Usually, when a WikiLeaks document dump is in the offering, US officials play like it could not possibly matter.
"More of the same," "nothing new," "just a repeat of what everyone was already aware of": these have been the standard lines.
But not this time. Washington is abuzz with Holiday weekend talk about how officials at the White House, the Department of Defense and the State Department are "holding their breath" in troubled anticipation of an imminent release of thousands of classified documents by the controversial website.
WikiLeaks is tweeting that officials in Washington are "hyperventilating again over fears of being held to account."
That’s not hype. They really are worried this time.
Why so? Because this release of documents could pull back the curtain on how the United States practices international diplomacy.
To understand why this matters, consider two related realities:
1. Many, if not all, of the US officials who deal on the international stage tend to like secrecy, as it allows them to play by different rules when dealing with countries that are deemed "allies" or "rogues." In other words, despite the blunt official talk about how the "war of terror" is a universal endeavor, the United States sometimes casts a blind eye toward—or even works with—groups that are identified as practicing terrorism.
2. These powerful players often feel threatened by transparency, as it reveals when they are allow allied states to act like rogue states. This gets especially messy when "friendly" governments are allowed to get away with actions that the US otherwise identifies as being so serious that might justify economic sanctions or even a military response.
Understand these facts and you will understand why official Washington is worried by this particular WikiLeak.
Reportedly, the next leak—which could come this weekend—will include "hundreds of thousands of classified State cables that detail private diplomatic discussions with other governments, potentially compromising discussions with dissidents, and even, reportedly, corruption allegations against foreign governments."
Among other things, international press accounts suggest, the new WikiLeak will include a military report revealing that the US officials were aware that the Turkish government allowed its citizens to aid Al Qaeda in Iraq. An additional document will, according to London’s Al-Hayat newspaper, reveal that the US aided Kurdish separatist rebels whose group, the PKK, is listed by the State Department as a foreign terrorist organization.