The terrible damage Wikileaks has done to American officials and American interests

A former Foreign Service Officer writes:

The Wikileaks release of State Department cables is a personal disaster for many of my former colleagues and worse for their contacts, some of whom now face danger, perhaps even death.

LA replies:

Could you expand on this?

The former FSO replies:

Political officers (that is to say, Foreign Service Officers whose duties involve reporting about the host country to Washington, as opposed to other kinds of FSOs, like consular officers, who handle visas, or management officers, who handle personnel and budgets, etc.) function rather like investigative reporters. We cultivate sources in order to get information we need and Washington wants. Sometimes these are purely one time things: some staff member of some minister is p****d and so lets us know something that the Minister wouldn’t want to get out. Most of the time, though, these are personal relationships that are built over the years we are at post.

So—and this is purely hypothetical—let’s say that I’m a political officer in Dubai, which has a large Iranian ex-pat community. And let’s say that Ahmed, a prominent businessman with interests in Iran and in the U.S. is a contact of mine. Let’s say that while he publicly mouths the party line, he in reality harbors a deep hatred of the theocracy in power and wants Iran to move more back to the way it was under the Shah. So, in order to enhance his reputation with the U.S. and to ensure that he gets good treatment when he needs a visa, wants to send his kid to Harvard, etc., but also because he hates the Iranian regime, he reports to me regularly and what the business community is really saying and thinking in Tehran.

So, let’s say I have something in a cable that looks like this:

” … Ahmed further confirmed that his contacts in the gold exchange guild, most notably guild president Ashif Mashood, have already begun to under-report gold transactions to the Iranian authorities, in violation of capital control laws, and are shipping the skimmed gold to Dubai, where it is being quietly invested outside Iran … ”

If that gets out, Ashif is a LOT of trouble. And if it gets out when Ahmed happens to be in Tehran on business, he very well may end up in jail as an American spy.

Now, this is purely a hypothetical, but we are dealing with issues like this in tens of nations, involving thousands of contacts, some of whom may be targeted by governments or parties to civil conflict or drug gangs, etc., if it was known that they were supplying the U.S. with sensitive information.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at January 05, 2011 10:50 AM | Send

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