Academic journal article Journal of Theoretical & Philosophical Criminology

WikiLeaks and Realpolitik

Academic journal article Journal of Theoretical & Philosophical Criminology

WikiLeaks and Realpolitik

Article excerpt


WikiLeaks-an online whistle-blowing organization based in Sweden-released documents from U.S. foreign diplomats, termed "the diplomatic cables," on November 28, 2010. Upon their release, politicians from both sides of the U.S. political spectrum condemned the organization. This analysis demonstrates that the censure was not a result of unmanageable harm to U.S. foreign relations but because WikiLeaks violated the United States state secret privilege. Through an inductive approach, a realpolitik perspective is adopted to make sense of the aftermath of the release. Realpolitik is governance based on national interests which drives the decisions of the United State government. State secrets, while certainly having legitimate uses, are used to cover up state crimes and misdeeds. They are kept because the government seeks to control its image and any information that can harm it. Politicians and government leaders respond in a manner meant to neutralize threats to the state's image and control of information. This analysis demonstrates how realpolitik is at work through the responding political rhetoric to WikiLeaks release of the diplomatic cables through an examination of the use of arbitrary rhetoric-vague and open statements made by officials that leave room for interpretation favorable to the state-and the labeling of WikiLeaks as a criminal organization.

WikiLeaks and Realpolitik

WikiLeaks has teased the genie of transparency out of a very opaque bottle, and powerful forces in America, who thrive on secrecy, are trying desperately to stuff the genie back in.

Col. Lawrence Wilkerson1


As the year 2010 came to a close, one topic flickered across news sources throughout the United States and the world-WikiLeaks. In particular, scrutiny was drawn to the whistle-blower organization because of the attention it garnered following the release of secret U.S. documents (emails from U.S. foreign diplomats) dubbed the "diplomatic cables." The political reaction was predominantly bipartisan and unified during this period with politicians from both sides of the U.S. political spectrum denouncing the release of the documents and condemning the organization. This analysis focuses on the relationship between the release of the secret U.S. documents and the political reactions that followed.

WikiLeaks is an Internet-based whistle-blower organization currently operated out of Sweden and founded by an Australian, Julian Assange. Notoriety for the organization was first achieved following the release of a classified video in 2009 which WikiLeaks entitled "Collateral Murder." This video featured a U.S. attack helicopter mistaking unarmed civilians (two of whom were reporters) as armed insurgents (Leigh & Harding, 2011). The civilians were gunned down along with another civilian to another who stopped to help the wounded. Two children were also hurt in the gunfire. This video throttled WikiLeaks into the international spotlight.

One of the reasons for WikiLeaks' international media status during this period was public officials' reactions to the organization. Following the release of the diplomatic cables, U.S. political officials claimed the leaks would hurt U.S. foreign policy despite an assessment by the Obama Administration that the damage would be "containable" (Hosenball, 2011). Officials also called for measures to be taken against WikiLeaks that included labeling the organization as terrorist, prosecuting Julian Assange under the Espionage Act of 1917, and even calls for the execution of suspected leakers ("Biden Slams," 2010; Kohn, 2010; Leigh & Harding, 2011; Poulsen, 2010; Rubin, 2010a; Rubin, 2010b). These reactions reveal a government primarily concerned with preserving the image of the United States and maintaining its power. In other words, it indicates a government run on realpolitik.

This analysis will demonstrate a link between state secrecy, state crime, and realpolitik using evidence provided by the controversy surrounding WikiLeaks and the release of the diplomatic cables. …

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