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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Does the Wikileak affair mean a return to pencil and paper? Do the leaks tell us anything we could not have guessed anyway?

It will take time for the dust to settle over the Wikileak revelations so that a reasoned assessment can be made of their publication. Words such as hypocrisy, embarrassment and incompetence will be bandied around by the population, as they see the revealed workings of its political and diplomatic elites. Governments should be receiving more in their input tray than high level gossip. Are the diplomatic positions revealed any different from what a professional analyst knew anyway? Security services and diplomats will jump and down over the “irresponsible” exposure of sources and positions taken. However much redacting takes place, humint may have been compromised, and there is only so much one can glean from remote sensing and drones.

The digital communication revolution has seen the inexorable onward and upward rise of traffic and there has been nothing to date to question this curve. The Wikileaks will give everyone pause for thought. What information is being hoovered up, why and to what end? We have information overload drowning in a sea of data.

For the first time, there has been a massive leakage of digital material to the global press. How much of this quarter of a million pages will provide interesting copy is questionable. In the five-second culture, the public will not be listening as the next story emerges.

Security tightening will be a given. Beyond that, we are likely to see a more circumspect use of the digital networks. We may see a return to a more humble way of communication i.e. word of mouth and paper and pencil. They have their flaws, notably dated and partial pictures of a situation. On the other hand easier to erase and deny.

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