Tyler guy is obviously being a knob but at the same time his actions are a small step in destroying what he stands for. He is holding a flame the stick he intends to hit the Jews with. I do not think its possible to have a transparent fascist dictatorship. Bad government needs secrecy like humans need air.

    I think people dislike what wikileaks is doing because it destroys authority and a lot of people (on the left and right) are stuck up their own arses and are authoritarian in nature.

    'all authority is quite degrading. It degrades those who exercise it, and degrades those over whom it is exercised.'
    Oscar Wilde

    Please name a dictatorship that is too transparent?!

  • Comment number 24.

    p.s. this is an excellent speech on secrecy by J.F.K
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xhZk8ronces
    I can't imagine a more opposite opinion to that of Obama's administration

  • Comment number 25.

    @art teacher:
    I think I agree with what Assange *wanted* to do, insofar as he thought his actions were going to liberate people from tyranny and deceit. But this is where I disagree with you, where you say 'actions cannot be separated from intentions.' Everyone is accountable for their actions. If he'd been a responsible person he would have leaked only the documents that he felt were really important to leak owing to their content. Instead he dumps or Wikileaks will dump masses of information which no one person could ever parse but which certainly contains things that will have major consequences of all kinds, putting lives in danger and all the rest. Leave aside the fact that it hurts American interests, something which Assange is happy about and which many of you are as well. The enemy of your supposed enemy is not always your friend. But that's not the main point, the point is how Assange's actions are irresponsible and damaging in ways that he chooses not to comprehend. He's obsessed with the idea that transparency will bring down worldwide tyrannical conspiracies so it justifies whatever else. As I eluded to before, probably it was inevitable anyway that there would be a Wikileaks, and this is the way it's going to be. But I think Assange has fallen into the trap that humanity keeps falling into, which is thinking that technology will liberate us and make for a better society. You call that a hopeless vision, that we should not hope for a better society. By all means, hope, and act on your convictions, but I say don't let yourself be drawn into another destructive idealism. I hope that we can see ourselves for what we are, not as we would like ourselves to be. We can improve ourselves, and fight for our ideals. Hope is great when it's tempered by caution. What I'm seeing here amongst so many of my friends is a lot of schadenfreude.

  • Comment number 26.

    @mcjhn1,
    That was an excellent and surprising speech. It astonishes me when people so easily support authoritarianism or even the Nazis, because of some fear of another enemy.

  • Comment number 27.

    @dawghead
    sorry but your accusations about wikileaks indiscriminately dumping information is a line peddled by the Obama administration and complete nonsense.

    In the both cases of the Afghan and Iraq war logs wikileaks sort to contact the pentagon via the New York Times as part of an "harm minimization exercise"
    http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2010/08/20/wikileaks
    In the case of diplomatic cables Jullian Assange wrote directly to US Ambassador to London
    http://www.indexoncensorship.org/2010/11/wikileaks-and-state-department-correspondence/

    In all 3 cases the US government either ignored the requests or replied with threats. Despite this wikileaks tried their best to redact names of informants etc. (this is part of the reason why they asked for help from major newspapers).

    In the case of the Iraq logs and embassy cables I think they started from the position of having everything redacted and only clearing things for publication once it had been checked by two people.

    This appears to me at least much more like the behaviour of a investigative journalism organisation than international terrorists.

  • Comment number 28.

    @mcjhn1 - I'd heard about that little email exchange, perhaps it was sincere. But I find it crazy to think that out of hundreds thousands of documents no damage to individuals will be done, especially in the case of the Afghanistan leaks. There are more reasons than one why different bodies of the US government would not want to cooperate with Wikileaks, and more reasons than one why their response would be inconsistent (especially when we're talking about the Pentagon vs. State Dept and Embassy officials.) Even to vet all those documents would require their going through a great many hands and it would take considerable time.

    We'll see if there ever turns up evidence that people were killed on the basis of information leaked (apparently even when names are not mentioned, enough information is given that in many cases the identities can be deduced) -- though if some dead Afghan collaborators do turn up and the military releases the information, given that the US government isn't trusted already I wonder whether the evidence would even be taken at face value.

