Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: The Wellington Cables

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  • giovanni tiso, in reply to Neil Morrison,

    It’s interesting but is it worth compromising diplomatic confidentiality

    Again, not to repeat myself or anything, but compromising diplomatic confidentiality isn't an unfortunate side-effect: it's the whole bloody point.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Neil Morrison,

    it’s the whole bloody point.

    yes, I gather that. I had thought that leaks were supposed to be justified by having specific significant goals. If the aim is to prevent all confidentiality then I think that's not something I support.

    Since Nov 2006 • 932 posts Report Reply

  • Public Servant on a tea-break.,

    Thing is, we very probably did. As Danyl notes, his partner included a declaration with her stories and I strongly suspect the others did the same.

    In that case Russell, you follow journalists closer than I do, which is what I'd expect.

    While I do try to follow politicians, I don't follow journalists that closely. I didn't know about this trips. I'm pretty sure that on their broadcasts for TVNZ and 3 News Guy Espiner and Ali Ikram didn't mention it. I don’t recall Katherine Ryan mentioning it at all.

    And how does anyone declare that the specialist editors / or newsroom bosses such as Guy Espiner, Cliff Joiner, and Justin Short had accepted an invitation to the US? What influence over the news reports would editors have, don’t they pick what gets to be aired in the first place?

    I confess, I don’t know if the proper declarations were printed on the online article which accompanies news reports, but how many people actually go to the online article if they have already seen / heard a broadcasted item?

    Wellington • Since Apr 2008 • 67 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to Neil Morrison,

    I don’t see how small amounts of random information is of any use.

    You’re describing your posts, there, aren’t you Neil?

    Look, we get that you don’t like Wikileaks. Can you move on and deal with the fact that they’re here and not going away?

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2935 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso, in reply to Neil Morrison,

    If the aim is to prevent all confidentiality then I think that's not something I support.

    Since I believe you might have been the person who claimed in another thread that US diplomacy is aimed at doing good in the world and upholding human rights, I'd humbly submit that you might benefit from reading this.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Neil Morrison,

    I was under the impression that Wikileaks had some sort of threshold but if they don’t then it is completely random

    Neither. From earlier conversations here, it seems WikiLeaks outsources the initial decision about what to release to their chosen local media partners. And in our case the SST brought in Hager to do their analysis because of his relevant background knowledge.

    Neil, have you been following the discussion about WikiLeaks' strategy on Keith's thread?

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19735 posts Report Reply

  • Danyl Mclauchlan,

    @Public Servant, this is pretty common practise in journalism. Companies pay business/economics reporters to attend product launches around NZ and overseas. Other companies embassies (mostly Germany and China) sponsor similar trips, as do their tourism organisations.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 927 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    There are also journalists who happen to think it taints the process - Consumer Magazine, amongst others, even though it limits what they do in that they can only compare products that they can afford to purchase.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Danyl Mclauchlan,

    There are also journalists who happen to think it taints the process - Consumer Magazine, amongst others, even though it limits what they do in that they can only compare products that they can afford to purchase.

    There would be a pretty obvious conflict of interest for Consumer to accept free stuff, and I don't have much time for journalists who write features gushing about their recent holiday in the Gold Coast, sponsored by the Queensland Tourist Office. But if the State Dept sends a journalist to the US to cover one of their elections is there really a massive conflict of interest?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 927 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Danyl Mclauchlan,

    Other companies embassies (mostly Germany and China) sponsor similar trips, as do their tourism organisations.

    As does Tourism NZ.

    For that matter, Keith, Graham, Hadyn and I have travelled with the assistance of the Asia New Zealand Foundation.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22843 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso, in reply to Danyl Mclauchlan,

    But if the State Dept sends a journalist to the US to cover one of their elections is there really a massive conflict of interest?

    I don't know. I think it complicates things, at the very minimum. Why does the State Department even offer? What's in it for them?

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Public Servant on a tea-break.,

    @Public Servant, this is pretty common practise in journalism. Companies pay business/economics reporters to attend product launches around NZ and overseas.

    Thanks Danyl.

    Wellington • Since Apr 2008 • 67 posts Report Reply

  • Danyl Mclauchlan,

    Why does the State Department even offer? What's in it for them?

    Mostly they send our MPs, not our journalists. I think it's partly a relic of the cold war, partly a realisation that the US isn't too popular around the world and that a good way to spread sympathy for their country and systems is to expose influential people to it.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 927 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to Danyl Mclauchlan,

    partly a realisation that the US isn’t too popular around the world and that a good way to spread sympathy for their country and systems is to expose influential people to it.

    Then surely they should be throwing money at Wikileaks, which is exposing them to more influential people than they could possibly imagine :-D (not seeing a lot of sympathy out it it, though)

    With due respect to your wife and other journos that have been on the scheme, the State Dept wan's to expose only a favourable view to those influential people.

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2935 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart, in reply to Danyl Mclauchlan,

    Mostly they send our MPs, not our journalists. I think it’s partly a relic of the cold war, partly a realisation that the US isn’t too popular around the world and that a good way to spread sympathy for their country and systems is to expose influential people to it.

    I'm currently in the US on a Fulbright scholarship, and I don't think it would shock anyone to note that it's fairly obvious the basic idea of the program is to expose successful young people from all over the world to US culture and hope it sticks favourably (and, vice versa, to send Americans out to see other parts of the world - I think people forget that bit.) It dates back to the late '40s, so it's not just about any current unpopularity; it is, I think, about a genuine belief that extended contact helps understanding and cooperation.

