Tag Archives: international affairs

What does Wikileaks have to say about the Swedes?

(Note:  No Wikileaks cables were actually viewed in the writing of this post.  Rather all of the information came from media sources describing the data which, if I understand things correctly, makes them -the stories-fair game to comment on.)

Cablegate (sigh…I guess we’re stuck with that name) has some interesting things to say about the Swedes and Finns.

Not particularly surprising yet nice to be explicitly discussed was the American assessment that Swedish neutrality continues to exist in name only.

Wood furthermore wrote that information from Sweden’s military and civil security services is an important source of information for the USA for Russian military conditions and for knowledge of Iran’s nuclear programme.

I did think it unusual that the Social Democrats were so forthcoming about internal political issues to the American ambassador.

The Social Democrats‘ foreign policy spokesperson Urban Ahlin criticised his party’s lack of ideas in meetings with officials from the US embassy, according to US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks.

The other item worthy of note is the Swedish commitment to the Afghan mission.  Allegedly (because the minister in question is denying the conversation took place) asked for help in getting an Afghan minister to visit the Riksdag in the hopes that the resulting discussion would bolster support for the Swedish mission in Afghanistan.

The CIA did yet another bang-up job.  While flying their prisoners to various black sites around the world, the Swedish government “made it clear that it wanted to know if the United States was transporting prisoners and indicated that future flights would be given closer scrutiny” after receiving reports that planes listed as ‘private’ were in fact chartered by the U.S. and suspected of carrying prisoners.  To verify such things were, in fact occurring:

Confirmation that the planes were transporting prisoners came in April 2006 after a daring “surveillance operation” was ordered by Swedish security service Säpo and carried out without the knowledge of the Americans.

On Säpo’s orders, Swedish military intelligence agents dressed up as airport service personnel and boarded the plane. The agents reported back that the plane was carrying prisoners.

Hey guys.  If you’re moving prisoners around the world and want to keep it secret it’s probably not a good idea to let the catering guy have free run of the aircraft to resupply your stash of peanuts.

Wikileaks and ‘cablegate’

First…can we please STOP putting ‘gate’ on the end of everything?

Ok, If I can come up with an interesting plan I intend on going through some of the numerous cables that Wikileaks is releasing into the world .  At this point however, I don’t have anything to say of the substance of the materials.  I do have some thoughts however:

  • Is it established that Bradley Manning is the source of these leaks (and the Afghan ones AND the original Iraq ones)?
  • We’re well into the information age.  Perhaps we shouldn’t be asking how is this happening but why isn’t it happening more often.  It also seems like we should expect things like this to happen in the future and plan accordingly.
  • I have to admit I find the issue fascinating.  We’ve been talking about non-state actors for years now but now we have a new sub-category.  Despite outrage from the U.S., Julian Assange isn’t a terrorist and having the CIA send out a hit team (which they’d probably screw up in any case) just isn’t appropriate.  Still, I think you could argue that he’s causing an amazing amount of disruption (at least in the short term).
  • Wikileaks is in desperate need of someone with web development skills.  Their search options, quite frankly, suck.  And now that they’ve been the victims of some DOS attacks, it’d be nice if they’d throw the stuff out on a torrent somewhere for download.

I agree with J that I don’t really see this as shaking the foundations of international relations.  Yes it’ll cause some embarrassment but, quite frankly, I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing.  Elected leaders lying to an elected representative body with the approval of the United States (beacon of democracy)?  Yeah, forgive me for not crying over that.  Continuing to give cover to Saudi Arabia who privately asks us to attack Iran yet continues to fund radical Islamism around the world?  No sympathy for the boys in State for that.

MSNBC has done a really crap job covering this issue.  Yesterday, while waiting to go to the airport I was watching Morning Joe (mea culpa!) as they were remarking (in astonishment) how such a low level soldier could access such information.

Their answer?

We need to restrict access to information!  Yeah…remember the 9/11 commission and their description of information stovepipes and agencies refusing to share with each other.  Absolutely…let’s go back to that!

And then this nonsense story about how much of a boon the information dump is to terrorists.  Ladies and Gentlemen, may I introduce Red Herring:

For example, a cable from Abu Dhabi describes a dinner hosted by Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the United Arab Emirates Armed Forces Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.He was having the dinner party for the former American CENTCOM Cmdr. John Abizaid. The cables listed a half-dozen senior UAE military officials who attended the dinner.

This is not just a guest list. WikiLeaks exposed the inner circle of the UAE’s military and intelligence command. The guest list identified the power players, information that could be useful to someone who wants to harm the UAE, or change the nation’s policy.