    The US government and military is not a monolith, its huge with lots of moving parts. It's got lots of good people in it that do a lot of good things, and Wikileaks just took a really blunt instrument to smash it with. I don't know that I care to defend it anymore; certainly this information was not protected enough and things had to change; the US is looking like a dinosaur. China's in a much better position now, and most agree they will will be the dominant power in the future -- but if things turn out the way the Wikileaks cheering squad hope, then their control will be loosened, and that we shall see. I don't want to yield to fear... lets hope for the best.

  • Comment number 29.

    Well we all hope that doesn't happen, but if it does I'm sure we'll hear about it.

    Meanwhile between 2004 and 2009 just in Iraq the logs catalogue 109,032 violent deaths including more than 15,000 deaths that were previously unrecorded - 66,081 civilian, 23,984 enemy, 15,196 Iraqi security forces and 3,771 US and allied soldiers.

    Maybe you think US citizens have no right to know this information but but maybe after these leaks the US government might feel more accountable and think very carefully about doing something similar again (and countless lives might be saved).

    Meanwhile the guy suspected of leaking the documents is locked up, without charges, in solitary confinement for 7 months.
    http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2010/12/14/manning/

  • Comment number 30.

    e.g. just think if the more detail about My Lai Massacre had been leaked and reported, it would've forced the US army to make serious reforms and Abu Ghraib might have never happened...

  • Comment number 31.

    Mr Assange gave an interview to The Guardian newspaper this year:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2010/aug/01/julian-assange-wikileaks-afghanistan

    Here's an excerpt:

    "The leak exposed massive corruption by Daniel Arap Moi, and the Kenyan people sat up and took notice. In the ensuing elections, in which corruption became a major issue, violence swept the country. "1,300 people were eventually killed, and 350,000 were displaced. That was a result of our leak," says Assange. It's a chilling statistic, but then he states: "On the other hand, the Kenyan people had a right to that information and 40,000 children a year die of malaria in Kenya. And many more die of money being pulled out of Kenya, and as a result of the Kenyan shilling being debased.""

  • Comment number 32.

    Well, you sure know who butters your bread, Mr. Curtis.

    I'm sure the poor, defenseless world government system (which writes your checks) appreciates your comparison of Julian Assange to a WW2 Nazi Spy and Sympathizer.

    I, however, think a more apt metaphor for Assange would be Lysander Spooner versus the US Post Office, or perhaps Eli Whitney.

    The difference: wikileaks is not fighting the government. Their intention is to innovate it out of existence.

  • Comment number 33.

    In my post above, Mr Assange quotes figures for deaths from malaria in Kenya.

    However, this article suggests that the Kenyan government (pre-2007 election) were doing a great deal to fight that awful disease:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2007/aug/16/kenya

    Two passages:

    "A mass free distribution of mosquito nets in Kenya that has nearly halved child deaths from malaria in high-risk areas has led the World Health Organisation to recommend for the first time that nets should be given away rather than sold in the developing world.
    In a project hailed as a model for other African countries, Kenya's heath ministry has distributed 13.5m insecticide-treated nets (ITNs) across the country since 2003. As a result, the number of children sleeping under a net increased from 5% to 52% in less than five years."

    "Early results from the Kenyan programme, which was supported by the WHO and Britain's Department for International Development, show that the nets have had a major impact. In four high-risk areas of country that were closely monitored, the number of childhood deaths from malaria has fallen by 44%. Three hospitals in the malarial-prone coastal areas reported a drop in admissions of 57% in 2006, compared with 1999."

  • Comment number 34.

    Mr Assange talks about the Kenyan Leak here:

    http://habarizanyumbani.jambonewspot.com/2010/07/26/wikileaks-founder-on-kenya-corruption-and-more/

    Wikileaks have recently released cables from US diplomats in Kenya which describe their opinion of today's Kenyan government ministers:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/wikileaks/8190478/Wikileaks-corruption-could-push-Kenya-into-violence.html

    http://allafrica.com/stories/201012120002.html

    Meet the new bosses; same as the old bosses.

  • Comment number 35.

    First of all, thanks for an interesting extra perspective on the Wikileaks affair. It's good to have so clear a counter-argument. As for myself, I take these things on a case-by-case basis, and am in sympathy with Julian Assange's position. We are in a state before anything majorly destructive happens, so such leaks are justifiably seeking to peel away false rhetoric so that people can be better informed of the currents in the world. I think it's ironic that he is being threatened in the way that the dictators everywhere often use - by discrediting him sexually. It would be an interesting study as to why this is felt to push the right buttons for utterly discrediting someone.

