Adam Curtis

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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  • Comment number 83. Posted by whodarteswings

    on 5 Dec 2011 04:53

    "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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  • Comment number 82. Posted by WiliamP

    on 3 May 2011 03:10

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

  • Comment number 81. Posted by WiliamP

    on 2 May 2011 19:08

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

  • Comment number 80. Posted by WiliamP

    on 2 May 2011 18:44

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

  • Comment number 79. Posted by WiliamP

    on 2 May 2011 03:57

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

  • Comment number 78. Posted by WiliamP

    on 2 May 2011 03:55

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  • Comment number 77. Posted by WiliamP

    on 30 Apr 2011 18:23

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

  • Comment number 76. Posted by WiliamP

    on 30 Apr 2011 18:23

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  • Comment number 75. Posted by WiliamP

    on 30 Apr 2011 18:23

    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 74. Posted by WiliamP

    on 30 Apr 2011 18:17

    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

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