While the names and titles of the security officials are known (they can be looked up on Google), revealing who gathers for a top-level meeting shows who is really important. There are many security officials in the UAE.  The dinner list identifies which ones are critical.

Yes, because terrorists looking for targets will use google, look at the top result (hopefully it’s not an ad!) and stop right there.  They’d never even think about doing a good, thorough open source search or (gasp) a covert information gathering operation.

If you’re in the Princeton area today…Updated!

There’s a lecture at the Woodrow Wilson school that sounds pretty good:

“The Politics and Psychology of Intelligence: Iraq and Other Wars”

October 07, 2010 4:30 p.m. 6:00 p.m.

Location: Robertson Hall Bowl 016
If I can make it there, find me and I’ll buy you a beer.  The code phrase is:  ‘Shiloh sent me’
UPDATE:  Yeah, it might help if I could tell the 6th from the 7th.  Not sure if I can make it tomorrow but if I can, the deal is still on.

‘There are opportunities…it just depends on if you can grab them.’

If you’re concerned about a growing Chinese military threat you’re wasting your time.  Rather, if you see China as a threat to American hegemony you should be looking at places like Senegal.  Al Jazeera has a special about Chinese immigration to Africa.  How many Americans (even in this time of economic hardship) are willing to pack up and move to a new economic frontier?  Meanwhile, who do you think is going to have more influence throughout the continent in the next 10 or 20 years?

Best line:  ‘Chinese people like to do things quickly and things move slower in Africa.’

One doesn’t usually hear of Chinese being the impatient ones.  After all, aren’t they still waiting to see how the French revolution worked out?

Kvick Tänkare

This article (I can’t remember where from now..mea culpa!) discusses some interesting and disturbing research if you’re looking for underlying causes why some countries ‘made it’ and others have struggled.  Don’t think colonialism or slavery…you have to go much further back.

1500 AD technology is a particularly powerful predictor of per capita income today. 78 percent of the difference in income today between sub-Saharan Africa and Western Europe is explained by technology differences that already existed in 1500 AD – even BEFORE the slave trade and colonialism.

The state of technology in 1000 BC has a strong correlation with technology 2500 years later, in 1500 AD.

This dude has had his house hit by meteors six times!  Now, he might be the only guy in the world who can say this and not be dismissed as a kook out of hand:

“I am obviously being targeted by extraterrestrials,” he said.

Snapshot of economic attitudes in America: Mrs. TwShiloh was shopping and a man was behind her in line with one or two items.  Mrs. TwShiloh, having a fairly full cart and, more important, handfuls of coupons said:

“If you’d like you can go ahead of me.  I’ll probably take a while with all these coupons.”

To which he replied:  ‘No problem…I like to see capitalism get ripped off.’  I think it’s reasonable to assume that guy didn’t purchase a copy of ‘Going Rouge’.

H/T Balko for a link to this story about a mashup between NGOs and an Abbott and Costello routine:

The World Health Organization found itself Friday in the strange position of defending North Korea’s health care system from an Amnesty International report, three months after WHO’s director described medicine in the totalitarian state as the envy of the developing world.

Cynic is guest posting for TNC and he raises some interesting questions about the intersection of COIN and law enforcement.

Last year, our forces shot and killed 36 Afghan civilians, and wounded more than twice that number, as their vehicles approach convoys and checkpoints. And not once since McChrystal’s arrival have any of those we’ve shot proved to be a genuine threat. Imagine, if you will, that the NYPD had a record like that.

Look out Stephen Colbert.  Bears may be a big threat now but global warming may put giant marmots at the top of the threatdown.

Neo-Nazi clothing maker throws a hissy fit when some people decide to market their own line of clothing mocking them.  If you’re going to be a nazi, you probably shouldn’t be a whiner as well.

Bildt slams Holbrooke

Interesting article in the Local today about the Swedish Foreign Minister’s reaction to the McChrystal firing.  He’s apparently not fond of Mr. Holbrooke himself:

Let’s say that I have myself worked with Mr. Holbrooke through the years, so I understand the sentiment expressed,” he added ironically.


99 Luftbalons

In the backdrop of heightening tensions between North and South Korea, a number of schoolchildren released 50 balloons into the sky.  I’ll let Foreign Policy take the story from there:

The man who spotted the air-borne rubber fleet twenty miles outside the capital city Seoul mistook the colorful orbs for parachutes and instantly raised the alarm. A military and police investigation was quickly mounted…

And so, life imitates art and this gives me an excuse to go into the vaults for this Music Monday.