  • Comment number 36.

    If you've managed to read 35 comments could you write about Seymour Hersh?. I'd love to know more.

    I was told that his story was first ignored by major newspapers and he and his brother had to hack together a fake news-wire service to get the story out. Reports about the My Lai Massacre first appeared in small local newspapers, picking it up from his fake news-wire...only after did papers like the New York Times report on it.

  • Comment number 37.

    This is the most intelligent thing I've yet read on the whole unfolding phenomenon.
    http://www.webstock.org.nz/blog/2010/the-blast-shack/

  • Comment number 38.

    One aspect of Adam's comparison that is striking to me but that hasn't been mentioned yet is in the difference in treatment of Tyler Kent and Bradley Manning, the supposed source of the US embassies leak.

    Tyler Kent was given a trial within a few months of being caught, he had so far as we can tell from the above - a fair trial, in which he was given representation and allowed to speak for himself. The final stages were even made public. Kent was sent to prison for 7 years. Britain was at this point at war with the Nazis, losing and Kent was a foreign national, but he was neither locked in dungeon nor taken out and shot - as might have happened in say, Nazi Germany.

    By contrast Bradley Manning is a US citizen held in his own country. He is suspected of being the leak, but he has not been charged. He has been held in solitary confinement for nearly a year, in a tiny cell without bedding, without visitors while his family and friends have been continuously harassed. He is being threatened with a 52 year prison sentence. And yet the documents he leaked have so far had seemingly no impact on governance in the US or increased the existing threats the country faces. Clearly very senior people have had conversations in private – conversations that will not be made public – which one guesses have a great deal to do with finding a scapegoat and extracting vengeance - but precisely nothing to do with justice.

    This infringement of human rights, this gross illiberality, seems barely questioned by the mainstream media. @ K Man - remarked 'look at how far we've come' but in this regard it seems to me the 'free world' has gone a long way backwards.

    Though Assange is clearly a monomaniac, and this giant leak so unfocused that it is - simply through bulk partially self-defeating – I can’t help but feel it’s right to support the hackers. The only power they have at present is to embarrass people. The people they are embarrassing however have the gall to disregard habeas corpus without a thought, and even worse than that, disregard it and say they’re in the right, that they're the victims.

    Here is the paradox at the heart of the story – the more effectively government/power can be held to account by the people/those outside – by having its hypocrisies, it lies and subterfuges revealed – the more oppressive it becomes (to re-establish its potency). The reaction to wikileaks is more significant than anything yet revealed by the leaks: a strange over reaction – at once a show of awesome power but which equally shows up how government has a desperate lack of confidence in it’s own legitimacy.

    (Whatever happened to our dream of freedom?)

  • Comment number 39.

    Not sure of Tyler kents motives or whether it is the slightest bit important but the information he did have was something the government did not want being made public. Tyler went to prison but so did others caught up in that trial. Their views like Tylers were not very palatable but what they got caught up in and the fear of the British government at that time meant they were shut away primarily for the telegrams between Roosevelt and Churchill. They were naive and I don't condone any of their views but just goes to show what happens when a government panics.

  • Comment number 40.

