U.K. Ambassador: WikiLeaks Will Harm U.S. Foreign Policy
In the seven-page letter to Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Sheinwald wrote bluntly about Senator Barack Obama’s lack of experience, questioned his position on talks with Iran and called the presidential candidate “aloof.”
In the wake of WikiLeaks exposure, where more than 250,000 once-classified diplomatic documents were massively disclosed, leaks of confidential information are putting into question the future of diplomatic negotiations between Foreign Service Officers.
“That’s what diplomats do, we are paid to provide those confidential assessments back to our governments on what is going on in the country in which we are working,” Sheinwald said in an interview at the Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism. “It’s going to be much more difficult for people to talk candidly to us if the stuff is going to appear in the newspapers word for word.”
Likening the work of a diplomat to that of a lawyer, Sheinwald said the release of diplomatic cables has the same effect as sharing the strengths and weaknesses of the other party’s case before a courtroom.
“Diplomacy can’t survive without confidentiality and without trust,” he said. “You need that to be able to conduct relationships, get information, transact business together, and in that respect diplomacy is no different from so many other branches of life.”
While some like Dan Ellsberg, known for his role as the whistleblower behind the Pentagon Papers, applaud WikiLeaks for its ability to “keep governments open,” Sheinwald argues that the premise that governments are closed regarding information related to foreign service is not always true.
“It doesn’t mean that everything that we do is conducted in secret,” he said, “[The] government in the United States, my government in the U.K., is accountable to the public. It explains itself day by day, often minute by minute in terms of the big policies which are in play.”
Sheinwald underscored the importance of the bilateral relationship between the U.K. and U.S., condemning the unauthorized release of the confidential information and stressing the ties between the two nations.
“We have an extraordinary close relationship with the U.S.-- that relationship is essential for Britain’s security, for Britain’s prosperity, and Europe’s security and prosperity.”
With 35 years of experience as a diplomat, Sheinwald said the future of diplomatic negotiations between U.S. diplomats and foreign countries is dependent on the steps that are taken by the Secretary of State to stop future leaks.
“I think that’s what governments have to do while at the same time, making sure our public have to understand what is going on in foreign policy," said Sheinwald, "but it is not as so they need an absolute requirement of people to know every single word that is conducted in private between diplomats.”
Reach contributor Silva Sevlian here.