More Repressive Regimes Use Wikileaks Cables To Expose “Traitors”

by Joseph W

Last week, the Belarus government officials met with “Israel Shamir“, the Holocaust-denying Wikileaks “gatekeeper” claiming to be Julian Assange’s representative in Minsk.

On behalf of Wikileaks, Shamir claimed to have never-before-seen documents which would allegedly prove ties between the Belarussian opposition and the US government. December 20 2010, President Lukashenko promised to publish these documents in the sympathetic, pro-government newspaper Soviet Belarus.

When asked about this by Guardian journalists, Assange defended Shamir’s conduct in Belarus, and Wikileaks policy towards “gatekeepers”. Four days later, we learn of other developments regarding Wikileaks and global politics.

CNN reports on Cuba:

A Cuban government-run website has begun translating into Spanish and posting online leaked U.S. government cables that discuss the island nation.

“Las Razones de Cuba” or “Cuba’s Reasons” has as of Friday published seven cables originally released by WikiLeaks, the group whose leaks of confidential documents has been deeply embarrassing for U.S. officials.

The translated cables detail meetings between independent Cuban bloggers with officials from the United States Interests Section, the U.S. diplomatic mission in Cuba.

According to the “Cuba’s Reasons” website, the cables show an attempt by U.S. officials to “organize youth networks to subvert the Cuban Revolution.”

Reuters reports on Zimbabwe:

Zimbabwe’s attorney general plans to set up a commission to investigate possible treason charges against locals over briefings with U.S. diplomats that are part of confidential State Department cables released by WikiLeaks.

The investigation appears to be targeting Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and follows state media reports that hawks in President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party wanted an official probe against Tsvangirai over his briefings with the U.S. ambassador in Harare.

In comments that appear in one U.S. state department cable obtained by WikiLeaks, Tsvangirai appears to suggest that his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) was not genuine in calling for the lifting of Western sanctions against ZANU-PF.

Attorney General Johannes Tomana said on Saturday he would appoint a team of five lawyers to establish whether reports in the WikiLeaks amounted to any breach of the constitution.

“The WikiLeaks appear to show a treasonous collusion between local Zimbabweans and the aggressive international world, particularly the United States,” Tomana said in a statement.

“With immediate effect, I am going to instruct a team of practising lawyers to look into the issues that arise from the WikiLeaks.”

In both cases, it seems that information plucked from the US cables is being used to discredit political opponents of tyranny. This was an inevitable consequence of leaking US cables containing sensitive information about political actors in other countries.

Is this Wikileaks’ fault?

Well, yes and no. It seems that in both cases, the authorities in question are simply using documents which are already online, adapting select information for their own purposes.

Then again, one wonders if Wikileaks is using “gatekeepers” in these regions, and which journalists they are working with. Following the recent conduct of Israel Shamir in Belarus, it is something we really should know about.

Given Wikileaks’ apparent lack of concern about Shamir, I fear that there will be further situations in which Wikileaks leaks sensitive information from open governments, and puts it in the hands of closed governments. This will put more strain on those who want to open governments in more closed regimes.

For now though, what gets me is the fact that both Cuba and Zimbabwe think they can use Wikileaks to expose “traitors”. Note the language used by Mugabee-appointed judge Johannes Tomana. Tomana, incidentally, has been recently placed under sanctions by the USA for ‘undermining the democratic process’ in Zimbabwe.

Tomana uses the word ‘treasonous’ to describe Zimbabweans allegedly colluding with the USA.

In August, after the Taliban in Afghanistan threatened to hunt down and punish “traitors” who colluded with the USA,  we learn that Assange:

expressed some ambivalence about the need to protect Afghans who have helped the U.S. military. “We are not obligated to protect other people’s sources,” including sources of “spy organizations or militaries,” unless it is from “unjust retribution,” he said, adding that the Afghan public “should know about” people who have engaged in “genuinely traitorous” acts.

It may have been unintentional, but Wikileaks was sending a message to the world: those who feel offended by the US via Cablegate should define words like “traitorous” and “treasonous” as they see fit.

Accordingly, this idea of traitors would be used by the Taliban in threats against opponents in Afghanistan. It would also be used by the Lukashenko regime against opponents in Belarus. It is now being used against Morgan Tsvangirai in Zimbabwe, and likely will be used against political opponents of the Castro regime in Cuba.

We will probably see other instances of this in the near future.

Wikileaks did not ask Zimbabwean officials to use Cablegate against Tsvangirai. Effectively though, they have encouraged Belarussian officials to use Cablegate against political adversaries.

Wikileaks is not to blame for repressive government, and indeed has revealed information that hopefully will in time open up unjust and repressive governments, just as they did with Kenya.

Still, Wikileaks does bear responsibility for their feckless, reckless attitude towards “traitors”, and the dangerous conduct of their “gate-keeping” representatives, which only seem to encourage other repressive regimes.

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