    "WICKED LEAKS"?
    How can the truth be "wicked"?
    It's the burial of the truth that is wicked.
    How can people claim a democracy when they are not permitted to know the truth? As this video makes perfctly clear, IF the American people had known Roosevelt's true position about WW2, he'd likely have lost his third term...and all of history may have changed.
    John 8:32, re 'TRUTH":
    "Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
    Thanks for stumbling upon this revealing historical film that tells the story of another leaker, a young State Department diplomat who stole and copied thousands of Top Secret cables, Tyler Kent. Mr. Kent wanted to stop President Roosevelt from bringing America to Britain's aid.
    He failed. But were his actions right or wrong?
    Is this judgement really necessary, or is the issue TRUTH itself.
    Tyler Kent believed that bringing out the truth would allow the American and British People to make a clear and transparent decision about the war, entrance to the war, and therefore what they should be prepared to die for.
    How can that be wrong? Are we forever to fight wars based on lies and spin? Are we forever to invade countries like Iraq on false information? Are we pawns forever to be manipulated?
    Tyler Kent's beliefs:
    1. anti-communist and
    2. the Jews had been behind the Russian Revolution
    were simply that - his beliefs. Do we not have a right to our own beliefs? Are we all supposed to hold the state line, keep our mouths shut? Stop thinking?
    Truth withheld festers and turns to rot. It makes rotten foreign policy.
    Does it matter whether we are sure of Bradley Manning’s motives ("and it hasn't been proven that he is the source of the leak")?
    Is it not sufficient that little truths and big truths are tumbling out faster than readers can digest?
    I happen to believe that truth is always a good thing: Lay it out there. Talk about it. Deal with it; in other words, do not pretend that you are my ally when you are really not my ally but my worst enemy.
    Thanks so much for bringing this obscure piece of historical journalism to its public. Kent explains how his aim was to release the secret cables during the Presidential election campaign in 1940. OVER 80% OF THE US POPULATION DID NOT WANT TO ENTER THE WAR. The cables showed President Roosevelt secretly promising Churchill help against Germany, and looking frantically about for some escuse, any excuse to commit the United States to war. Harris makes a powerful case in the film that if Kent had succeeded America would NOT have entered the war...And history might have been completely different (i.e. based upon the truth, based upon transparency).
    Do we seriously want our brothers, fathers, friends, etc. fighting wars based on lies?

  • Comment number 41.

    Thanks for sharing this, Adam. It looks like MI5 have released documents relating to Tyler Kent since this film was made - http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/documents/nov2001.pdf

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  • Comment number 43.

    "The reaction to wikileaks is more significant than anything yet revealed by the leaks: a strange over reaction – at once a show of awesome power but which equally shows up how government has a desperate lack of confidence in it’s own legitimacy."

    Actually I had a very similar reaction - when the details of the leaks themselves first came out, my confidence in government was improved. That such a huge amount of secret communications could be revealed and show so little that was more than mildly embarassing was somewhat reassuring (even if they weren't really deep and carefully held secrets). The actions of the government since relating to Manning, Assange and Wikileaks suggests they would be happier running a dictatorship than a democracy, and they have very little respect for human rights when they are embarassed by someone so publicly. Of course this builds on the US governments actions after 9/11 that gave the same impression, but confirms that it is bipartisan.

  • Comment number 44.

    Every new conspiracy revealed seems to raise questions about another. If Roosevelet was determined to go to war all along, and was in cahoots with Churchill all along, this must damp down that other theory that Churchill knew about Pearl Harbour in advance and didn't tell FDR, so no defense was readied.

    I'm also puzzled because of the involvement of Joe Kennedy. If he was privy to these documents how come he wasn't breaking the story himself? He was not ill-disposed to Nazi Germany and no great supporter of Britain either, by all accounts.

    I suspect these documents were as woolly as Wikileaks are, and their *publication* might have not been of great interest to the public. For all the fuss on the news-feeds, I'm not aware that wikileaks has changed a goddam thing.

  • Comment number 45.

    What are we to make of the following organisations:

    Wikileaks
    The Venus Project
    The Zeitgeist Movement
    The Disclosure Project

    I was hopeful and optimistic at first but I'm having doubts now. Are these organisations just another charade perpetrated by the illuminati to destabilise and weaken governments by exploiting current apathy and malaise about contemporary politics? The fairly recent emergence of these organisations appears to precipitate a looming paradigm shift. They all have one thing in common, and that is to destroy confidence and credibility in national governments. Wikileaks is clearly the most dominant force in this regard. At first sight they all appear to be a force for good, but are they really?


    Wikileaks:

    ...an organisation dedicated to revealing suppressed and censored injustices by enabling information of ethical, political and historical significance to be 'leaked' to the general public. The arrest and demonisation of Julian Assange, although played out for real, could be just an orchestrated side-show to validate him as some sort of martyr working for the public interest in the cause of freedom, liberty and justice. It works. Assange has significant public support and it continues to grow, while confidence in government continues to decline. Nevertheless, there is a double-edged sword to this. While Wikileaks presents itself as a force for good in the world, the net result of it's activities generates greater instability and distrust in governments. Ok, we already know most politicians are lying cheats with about as much honesty, integrity and heart as a compassionate Hitler. But its one thing to distrust politicians because you believe them to be corrupt and quite another to see the actual evidence of it, the 'smoking gun' so to speak, of their lies and deceptions, crimes and misdemeanors. The impact of having deeply held suspicions realised can be quite devastating socially, politically and economically.

