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Wikileaks: Red faces, but no crisis

Mark Mardell | 21:32 UK time, Sunday, 28 November 2010

A Wikileaks webpage

So far red faces, but no resignations, no reputations damaged beyond repair.

The US state department is still standing. Some of the no longer secret telegrams provide us with a much clearer picture of what we thought was going on, such as the Saudis urging the US to "cut the head off" the Iranian snake.

Some are gossipy, such as reports of Muammar Gaddafi's voluptuous Ukrainian nurse.

We still await what was written (separately) about a British royal, Gordon Brown and the performance of the UK military in Afghanistan.

President Barack Obama's spokesman has released a statement condemning the latest Wikileaks, saying they are reckless and dangerous, that they compromise diplomats and intelligence officials, put lives at risk and deeply impact their work.

That may be true but above all the leaks are embarrassing. Embarrassing that - what the White House describes as "candid and incomplete" views - are now in the public domain.

Embarrassing that documents marked Secret Noforn - meaning "secret no foreigners" - can be read by the very foreigners they are written about.

Embarrassing enough that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has spent the weekend on the phone smoothing feathers even before they are ruffled.

But what they are not, so far, is earth-shattering.

Interesting - yes. Hard black-and-white confirmation of what we have long suspected but nothing that would cause real shock, rather than irritation. Nothing completely unexpected.

That may change - thousands of documents have still not yet been published.

But at the moment this is at the level of red faces rather than a full-blown crisis.

Still, it will leave American diplomats and their foreign service that much more exposed, it provides ammunition for their enemies and undermines their friends.


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