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Damage to trust

November 30, 2010

European newspapers say that while transparency is important, WikiLeaks has damaged US diplomacy by publishing over 250,000 internal US cables.

Two browser windows of WikiLeak's website
The disclosures are a diplomatic nightmare for the USImage: picture-alliance/dpa

Munich's Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily asked how long the US would continue to enjoy the fruits of its diplomatic services in the wake of the WikiLeaks publication. "Without confidentiality, there is no information, no give-and-take, no access," the paper wrote. "Without information, there is also no knowledge, no reasoning powers, no correct decisions. The USA has been struggling for credibility in the world for years. WikiLeaks has turned out to be the weapon of mass destruction for the last ounce of trust."

"Distrust does not only grow among low-ranked informants," the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung commented. "Heads of state have been embarrassed, and the consequences for their countries' relations towards the states and politicians who had been talking about them are difficult to foresee. Such disclosures could have a much more destructive effect in the world's trouble spots than in the areas of tension within [Germany's governing] coalition."

France's daily Liberation wrote that a country could not act in a world full of violent conflicts while under constant observation by the public. The state "has the right to protect its defense secrets, to talk to allies or foes by ensuring confidentiality and to conduct special missions provided that they are suspect to supervision by elected representatives." The paper added that it was "a paradox that WikiLeaks attacks first and foremost democracies and leaves the darkest and most oppressive dictatorships aside."

Madrid-based daily El Pais took a different line: "According to the Vienna Convention, diplomats have the right to gather any information on a country that can be legally obtained. The recent disclosures do not show that the US has violated the law. But they do prove that the Americans are too prone to secretiveness. Information is kept under lock and key that is in the public interest. However, transparency is the most important weapon in the fight against arbitrariness and corruption. The disclosures also reveal the demise of US leadership in world politics."

The Financial Times commented that not all information belongs in the public domain. "In order for states to conduct their affairs effectively, and ensure the security of their citizens, some secrets must remain. WikiLeaks' latest disclosure does not quite cross this line. But nor does the release of this trove pass the public interest test unequivocally. The material released so far does not reveal any wrongdoing."

Compiled by Sarah Steffen (dpa, AFP)
Editor: Nancy Isenson

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