Naturally, there is a lengthy report devoted to the 1,719 reports that came out of the U.S. Embassy in Berlin. Much of this coverage centers on revelations of German diplomats criticizing each other, U.S. criticisms of Chancellor Merkel—“‘She is risk averse and rarely creative,’ noted one report from March 24, 2009”—and revelations that a source was reporting directly to the embassy on negotiations to form Germany’s current coalition government in October of 2009. A Q&A with the U.S. ambassador to Berlin, Philip Murphy, in which he responds to some of the revelations, was posted on the Der Spiegel website today.
The dominant interest in Der Spiegel’s coverage seems to be to use the cables to define a current “True US Worldview,” a phrase that comes up several times in the magazine’s reporting. What is that worldview?
The State Department’s emissaries abroad cultivate a clear-eyed view of the countries they are posted to, a view that is at times incredibly dark. Viewed through the eyes of the US diplomats, entire states—Kenya for example—appear as mires of corruption.
We’ll keep track of what Der Spiegel does during the rest of the week. - Joel Meares
Spanish newspaper El País leads its WikiLeaks package with an analysis of 3,620 diplomatic documents from the U.S. Embassy in Madrid, ranging from 2004 to 2010, a period of time that coincides with the administration of current prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, a socialist. The most interesting material is the wealth of information on U.S. diplomats’ efforts to understand and deal with Zapatero. One cable disparages the prime minister’s outdated and romantic ideology; another speculates that Zapatero primarily uses his rhetoric to score domestic political points.
Other stories cover the same material being reported in other outlets: that the U.S. will revise its document classification guidelines in the wake of the leak; that American diplomats gathered “human intelligence” about certain figures at the United Nations, including Ban Ki-moon; and so on. The paper’s what-it-all-means pieces are underwhelming: one story predicts that the United States’s reputation will suffer in the wake of the revelations of espionage at the UN (you think?); another crows that the leaks have laid bare America’s foreign policy secrets, like the fact that America worries about China, Iran, and Vladimir Putin. Stop the presses!
Earlier today, the newspaper’s editor-in-chief, Javier Moreno, answered questions from readers about the leak. Moreno demurred on whether WikiLeaks was itself practicing journalism, but said that the leaks have allowed other people to do the sort of great journalism that is increasingly needed in a world where states and politicians are increasingly trying to prevent information from being made public. Asked whether his newspaper had given any thought to the government’s point of view when considering whether to run the story, Moreno was blunt: “Newspapers have many obligations. Protecting governments and the powerful from embarrassing situations is not one of them.” - Justin Peters
Reporting that the release of the State Department cables has sparked “une panique diplomatique,” Le Monde leads its latest coverage of the WikiLeaks dump with an overview of the documents’ principal revelations. Among these: that many Arab countries fear the prospect of a nuclear Iran; that U.S. diplomats were asked to surreptitiously gather information about various personages at the UN; that the U.S. suspects China of hacking Google and regularly penetrating American networks; that French diplomat Jean-David Levitte once called Hugo Chavez a fool.
In an article explaining why they decided to publish the documents, Le Monde argues that since Assange was going to leak them one way or another, the paper felt compelled to journalistically analyze and present the material as a service to its readers. Le Monde offered U.S. officials an opportunity to respond to the leak, and Ambassador Charles Rivkin took them up on the offer, penning a wounded op-ed that decries the leak. “We support and encourage the exchange of ideas on critical public policy questions,” Rivkin writes. “But disseminating material lightly, without regard for the possible consequences, is not the right way to engage in this debate.” - Justin Peters