    So where are the earth-shattering revelations about UFOs and secret technology? Do these things really exist, as I believe they do? The information is of the most supreme importance, if not the number one priority. So where is it? Why is Assange not dedicated to acquiring and releasing this super-important information? He appears to be more concerned about creating greater instability in the world through a succession of confidence tricks duping both the public and national governments, than he is for acquiring and releasing the most critical information that we are all waiting hear about.

    Wikileaks is either a force for good in the world or is a carefully orchestrated

  • Comment number 46.

    Wikileaks is either a force for good in the world or is a carefully orchestrated and sinister plot to degenerate public confidence in the credibility and legitimacy of governments. In doing this it increases public apathy and hopelessness and creates massive distrust in the political process, generating instability. It weakens public resolve to overcome insurmountable crisis and thus makes us more susceptible to authoritarian control in the event of a global coup d'etat.

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  • Comment number 73.

    Has anyone else noticed this thread has been taken over by a maniac (albeit quite an amusing one)?

    Thank you for the map references they're some very pretty landscapes. :-)

  • Comment number 74.

    That was unkind, and churlish. But in one respect you're quite right. Anyone who doesn't conform to the narrow indoctrinated views of accepted wisdom may be considered a 'maniac'. Well, who gives legitimacy and credibility to facts and ideas? You? Me? Academics? Politicians? Lawyers? Journalists? Scientists? The so-called 'educated class', with the exception of a few, overwhelmingly serve the interests of power as well as their own self-interest, and not the interest of the greater good of humanity. Thanks to all the education and skill available to us, millions of people are still dying from poverty, disease, starvation and war, because our supposedly educated superiors have failed to deliver a fair, peaceful and just world. It seems the more educated we are the more stupid we become. The educated class are largely servants of the plutocratic elite, so you cannot always trust the legitimacy of what they represent in their learned field despite their credentials. There are many scholars, politicians, lawyers and scientists to whom you could also attribute the term 'maniac'.

    One of the things I love about YouTube is that it allows amateur investigators, however crude and unsophisticated or lacking in resources, to put out their ideas and research untainted by servile indoctrination. The most important ideas and truths don't exist in universities or acedemia, they exist out in the world at large and in the very places you least expect to find it. The 80% of ordinary people are not stupefied consumers of bile and mediocrity, but are a fount of knowledge, ideas and elementary truths born out of real life experience and common sense.

    The best way to learn about any subject is not to dismiss something because it does not conform to your expectations, but rather absorb the information, subtract from it, remove the distortion and misinformation and check the source documentation, and what you are left with are the most elementary ideas which you then add to your own repertoire of knowledge and research to glean the facts. You may have to extrapolate ideas from a lot of rubbish, but the point is that even rubbish can glean some elementary truths which would otherwise be disregarded simply because they don't conform to the doctinal system that serves the interest of power - the education model that instills elitism within acedemia. Discriminating against knowledge blinds us from understanding the most important truths and ideas about the world. Education, then, is learning from all points of knowledge without discrimination. The writer George Orwell opened himself up to experiences and life he was not used

  • Comment number 75.

    The writer George Orwell opened himself up to experiences and life he was not used to, and what he learned exposed him to greater truths and understandings which came to embody the major ideas and themes of his books.

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  • Comment number 83.

    "Tyler Kent was a horrible man. He was a rabid anti-communist who believed that the Jews had been behind the Russian Revolution."

    Belief that Jews had been behind the Russian Revolution made Tyler Kent a horrible man? Mr. Curtis needs to be reminded that in 1920 Winston Churchill shared a similar view: http://mosaisk.com/revolution/Winston-Churchill-Zionism-Versus-Bolshevism.php

    Alexander Solzenhitzyn's final magnum opus, 200 Years Together; The Jews in the Soviet Union confirmed Churchill's and Kent's conclusions: http://www.vho.org/tr/2004/3/Strauss342-351.html

    Another who shared all three men's views on this was British journalist Robert Wilton who covered the October Revolution and wrote that "pseudo-Jews"
    (athiest Jews) were overrepresented in the Bolshevik leadership. http://mailstar.net/wilton.html

 

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