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WikiLeaks: A trivial gain, a profound loss

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REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

(Read caption) Wikileaks founder Julian Assange listens during a news conference on the Internet release of secret documents about the Iraq War, in London on October 23. Interpol issued a "red notice" on November 30 to assist in the arrest of Assange, founder of the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks, who is wanted in Sweden on suspicion of sexual crimes. Assange, a former computer hacker now at the centre of a global controversy after WikiLeaks released a trove of classified US diplomatic cables at the weekend, denies the Swedish allegations.

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Everybody knew about the gambling at Rick’s Cafe Americain, which is why Captain Renault in the movie “Casablanca” was so facetiously shocked when he “discovered” it. Because of the publication of thousands of secret State Department cables by WikiLeaks, we now know a lot more about the world than we did a few weeks ago. But the only shock is how much diplomats’ view of the world conforms with what journalists have been writing about and you have been reading about all these years.

WikiLeaks has not stood conventional wisdom on its head. So far, there’s been no evidence that the public was being deceived or defrauded by the US State Department or that democracy was being subverted. We’ve learned some gossipy bits (Muammar Qaddafi has eccentricities? Vladimir Putin is an “alpha dog”? Silvio Berlusconi burns the candle at both ends? Gosh!). We’ve learned what we’d expected (the Saudis are worried about Iran, and even the Chinese see North Korea as a “spoiled child”).

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