Sunday 22 October 2017

WikiLeaks' data bomb is not a smart weapon

The candid diplomatic information revealed by the WikiLeaks organisation is embarrassing, but it could also cause real harm, says Malcolm Rifkind

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange speaks a news conference at the Frontline Club in London
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange speaks a news conference at the Frontline Club in London

Henry Stimson, a predecessor of Hillary Clinton as US Secretary of State, once remarked that "Gentlemen do not read each other's mail". If that remains the case, there must be precious few gentlemen left in the United States.

The 250,000 dispatches and diplomatic cables revealed by WikiLeaks have, apparently, been on a Pentagon-run electronic database that could be accessed, quite properly, by at least tens of thousands and, possibly, hundreds of thousands of officials and military personnel with security clearance.

The intention appears to have been to ensure that information available to any one of the US's intelligence agencies should be available to the whole of its intelligence community. While that was reasonable, it is disturbing that so little care was taken to ensure that highly sensitive material reached only those who needed to know.

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