The release of some 250,000 US diplomatic emails stirred the world’s ruling elites into a bit of a froth.
Politicians globally professed gradations of outrage at the publication of the material. Some in the US called for the website Wikileaks—which released the documents—to be treated as a terrorist organisation.
The details of the leaked messages are often banal.
It is no real surprise that US secretary of state Hillary Clinton told her diplomats to spy on world leaders and diplomats at the United Nations. In reality, it is what diplomats are for.
It’s also no shock that Prince Andrew, PR man for Britain’s arms industry, criticised a variety of governments as corrupt, stupid and backward in a conversation with a US diplomat.
He was outraged anyone had investigated the BAE arms dealers for corruption. Quite what he was doing in Kyrgyzstan where he said all this was not revealed in the memo.
This is a world of gossip, slander and prejudice—the basis of all secret intelligence.
Libya’s Colonel Gaddafi was believed to be very close to a “voluptuous” Ukrainian nurse. Argentinian president Cristina Kirchner is considered mentally unstable and so on.
But beneath the sludge there are hints of important things. First, the “intelligence” gathered by diplomats starts wars. It decides whose jobs are sacrificed for free trade. That it is treated in such a shallow way is an indictment of our rulers.
So far there is one important symbolic communiqué in the myriad of messages.
This is a 2007 cable from the US embassy in Berlin.
It describes a meeting during which the then-deputy chief of the US mission to Germany, John M Koenig, urged German deputy national security adviser Rolf Nikel to “weigh carefully at every step of the way the implications for relations with the US” of issuing arrest warrants against CIA agents in the case of Khaled el-Masri:
“He reminded Nikel of the repercussions to US-Italian bilateral relations in the wake of a similar move by Italian authorities last year.”
Nikel, “Undertook to do so, but reiterated that he could not, at this point ‘promise that everything will turn out well’.”
The leaked document does not say what happened to Masri.
The German car salesman was apparently mistaken for an Al Qaida suspect with a similar name on New Year’s Eve in 2003.
He was arrested at the border while crossing from Serbia into Macedonia by bus. Macedonian authorities turned him over to a CIA rendition team.
Masked figures stripped him naked, shackled him and led him onto a Boeing 737 jet.
From Skopje, Macedonia, the 737 flew to Baghdad, Iraq, where it had military clearance to land.
It then moved on to the notorious Salt Pit prison outside the Afghan capital, Kabul. Masri was repeatedly interrogated by a US agent called Sam.
He was chained to the floor of the jet and injected with sedatives.
After landing, he was put in the boot of a car and driven to a building where he was placed in a dank cell.
He spent the next four months there under interrogation, torture and sexual abuse.
Nearly five months after his kidnapping, Masri’s captors returned him to Macedonia. They released him on a dark and deserted road near the Albanian border in May 2004.
The US flight crew fared better than their passenger.
Documents show that after the 737 delivered Masri to the Afghan prison it flew to the resort island of Majorca, where crew members stayed at a luxury hotel for two nights.
In response to the US request from Koenig to Nikel revealed in the leaks, the CIA agents who kidnapped and tortured Masri were not prosecuted.
Behind the banality of diplomacy there lies a chilling brutality.