Leaks and evesdropping

Lord Soley

 I have doubts about Wikileaks. Once they are out I think the press has a right to publish though I hope they do screen them to ensure the safety of individuals and organisations but I keep hearing Julian Assange complaining about the press picking up stories about him which he claims are leaks! That’s a bit rich!

 A lot of the material is gossip and just feeds into government’s policy assessments. Not big stuff – but some is big. My two concerns are that if it continues then all governments and many other organisations and individuals as well will simply make assessments top secret or only write it very cautiously. The other concern is the general mood in the democracies where we are beginning to assume that we are no better than the dictatorships – I’ve referred to this danger in other posts. Freedom is hard won and easily lost and although Wikileaks is not a serious threat to it there is a serious threat from the authoritarian groups and countries who do want to undermine the democracies – wouldn’t it be nice if we could have a Wikileaks in Russia, China, Iran etc.?

 The other story related to this is the bugging of Vince Cable. Is it right for a newspaper to go to an MP’s surgery and bug them like this? I learnt years ago to be careful what I said to strangers about certain political issues but is this good? I don’t think it is. When I started seeing the political groups linked to the paramilitaries in Northern Ireland I was extra careful about my statements to people. Had I not been so careful and if I had been bugged by a newspaper would that have been beneficial to the peace process? I doubt it.

 Finally there are some serious double standards here. The Daily Telegraph doesn’t want Murdoch to take full ownership of BSKYb so they didn’t use that part of the story (the BBC used it). So should we start bugging editors and journalists to see what they are hiding from us? We are on a slippery path.

18 comments for “Leaks and evesdropping

  1. Lord Blagger
    23/12/2010 at 8:58 am

    You don’t get it do you?

    You have no right to know what I get up to.

    I have no right to know what you get up to in your private life.

    I have every right to know what you get up to when you are employed to do a job and I’m paying.

    As for St Vince, the patron saint of the befuddled.

    Why is he in his job when he was planing on breaking the human rights act. Specifically article 6

  2. Carl.H
    23/12/2010 at 10:56 am

    Wikileaks, so the USA thinks the UK Government are all bumbling fools…No news there then, we`ve known that for years. The trouble with diplomacy and indeed politics at times is the lack of truth. You may have a “special relationship” or indeed a coalition it doesn`t mean you like each other. Anyone with any integrity who was given the material would have published it- except for the Telegraph who would have only printed what was good for them.

    So Vince Cable is a dirty old man who thinks power may help him live the youth he probably never had and a bed a few MILF`s. What`s new ? Men live and breath sex, is this new to Parliament ?

    It`s Christmas, the weather has been appalling, VAT is about to rise, cuts are about to occur everywhere and the papers think we`re interested in Vince is a perv or Julian Assange may not be. They`re not on my conversational list for Christmas.

    I hope in the new Cabinet Manual that they put in big bold clear type that THE MEDIA IS NOT PART OF PARLIAMENT. Couple of papers print a few things you start jumping all over the place sacking people. Thousands march on Parliament, you do nothing.

    “Finally there are some serious double standards here.”

    Well that`s probably the most truthful thing I`ve ever heard come from Parliament.

    “Had I not been so careful and if I had been bugged.”

    That`s the trouble with politics isn`t it, the truth is a casualty, they call it diplomacy we call it lying, scheming and double dealing.

    • 24/12/2010 at 4:46 pm

      I’m not sure you can simultaneously be a dirty old man and trying to bag a MILF. Not that I’m claiming to be the most up-to-date with the vernacular of kids these days or anything, but it seems contradictory to me.

      • Carl.H
        24/12/2010 at 7:42 pm

        The two are feasible to fit as I had put.

        A MILF is a particular type of female, that term is not dependent on the age of someone who may be sexually attracted to her, merely the fact she is a Mother with whom……..

  3. Gareth Howell
    23/12/2010 at 11:20 am

    who do want to undermine the democracies – wouldn’t it be nice if we could have a Wikileaks in Russia, China, Iran etc.?

    You mean on Iran we do not? Cute! Zion!
    ——————
    Blagger’s got it!
    St Vince, the patron saint of the befuddled. and being wound up by two pretty girls too, and having a quiet laugh!

