Saturday, 25 December 2010

The dangers of over-classification

[This is the heading over a post by Oliver Miles (former UK ambassador to Libya) on the London Review of Books blog. It reads in part:]

For the most part [in the WikiLeaks cables] we see able, professional diplomats doing their best to understand and report on the places where they’re stationed, as anyone familiar with the State Department would expect. Those I have looked at (mostly from or concerning the Middle East) are classified up to ‘secret’, which is supposed to mean the information in them would cause ‘grave damage’ to national security if made public. One lesson is that over-classification, which is a form of bad security, is even more prevalent in the State Department today than it was in the British diplomatic service when I served in it. The most recent cables are a few months old. Most of the information in them, though of interest to specialists, is not particularly new.

One report which does contain some new information was sent from the US embassy in Libya in December 2009, giving details of discussions with the Libyans about possible arms sales – though evidence that the US was considering such deals was already in the public domain, for example in the list of members on the website of the US-Libya Business Association. It’s amusing that these US-Libyan discussions took place at the same time as – and are much wider in scope than – British-Libyan discussions on the same subject, produced as evidence of a corrupt relationship in the recent report by four US senators on the Megrahi affair.

1 comment:

  1. Does anyone know why a US diplomat was dismissed from Libya a week prior to the Wikileaks release?