One year ago yesterday, the world was introduced to the largest-ever cache of unpublished government documents as Wikileaks began the slow release of over 250 000 US diplomatic cables. It did not take long for the media to deride the cables, widely referred to as a "dump," as a useless unimportant thing that would serve no purpose other than slight amusement. Not long after, Tom Oleson in the Winnipeg Free Press chose to echo his mainstream cohorts from around the globe, purpotrating the myth that Wikileaks was somehow out to publish every little detail of absolutely everything that ever existed. My response to this column was published two weeks later.
A year later, the cables have had a profound impact on journalism worldwide. Exactly the opposite of every op-ed pundit snickering at Wikileaks' latest.
Even in Canada things have been uncovered. This CBC story published in September 2011, about how Canadians with a history of mental illness may be denied entry into the US, for committing no crime. Or right here in Winnipeg, the details of Gail Asper expressing her interest in having President Obama come to Winnipeg to speak and raise funds for the Canadian Museum of Human Rights, is detailed in this cable right here.
It should be lost on nobody in this town of the desperate gasping for more funding for the Museum, the irony in getting President Obama to come speak about human rights. Wikileaks published many cables unveiling for the first time evidence that CIA drone strikes authorized by the White House were occurring in multiple countries such as Yemen, where two US Citizens were assassinated via drone.
I have written on this website periodically about the massive oil spill and lawsuit against Chevron in Ecuador. Wikileaks published cables to this as well, exposing Chevron's lobbying attempts to get the US Government to help them avoid responsibility for environmental damage. Other serious environmental cover-ups have been revealed as well, including the revelation that up to 90% of Peru's Mahogany exports were illegally harvested.
This sort of information has a profound effect on people's abilities to hold their governments to account. As well as an incredible tool for journalists around the world, the Cablegate documents remain an important prime source, effectively ushering in an era of what Julian Assange called "scientific journalism." An era where you can check the source yourself, read it yourself, and decide for yourself, without filter.
For more foreign policy examples, you can view this summary here of a number of cables related to the Arab Spring uprisings in the Middle East, as well as on the recently concluded NATO-led war in Libya.
The harshest of Wikileaks critics have been silenced, by the realities of the impacts of these cables, their content, and their value as a source material. Knowledge and truth, it seems, really does win in the end.