    St Vince? My patron Saint for today!

  4. mcduff@beta57.com
    23/12/2010 at 12:10 pm

    “My two concerns are that if it continues then all governments and many other organisations and individuals as well will simply make assessments top secret or only write it very cautiously.”

    My Lord, I think you are mistaking a feature for a bug here. That is, in fact, the entire point.

    To quote Julian Assange:

    “The more secretive or unjust an organization is, the more leaks induce fear and paranoia in its leadership and planning coterie. This must result in minimization of efficient internal communications mechanisms (an increase in cognitive “secrecy tax”) and consequent system-wide cognitive decline resulting in decreased ability to hold onto power as the environment demands adaption. Hence in a world where leaking is easy, secretive or unjust systems are nonlinearly hit relative to open, just systems. Since unjust systems, by their nature induce opponents, and in many places barely have the upper hand, mass leaking leaves them exquisitely vulnerable to those who seek to replace them with more open forms of governance.”

    The point is not that any particular leak is particularly government-shaking or not. It is to try and inculcate an environment whereby, for example, the embarrassments about the “dodgy dossier” and other such bodged-together conspiracies of error would either have been revealed before the pointless invasion of Iraq, or simply never existed in the first place through fear of leaking.

    “The other concern is the general mood in the democracies where we are beginning to assume that we are no better than the dictatorships “

    At least dictatorships aren’t embarrassingly self-deluded.

    “wouldn’t it be nice if we could have a Wikileaks in Russia, China, Iran etc.?”

    Luckily for you, we have one. It is called “Wikileaks”.

    (Reuters) – Russia’s leading opposition newspaper said on Wednesday it would publish new WikiLeaks disclosures unmasking corruption among Russia’s “highest political echelons”.

    Shouldn’t people in our government *understand* things before they start “expressing doubts” about them? And isn’t the fact that they don’t appear to understand them before they are doubtful — concerned, even! — a cause for concern on our part? Maybe, just maybe, it’s an indication that nobody has any clue what they are doing and have so far managed to hide this fact from us?

    “The other story related to this is the bugging of Vince Cable. Is it right for a newspaper to go to an MP’s surgery and bug them like this?”

    The worst thing about the Cable scandal is that the bloke didn’t say anything unreasonable. It was a problem for internal cohesion of the government and whatnot, but the man has been railroaded for having reasonable opinions which cohere quite strongly with the prevailing views of the nation. I’m sure there’ll be lessons learned by the Cameron regime somewhere about the importance of tolerating internal dissent, and I for one have set aside some vintage popcorn to break out when that occasion rolls round.

    It’s also funny how people interpret “impartial” and such, these days. Having an opinion that Rupert Murdoch shouldn’t get a vice-like monopoly over our media is intolerable. Having an opinion that Rupert Murdoch gets to do whatever the hell he pleases is, in fact, what “impartial” means. And people worry about “democracy”, pfft. It’s perfectly fine, because we all elected Rupert Murdoch, right, so the fact that he apparently has the power to scare the bejezus out of every leader of every political party we’ve got going is totally fine and not at all a sign of the weakness of our political system, right?

    “So should we start bugging editors and journalists to see what they are hiding from us? “

    YES! Oh dear sweet Lord in heaven, YES, a thousand times, yes!

    Aside from the fact that openness and transparency at, say, the News of the World during Andy Coulson’s tenure might indeed have been of some benefit to democracy in recent years, it would be amazing, astounding, and totally enlightening to get the inside scoop on what the thought process is behind these “Daily Mail Reporter” stories where Muslim-shaped cherries are picked to nicely shape a story that appeals to the paranoia of Middle England, or at the Desmond papers where they mendaciously distort the facts about immigration to come up with headlines like “DIRTY SMELLY FOREIGNERS TAKE ALL THE JOBS AND BENEFITS!”

    I’d be *most* interested to find out what they believed their own s**t smells of.

    Of course, we might find something out about internal conspiracies between the various levels of government and one Mr R Murdoch, and for the sake of democracy who could tolerate that kind of thing?

