The Guardian reported on Thursday that four major newspapers in Pakistan were publishing stories highly critical of the Indian government, citing some “eye-popping” assessments by American diplomats in WikiLeak-ed State Department cables. Among the “revelations”:
According to the reports, US diplomats described senior Indian generals as vain, egotistical and genocidal; they said India’s government is secretly allied with Hindu fundamentalists; and they claimed Indian spies are covertly supporting Islamist militants in Pakistan’s tribal belt and Balochistan.
“Enough evidence of Indian involvement in Waziristan, Balochistan,” read the front-page story in the News; an almost identical story appeared in the Urdu-language Jang, Pakistan’s bestselling daily.
If accurate, the disclosures would confirm the worst fears of Pakistani nationalist hawks and threaten relations between Washington and New Delhi. But they are not accurate.
The Guardian, which has access to all of the cables, has determined that the cables these newspapers are citing are, in fact, entirely fictional.
An extensive search of the WikiLeaks database by the Guardian by date, name and keyword failed to locate any of the incendiary allegations. It suggests this is the first case of WikiLeaks being exploited for propaganda purposes.
The first case we know about, sure, but not entirely shocking. Joshua Keating, writing on the Foreign Policy blog Passport, remarked,
It’s actually surprising this hasn’t happened yet. The vast majority of the cables are still unreleased, but the newspapers which have access to them have often reported on some of the more salacious details before the original cables are actually available. (Take for instance, the famous “Batman and Robin” description of Putin and Medvedev, which appeared in newspapers days before the actual cable was available).
So, it’s pretty easy to just make up cables to serve your political agenda. If the Pakistani forgers had been more sophisticated they would have invented quotes or even mocked up fake cables rather than just paraphrasing.
(h/t Scott Baldauf)Lauren Kirchner is a freelance writer covering digital security for CJR. Find her on Twitter at @lkirchner