Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Wikileaks furore embarrasses US

Among the hundreds of thousands of stolen diplomatic cables released by the whistle-blowing website Wikileaks was a lot of tittle-tattle and name calling.

Some of the political figures who were painted in an unflattering light by US envoys may be annoyed, but the information is hardly likely to cause a major diplomatic incident.

What was of interest was the suggestion that Middle Eastern allies of America wanted the US to bomb Iran because of its nuclear potential.

American authorities may not have wanted that information made public, but Wikileaks and the newspapers who published the cables have a strong public interest defence. Why shouldn't the public know that armed confrontation with Iran is a possibility and that some Middle Eastern countries actually advocate it.

The reaction from the United States to the publication of the cables has been predictable, seeking to blame the messengers while defending the message. The fact that the cables could be viewed by nearly 3m government officials in the US means that they were hardly top secret in the first place. And if a worker can simply walk out with all this information on a memory stick, national security is hardly all it is cracked up to be.

The newspapers have acted responsibly with the information they were given - names they deemed sensitive were redacted. Some of the information is worthy of serious debate - one that includes the public and not just the political elite who spin their webs of deceit persistently.

Last month we were warned that cyber terrorism is one of the major threats facing the UK. What Wikileaks has done is show that the security of even the most powerful country in the world is easily breached. If a website can gain this amount of information, what could an enemy power do? That is the real question the US authorities should be asking.

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