    Oh, and I don’t mean that *you* should bug newspapers. Heavens above, the last thing I want to do is to let the state have more power. No, what I expect will happen is that someone will leak embarrassing information exposing Murdoch, Dacre, or Gallagher and the Barclay brothers as being involved in some kind of chicanery, and the government will immediately act on behalf of those accused of chicanery and harrumph all over the place about the “irresponsibility” of Wikileaks.

    No, *you* shouldn’t do anything. We’ll do it, thanks.

    • Lord Blagger
      23/12/2010 at 2:25 pm

      The worst thing about the Cable scandal is that the bloke didn’t say anything unreasonable.

      ==============

      Perhaps.

      However as the judge in the competition case, he did say it.

      First he was caught out discussing breaching the human rights act, with some relish. He wasn’t going to recluse himself, so it was deliberate.

      Who would have thought it. St Vince, human rights abuser.

      • Dan Filson
        11/01/2011 at 11:15 am

        It is a bit naive to think nobody in public life has ever said something more than a tad critical of Murdoch in what they thought was a private discussion. Should everyone who has done so recuse themselves from any quasi-judicial considerations on Murdoch-related issues?

  5. mcduff@beta57.com
    23/12/2010 at 12:44 pm

    Here’s something it’s good that we know, as a result of the recent Wikileaks cable drop.

    The Daily Star reports today

    1 IN 3 KIDS ‘TO KILL FOR ISLAM’
    and goes on to say

    ONE in three British Muslim students supports the idea of killing in the name of Islam.

    The figures were uncovered by Wikileaks’ publication of a secret US diplomatic message.”

    What we find out here is that British Tabloids lie and distort figures in order to present a shocking and racist view of something, and that these frightful headlines are then picked up by the diplomatic corps who require utmost secrecy to keep us safe and used to inform their decisions.

    I don’t feel any *safer* now knowing that US diplomats think that the Daily Mail is a good source of information about Muslims, but I do feel a good deal better informed about exactly how idiotic the people in charge of safeguarding our democracies really are.

    • ladytizzy
      23/12/2010 at 3:12 pm

      Well, the killing in the name of Islam is usually termed dhabiha halal…oh, I see what they’ve done. Tsk.

  6. Carl.H
    23/12/2010 at 2:14 pm

    Wikileaks, so the USA thinks the UK Government are all bumbling fools…No news there then, we`ve known that for years. The trouble with diplomacy and indeed politics at times is the lack of truth. You may have a “special relationship” or indeed a coalition it doesn`t mean you like each other. Anyone with any integrity who was given the material would have published it- except for the Telegraph who would have only printed what was good for them.

    It`s Christmas, the weather has been appalling, VAT is about to rise, cuts are about to occur everywhere and the papers think we`re interested in Vince`s sexploits/lack of, or Julian Assange`s. They`re not on my conversational list for Christmas.

    I hope in the new Cabinet Manual that they put in big bold clear type that THE MEDIA IS NOT PART OF PARLIAMENT. Couple of papers print a few things you start jumping all over the place sacking people. Thousands march on Parliament, you do nothing.

    “Finally there are some serious double standards here.”

    Well that`s probably the most truthful thing I`ve ever heard come from Parliament.

    “Had I not been so careful and if I had been bugged.”

    That`s the trouble with politics isn`t it, the truth is a casualty, they call it diplomacy we call it lying, scheming and double dealing.

  7. Senex
    23/12/2010 at 4:00 pm

    LS: Brrr! It’s warmer in the fridge.

    Your editorial touched upon four subjects: wikileaks, democracy, Vince Cable and the press. In response the ‘duff’ replied in 853 words when his budget was 4 x 250 or 1000 words on a pro rata basis.

    Given that we all have to give more for less your editorial certainly meets this criterion but it places respondents in a difficult position with regard to their own replies.

    I don’t think that we should give the impression that in politics words are so cheap that it represents a quantitative easing of the blogs terms and conditions? If the house is self regulating when it sits then so should be its blog when it publishes?