    Trying to improve relations by improving exposure isn't sinister unless you believe the US is so seductive everyone will be immediately converted to wanting everything they want, or, alternatively, that everyone they send is very easily influenced. Or both. I think it might be slightly more complex than that.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2105 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Williams,

    I'm also not automatically concerned by this approach. I understand that soft-power strategies are increasingly common and sponsoring trips or arrangements that build knowledge etc is fine so long as there's transparency.

    Here's a great TED talk by the historian and author Joseph Nye, who I understand coined the term, at a recent Oxford TED event.

    Sydney • Since Nov 2006 • 2273 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Lucy Stewart,

    Trying to improve relations by improving exposure isn't sinister

    Nope. And wearing my Auckland Film Society hat, the NZ Federation of Film Societies and the NZ FIlm Festival Trust are very grateful for the cultural diplomacy without which large chunks of our programming simply wouldn't be financially viable.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Danyl Mclauchlan,

    With due respect to your wife and other journos that have been on the scheme, the State Dept wan's to expose only a favourable view to those influential people.

    Well obviously, that's why they do it. But these are journalists, not, say, Herald columnists, so they're not mindless sheep. And they're not driven around theme parks in windowless vans, they're basically let loose to do and see what they want.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 927 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    In the interest of finding out the basic information rather than yet more muttering in a conspiratorial fashion, here’s some on the International Visitor Program, which has operated for the past 60 years under authority of the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act of 1961 (Fulbright-Hays Act) and is administered by the Department of State’s Bureau of Educational & Cultural Affairs.

    It’s aligned with the International Visitor Leadership Program, in which Helen Clark, David Lange, Bill Rowling and Norm Kirk all participated at different times in their careers.

    They’re overseen by the National Council for International Visitors, which describes itself as “a non-profit organization established in 1961 to promote excellence in citizen diplomacy.”

    The IVLP’s two long-term goals are cited by the council as:

    1. Link the foreign leaders with their U.S. counterparts, providing a solid professional experience and in-depth, substantive exploration of key issues and diverse, balanced approaches to these issues.

    2. Enable the visitors to gain a better understanding of the history and heritage of the United States, a better sense of who [Americans] are as a people and what [Americans] value.

    None of this is a secret, and none of it has been a secret for six bloody decades.

    But of course, it was in a Wikileaked cable so it must be a scandal.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22843 posts Report Reply

  • Che Tibby, in reply to Russell Brown,

    None of this is a secret, and none of it has been a secret for six bloody decades.

    But of course, it was in a Wikileaked cable so it must be a scandal.

    correct. i know someone who went to the US on one of these trips just this year.

    apparently, he drank a lot of beer, shook a lot of hands. thank you Mr. US taxpayer and your junket slush fund...

    <disclaimer> he may have been mind-cored and a robot sent back in his place. i dunno, haven't seen him since</disclaimer>

    the back of an envelope • Since Nov 2006 • 2042 posts Report Reply

  • Andrew E,

    NZLemming wrote:

    A Science and Technology cooperation agreement between the US Department of Homeland Security and New Zealand, relating to enhancement of each country’s domestic and external security capabilities, is slated to soon be signed.

    I may not have been watching but this was a complete surprise to me. Anyone know about this?

    Yes, I knew about it. But then again, I keep an eye out for those things.

    Readers of this thread might also be interested in the book, available online for free, National Security and Open Government: Striking the Right Balance. In particular, the chapter Nato's Security of Information Policy and the Right to Information by Professor Alasdair Roberts (starts on page 149). This details NATO's (and thus US) influence on restricting the availability of information, in spite of countries having OIA-type laws. New Zealand very probably has a bilateral 'Security of Information' agreement with the US, which may well go beyond pure defence and intelligence sharing. A common feature of these agreements is that they explicitly 'trump' OIA laws, enabling governments here to withhold informaton on the basis of s. 6(a) or s. 6(b) of the OIA.

    174.77 x 41.28 • Since Sep 2008 • 200 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to giovanni tiso,

    I don’t know. I think it complicates things, at the very minimum. Why does the State Department even offer? What’s in it for them?

    I think the above answers that. There's certainly a good discussion to be had about media resourcing, given that most journalists' working and study travel outside New Zealand is conducted on some sort of external funding.

    But suddenly deciding that a longstanding public exchange programme is some secret spy business is a symptom of what irks me about the paranoid culture fostered by Wikileaks.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22843 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso, in reply to Lucy Stewart,

    Trying to improve relations by improving exposure isn't sinister unless you believe the US is so seductive everyone will be immediately converted to wanting everything they want, or, alternatively, that everyone they send is very easily influenced. Or both. I think it might be slightly more complex than that.

    Of course it is - it was the case even when Western journalists visited the Soviet Union on state sponsored trips, and each side was trained to think the worst of the other.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso, in reply to Russell Brown,

    But suddenly deciding that a longstanding public exchange programme is some secret spy business is a symptom of what irks me about the paranoid culture fostered by Wikileaks.

    Sorry, that post of mine was a little carelessly worded - I didn't mean in fact to imply that it was, merely that it's an influence, but then being beholden to your publisher, who also happens to be a commercial interest, is also an influence, and is less explicitly declared than the odd foreign state department sponsored trip.

    As for 'the paranoid culture fostered by Wikileaks', man, I think you're so far off the mark I don't really know where to start. I might limit myself to asking you what I asked Keir. Can you look back on the history of the WikiLeaks releases and say 'on balance I wish we didn't know that?' Do you wish that we weren't having this discussion about what needs to be secret and what doesn't? Do you somehow expect there not to be cretins on either side of the debate, for the first time in the history of humanity? Help me understand.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Dave Underwood, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Thanks for this Russell.

    I think as more cables get released, information like this will help keep things in perspective.

    Auckland • Since Dec 2010 • 1 posts Report Reply

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