Why EL PAÍS published The Leaks

A good post from the Spanish newspaper EL PAÍS on why they decided to work with Wikileaks to publish the cables. ELPAÍS.com in English

A few cuts.

On War and Terrorism

Tens of thousands of soldiers are fighting a war in Afghanistan that their respective leaders know is not winnable. Tens of thousands of soldiers are shoring up a government known around the world to be corrupt, but which is tolerated by those who sent the soldiers there in the first place. The WikiLeaks cables show that none of the Western powers believes that Afghanistan can become a credible nation in the medium term, and much less become a viable democracy, despite the stated aims of those whose soldiers are fighting and dying there. Few people have been surprised to learn that the Afghan president has been salting away millions of dollars in overseas aid in foreign bank accounts with the full cognizance of his patrons.

Meanwhile, next door, Pakistan is awash with corruption as well. It also has a decaying nuclear arsenal that is a major security risk. The country funds terrorist activity against its neighbor India and many countries in the West.

Money from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf emirates is also used to fund Sunni terrorist groups; but as these governments are allies of the United States, Washington prefers to remain silent, excluding them from its list of sponsors of terrorism or those belonging to what the Bush regime dubbed "the axis of evil." Clinton, or one of her direct subordinates, gave the order to carry out espionage within the United Nations, and not just on representatives of so-called rogue states, but on the UN secretary general himself. In turn, he has so far failed to demand an explication for this flagrant breach of international law.

We may have suspected our governments of underhand dealings, but we did not have the proof that WikiLeaks has provided. We now know that our governments were aware of the situations mentioned above, and, what is more, they have hidden the facts from us. I no longer think that commentators such as John Naughton were exaggerating when they compared the Karzai regime in Afghanistan with the corrupt and incompetent puppet government that the United States put in place in South Vietnam in the 1960s and 1970s. By the same token, Washington and NATO are seemingly becoming increasingly mired in a campaign bearing uncomfortable parallels with the war in Vietnam.

On Assange

It is also important to establish that at no time did Assange ask for money in return for providing access to the leaked documents, nor would EL PAÍS have agreed to such terms. The documents' reliability are beyond question, and nobody - not even opponents of their publication - have questioned their authenticity. The obstinate focus on Assange and his methods, the scrutiny of his motivations, and the repeated attempts to destroy his personal reputation all reflect the colossal lack of respect that US diplomats show for the laws, rules and procedures in the countries where they carry out their missions - beginning with Spain, if the published cables are anything to go by.

On the US's contempt for other nations laws..

We have also seen how US diplomats in Berlin warned the German government of the serious consequences of bringing charges against CIA agents accused of kidnapping Khaled El-Masri, a German citizen who was abducted and taken to Afghanistan where he was tortured. El-Masri was then dumped in Albania when it was realized they had the wrong man. Kidnapping and torture are serious crimes. For US diplomats to pressure an ally to prevent suspects from being investigated is unacceptable, and trashes the idea that those diplomats are just doing their job.

On the worlds powerful elite.

As Simon Jenkins of The Guardian wrote earlier this month, power hates to see the truth exposed. I would add that above all, power fears the truth when the truth doesn't fit its needs.

On the newspaper's obligation to a democratic society.

It is the prerogative of governments, not the press, to bury secrets for as long as they can, and I will not argue with this as long as it does not cover up deceitful acts against citizens. But a newspaper's main task is to publish news, and to seek out news where it can find it. As I said in a recent online chat with EL PAÍS readers, newspapers have many obligations in a democratic society: responsibility, truthfulness, balance and a commitment to citizens. Our obligations definitely do not, however, include protecting governments and the powerful in general from embarrassing revelations.

If only someone in the US news media had balls like this.


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