    Merry Christmas everybody!
    HM Ministry of Blogs

  8. ladytizzy
    23/12/2010 at 4:13 pm

    Racking my brains here, trying to think of a proprietor of a national newspaper who isn’t/ wasn’t a psychopathic freak. Is it not likely that Wikileaks will become one among many under the directorship of Mr Assange, or has he gone further than even Sinn Fein dared?

    As for The Daily Telegraph bugging govenment ministers you, Lord Soley, have had no problem understanding the ways of journalists. Are you so untypical or has journalism changed?

    MPs have allowed editors to continue (relatively) unfettered in the name of freedom of the press. When Joe Public gets a mauling, it’s tough luck; any reason why I should have a particular sympathy with a public figure who can’t work out where his loyalties lie?

    • Gareth Howell
      24/12/2010 at 6:21 pm

      Mc duff’s third paragraph surely refers to
      Corruption? The more secretive or unjust an organization is>/i>

      Cable has an excellent line of wit and is one of the most astute members of parliament and govt.

      No fool; his way of wishing us all the complements of the season!

      Heh! Heh! Heh!

  9. Dan Filson
    10/01/2011 at 3:18 pm

    ” … the general mood in the democracies where we are beginning to assume that we are no better than the dictatorships …” I concur. One characteristic of both Weimar Germany and the final years of the French Third Republic was the denigration of politics generally, of the parliamentary process and of politicians to the about that many ordinary folk really believed that sweeping away the whole rotten edifice would be an improvement – they learned to their cost and that of millions of others that it was not. So whilst I think many on opposite benches may be deluded, stupid, negligent, reckless, foolish, daft etc., I, on the whole, think democracy is better than the alternative, just as life itself is better than the alternative.
    So how do we restore confidence and faith in the democratic process even at a time when the Government of the day is doing asinine things believing them to be right. It is by articulating what is wrong with what the other lot are doing without denigration or ad hominem abuse of those doing it. It is by teaching or preaching the benefits of logical thought and analysis. IF we have civics classes, whatever they may be called, one question the teachers should regularly ask the pupils when they assert something, is “How do you know?”; force people to think about the evidence base behind their assertions, and even to analyse the evidence itself as to why it should be so.
    So I dislike the random deluge of tittle-tattle that most of Wikileaks, I deplore the recklessness of some of the material releases (for example, some stuff relating to Sudan in highly inflammatory given there is a ballot proceeding there) and deplore the bugging of any MP simply to unearth by way of a fishing trip that they may be a humbug. I would not want a return to the 1950s deferential “Any word for the public, Prime Minister?” which was mostly lazy journalism. Bring back Anthony Howard and his Whitehall Correspondent days, and without a PM ordering nobody to talk to him.

  10. Lord Blagger
    10/01/2011 at 8:21 pm

    I, on the whole, think democracy is better than the alternative,

    ===============

    So do I. That’s why I’m pushing for it, but we have unelected ‘politicians’ such as Lord Norton dictating to us what to do.

    In the past when it took several days to get to Westminister, a representative democracy is about the only choice.

    However we live in an age where people can communicate their wishes as fast as is needed. We have less need for a representative. We can move towards a direct democracy, with one person, one vote on an issue.

    We don’t need wikileaks. We need the whole of government opened up. All emails for example from the treasury, in the public domain.

    We need all cabinet discussions on a web cam, and the opposition to boot. We need all Lords emails open for all to read, all phone conversations at work recorded for the people who pay to listen too.

    If you’ve nothing to hide, what’s the problem?

  11. Lord Blagger
    10/01/2011 at 8:23 pm

    The other story related to this is the bugging of Vince Cable. Is it right for a newspaper to go to an MP’s surgery and bug them like this?

    ======================

    And is it correct that he’s planning to go to war against someone where he’s acting as a judge?

    Without this we wouldn’t have known just how impartial he is, or that he was actively planning to break the Human Rights Act?

    So the question for Clive.

    Is it acceptable to bug someone planning on breaking the Human Rights Act?

    • 11/01/2011 at 1:49 pm

      I find it quite amusing that you despise the house of Lords because they are “unelected”, but you have no problem with Rupert Murdoch gaining control of vast swathes of our media, despite the fact that he is doing it for political gain. But of tunnel vision there, isn’t there?

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