Disclosure, discretion and distrust

Scott Gilmore, a former Canadian diplomat, explains the importance of diplomatic discretion.

When we sent the reporting cables back to the Department of Foreign Affairs, they were secret for a reason. If they were published in The Globe and Mail instead, I would have been thrown out of the country in 24 hours and the Indonesian officials would not have permitted a replacement. The local politicians would have hired a rent-a-mob to stone the Canadian embassy. Their leaders would have told the Jakarta media I was a liar and would have blamed the Timorese for feeding me calumny. And the police would have arrested and killed the young teacher before the week was out.

Jack Shafer applauded Wikileaks this week for restoring our distrust in powerful institutions. Matthew Yglesias questions this thesis. Meanwhile, the Canadian ambassador to Afghanistan has told his superiors he may have to be replaced if some of his reporting on Hamid Karzai becomes the focus of public attention.

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