It was revealed last week that Scottish police had access to GCHQ’s project MILKWHITE in documents leaked by Edward Snowden, reminding us, in the words of Chelsea Manning, that “information should be free”.
But in 2010, three years before Snowden told the world about Britain and America’s mass spying programmes, Wikileaks began publishing US diplomatic cables in what became known as “Cablegate”.
The Wikileaks Files is the first scholarly book on the cables and begins to paint a picture of the world “according to US empire”, primarily in the form of individual country profiles that expose the realpolitik behind the headlines.
The Tel Aviv cables, for example, reveal a premeditated plan relayed to US diplomats to use force against peaceful demonstrators in the West Bank and show that even the US can be sceptical about Israeli claims.
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange pens the introduction, outlining the bizarre, quasi-religious culture that pervades the US State Department, whose internal reaction to the leaks was to forbid its staff from reading the cables if they came from a public source – despite these being identical to the copies held in government repositories.
Of particular interest are the cables that shed light on the creation of the International Criminal Court. Unhappy with the terms of the Rome Statute, the US eventually “unsigned” it under the Bush administration. It then demonstrated new hostility towards international law, cajoling and bullying states into signing agreements, outwith the scrutiny of their legislatures, to effectively ensure its nationals could act with impunity abroad. The 27 states that refused to kowtow were subjected to sanctions.
And, to date, only Africans have been indicted in the ICC.
Elsewhere, we learn about American diplomats’ efforts to act as salesman for biotech companies attempting to foist unwanted genetically modified agricultural products on European countries – and the resistance they encountered.
By providing expert guidance on the information in the cables, information that would normally be the preserve of future historians, The Wikileaks Files proves a valuable resource in understanding Pax Americana.
The Wikileaks Files by Julian Assange et al. Published by Verso Books, (£20.00 hardback) 614pp.