When the WikiLeaks CableGate story originally broke, many wondered if it would change the way ambassadors communicated with their home offices. If the case of Fergus Cochrane-Dye, Britain's high commissioner to Malawi, is indicative, the answer seems to be no.
Malawi is now threatening to expel Cochrane-Dye over comments in a March, 2011 cable were leaked to the country's Nation newspaper. The type of remarks in the offending cable should be familiar to WikiLeaked readers:
In the leaked memo to the foreign secretary, William Hague, Cochrane-Dyet said that in Malawi the "governance situation continues to deteriorate in terms of media freedom, freedom of speech and minority rights".
According to the Nation newspaper, which published the correspondence, he said rights activists had reported a campaign of intimidation through threatening anonymous phone calls.
"They seem genuinely afraid," Cochrane-Dyet wrote. "The office of one high-profile activist has allegedly been raided and his house broken into. There are unsubstantiated rumours that the ruling party is forming a youth wing modeled on the Young Pioneers used as a tool of repression during the country's three-decade dictatorship."
The Foreign Office seems to be sticking by their man:
"Sir Geoffrey added that if the government of Malawi pursued such action there were likely to be consequences affecting the full range of issues in the bilateral relationship. He urged the Malawian authorities, through the charge d'affaires, not to proceed down such a road."
It's certainly seems that in the post-WikiLeaks era, diplomats shouldn't take the confidentiality of cables for granted -- even when WikiLeaks itself has nothing to do with it. I can't imagine that this won't change the tone and bluntness of these communications going forward.
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It's not just P.J. Crowley -- the Guardian reports:
A senior United Nations representative on torture, Juan Mendez, issued a rare reprimand to the US government on Monday for failing to allow him to meet in private Bradley Manning, the American soldier accused of being the WikiLeaks source and held in a military prison. It is the kind of censure the UN normally reserves for authoritarian regimes around the world.
Mendez, the UN special rapporteur on torture, said: "I am deeply disappointed and frustrated by the prevarication of the US government with regard to my attempts to visit Mr Manning."
Mendez told the Guardian: "I am acting on a complaint that the regimen of this detainee amounts to cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or torture ... until I have all the evidence in front of me, I cannot say whether he has been treated inhumanely."
Meanwhile, as Politico reports, Crowley's replacement as U.S. State Department spokesman, Mark Toner, isn't having a much easier time than his predecessor explaining the Manning situation to reporters.
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Julian Assange has another court date. This one's for a two-day hearing in Britain's High Court, which will consider Assange's appeal of the February ruling that paved the way for his extradition to Sweden on sexual assault charges. The BBC reports that Assange is still at the country estate of the journalist Vaughan Smith, to which he was released on bail in December. Other than that, he's been laying low -- as has WikiLeaks, which hasn't posted a new State Department cable in nearly two weeks. (They're occasionally cropping up elsewhere, however.)
BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images
This weekend, the U.S. government finally threw Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh under the bus, with administration officials telling the New York Times on background that it was increasingly clear Saleh was incapable of reforming his government and had to go. On Tuesday, the Pentagon made it official, with spokesman Geoff Morrell saying the United States was "urging a negotiated transition [of power] as quickly as possible."
All of this would have been unthinkable even a month ago, when it seemed relatively likely that Saleh would survive the wave of unrest sweeping his country, at least through the end of his current term. The Yemeni president is a Hosni Mubarak-style survivor, who has managed to hold onto power for three decades in one of the Arab world's most reliably restive countries -- a longevity that is in no small part guaranteed by the United States, which has viewed Saleh as a crucial, if unreliable, ally in the fight against Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
No one ever pretended it was an uncomplicated relationship, and the WikiLeaks cables show the United States making extraordinary, often unreasonable demands of counterterrorism allies such as Saleh. But you don't have to agree with the U.S. government's actions here to ask whether the $155 million the United States gave Yemen in military aid last year alone was worth the investment. A tour through the WikiLeaks cables from the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa -- of which the Times offered a very good overview in December -- is instructive. The cables, of course, present the State Department's view of the situation, not the U.S. intelligence community's -- but the diplomats seem to have trusted Saleh about as far as they could throw him.
WikiLeaks has claimed another WikiLoser: U.S. Ambassador Heather Hodges, who was kicked out of Ecuador today over a cable detailing alleged corruption in President Rafael Correa's government. "It is unfortunate that the published documents on WikiLeaks have made it impossible to continue collaborating with the current ambassador to Quito, but we hope to work with a new ambassador," Ecuador's Washington embassy said in a statement today, according to the Associated Press.
The offending cable, which was signed by Hodges (above, with Correa in happier times) in July 2009 and published on Monday by the Spanish newspaper El Pais, concerns Jaime Hurtado, the former commanding general of Ecuador's National Police. "The Embassy has multiple reports that indicate [Hurtado] used his positions to extort bribes, facilitate human trafficking, misappropriate public funds, obstruct investigations and prosecutions of corrupt colleagues, and engage in other corrupt acts for personal enrichment," Hodges wrote.
Hodges is the third U.S. ambassador to be forced out of an embassy post by an inconvenient cable; Carlos Pascual resigned from the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City last month, and Gene Cretz was called back from Tripoli in January (though he's back in action now that the U.S. government is somewhat less concerned about Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi's feelings). Of course, it's also worth noting that Correa -- like his regional allies -- drops U.S. diplomats like they're going out of style.
RODRIGO BUENDIA/AFP/Getty Images
Nothing new on the WikiLeaks site this week, but they've been trickling out elsewhere:
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Yemeni General Ali Mohsen, the most prominent backer of Yemen's anti-government protesters, is "the second most powerful man in Yemen."
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Assange (or someone who looks an awful lot like him) dancing again, this time with video:
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