The former British diplomat recounts his own whistleblowing and the benefits and dangers of the WikiLeaks dipomatic cables dump.

Carne Ross, a former British diplomat who blew the whistle on his own government’s foreign policy procedures, dropped by The Nation‘s offices last week to recount his journey from civil servant to independent advisor for politicians around the world and the benefits and dangers of the WikiLeaks dipomatic cables dump.

While working for the British government, Ross held a senior post in the UN delegation and was heavily involved in the negotiations prior to the Iraq war. After realizing his government was leading the nation to war under false pretenses, he gave testimony at an official inquiry into the government’s use of intelligence and later resigned. Since then, Ross has founded Independent Diplomat, a non-profit group which advises marginalized regions on how to gain access to decision makers and international forums that drive policy, such as the UN and EU. Most recently, it has been guiding the government of Southern Sudan on how to play an active role in the diplomatic processes under way that are deciding the fate of the region.

Ross’s own experience tells him the vast majority of foreign policy can be openly discussed and revealed much more transparently than it currently is, and that WikiLeaks has helped to lift this veil.

“Foreign policy is what we think it is, there isn’t any great secret to it,” Ross says. “The diplomatic elite have tried to pretend that there is something fundamentally complex and difficult about it as a way to keep everybody else out.”

But he wishes that the founders of WikiLeaks had been more selective in what they chose to release. Cables, like those that exposed Spanish anti-terrorism defenses of nuclear sites, are contrary to the public’s interest, he says.

Sara Jerving

Image courtesy of Independent Diplomat