Why Did WikiLeaks Have Such Little Impact?

A few months back, hundreds of thousands of pages of U.S. government documents were made available to the public through WikiLeaks. I have to say that, at the time, I thought this would be a history-making event. I figured there would be loads of interesting and controversial revelations in the documents. Huge scandals would emerge; heads would roll.

I was recently reminded, while reading a months-old copy of The Economist, just how little of interest has thus far emerged from the documents. The U.S. ambassador to Ecuador was sent home by the Ecuadorians because she had written a leaked cable saying (gasp) that the Ecuadorian police were corrupt. The article mentioned that a similar fate had befallen the American ambassador to Mexico.

Is that it? Is there nothing of importance in State Department cables?

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  1. Quincy says:

    We needn’t equivocate by conflating “importance” and “controversy”. I’m glad the State Department is boring. I like my government like I like my water: tepid, predictable, and bland, maybe even solvent.

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  2. AJ says:

    I think it did damage a lot of relationships around the world with our ambassadors and obviously with Sec. of State Clinton…but the data was just so massive that I don’t think people ever finished going through it before the next news cycle erupted to be honest…I’m sure intelligence organizations in countries are still mining through it…

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  3. Jack Roberts says:

    What about those few countries in the Middle East? You know, the ones with revolutions in the past year? That was the impact.

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  4. L says:

    Right. And why do these “top secret” documents contain mere common knowledge?

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    • Francisco Carvalho Venancio says:

      Precisely because they were short from “top secret”. Wikileaks source did not have “top secret” clearance, only “confidential” and “secret” documents are in Wikileaks.

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  5. devin grahams says:

    yeah, they totally had nothing to do with catalyzing arab spring at all…and even if they did, arab spring was nothing anyway, right?

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  6. Anita says:

    Yes, that’s kind of interesting.
    But it caused a lot buzz…

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  7. roseonpolitics says:

    I don’t think it’s that people didn’t care, but governments from around the world didn’t either. Some bad things were said in the cables but I can’t think of one government at the top of my head that made a big fuss over it, and instead went on with business as usual.

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  8. Francisco Carvalho Venancio says:

    Levitt,
    I think you’re writing this one out of US media bubble. Wikileaks had a humongous impact. The arab spring, to mention just one example, was made possible by a cable that told Tunisians that the US might support an outing of their dictator. There were many examples of impact in the whole world, many government official were put into suspicion due to the cables in many different countries.
    The only point I would concede to you is of its importance to the US. Not much of the Wikileaks impact was on US officials or interests. Some of this non-impact in the US is due to the media downplaying the importance of stories, but most of it is due to the predictable(from US perspective) nature of the (non-top secret) cables.
    Aside from that, you should keep in mind that the data is gigantic. It is entirely conceivable that it is just a matter that a deeper analysis of the data is necessary to have a greater impact in US politics.

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