Is Assange just super briefing the public in what it already knows?

I recall a few years ago being berated in Slugger’s comment zone by Julian Assange for daring to suggest that some decisions were best discussed behind closed doors. Despite our heavy duty investigation of Northern Ireland Water last year, I still don’t believe that everything in government automatically benefits from the transparency of the public square.

But reading the Irish Independent’s batch of Ireland cables from the State Department, begs the question: is Assange simply super briefing the public in what it by and large already knows?

The exercise may well have had different effects in the Arab world, but Ruth Dudley Edwards nails the ‘so what?’ nature of much of the Irish output:

The job of US diplomats — like that of diplomats everywhere — is to try to understand the country they’re serving in, to keep the interests of their own country in mind at all times and to feed useful information back to HQ. Big, rich countries have more diplomats than the small and weak, so even such a tiny cog in the global wheel as Ireland is closely scrutinised by American officials in case it is of importance to the big picture.

Diplomats get their information as journalists do: they read, listen and talk to people in the know. There was almost nothing in the Ireland cables that couldn’t have been written by well-connected hacks. Like hacks, diplomats vary in quality and judgement, so cables to the State Department contain their fair share of errors as well as insights.

All of which is why there has been too much fuss about the leaking of US diplomatic correspondence. True, it has made the job of diplomats more difficult and in some cases has put sources at risk, but in today’s world there is no such thing as confidentiality and it’s time governments recognised this.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty