Wednesday, June 29th, 2022 09:12:33

The Wikileaks Con Game!

Updated: April 9, 2011 11:31 am

WikiLeaks founder Mr Julian Assange in an interview to an Indian TV channel has alleged that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh misled the public by doubting the veracity of the US cables released by the website. The propensity of our PM, and indeed of all his cabinet colleagues, in fact most of the opposition leaders, to mislead the public are very well known. The opposition then attempted a privilege motion against the PM for misleading the House. So, does it really require revelation by Mr Assange for all of us to become agog over his startling discovery?

                It so happens that in this particular case Mr Assange was in error. The PM did not doubt the authenticity of the cables released by WikiLeaks. He expressed doubt over the veracity of the information contained in them in the light of the factual contradictions expressed by certain leaders named in the cables.



 Nobody even vaguely acquainted with this scribe’s views would doubt his opposition to the UPA government. Repeatedly the government’s actions have been faulted. Repeatedly accountability has been demanded from the government. Resignation has been demanded from the Prime Minister. Explanation regarding alleged personal corruption has been demanded from UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi.

                For example on November 1, 2006, fresh audiotapes related to the aborted HDW and Airbus scams led this scribe to warn the PM to reactivate investigation of both these scams. He wrote: “If the PM does not reactivate investigation in the HDW and Airbus corruption cases he runs the risk of himself being seen as abettor, and part of the conspiracy… If he fails to take appropriate action, there could emerge endeavors to obtain the President’s permission to move against him in a court of law.”

                After fresh correspondence between the PM and A Raja related to the 2G scam was released this scribe wrote on December 23, 2010 [Why PM Must Quit?] :

                “The released correspondence between Raja and the PM suggests more than violating the constructive responsibility principle. PM had full knowledge of what was being done… Dr Manmohan Singh’s position as Prime Minister has become untenable. He must resign.”

                On the basis of information published in a book by Yevgenia Albats, a former member of the official Soviet KGB Commission, this scribe demanded explanation from Mrs Sonia Gandhi regarding payments allegedly made to her by the KGB. This demand was repeated on August 15, 2006, November 18, 2006 and April 26, 2009. This scribe wrote:

                “If the Albats allegation published in a reputed research book is false, Mrs Sonia Gandhi should promptly deny it. Otherwise, her silence could be perceived as assent. The government remained silent. But so did all the opposition parties! Why? Are the opposition leaders themselves also vulnerable and compelled to maintain discreet silence? Draw your own conclusions.”

                Other equally stringent demands for accountability were made to the government. Not once was any allegation made against the government contradicted. Not once did the government respond. Not once did a single opposition leader echo the allegation or seek an explanation from the government. Now it seems that the opposition is uniting at last to demand the government’s resignation. If the government can be ousted it will be most welcome. But why is the opposition waking up only now? The reason for that leaves little room for comfort.

                The opposition has gone on an overdrive because of the WikiLeaks exposure of US cables published in The Hindu. Opposition leaders who were tongue tied throughout occasions when several individuals including this scribe had furnished information about documented corruption and misdemeanors by the government actionable under law, are today frothing at the mouth spluttering demands for the government’s resignation. The Hindu Editor Mr N Ram on TV justified the opposition by stating hat while all the current WikiLeaks disclosures such as money being paid to win votes had been made earlier by the opposition without clinching results, now the disclosures had merited a revival. But then he floundered. He said he could not vouch for the veracity of the leaked US cables or whether these could be admitted as evidence in a court of law. Lawyer Mahesh Jethmalani was more circumspect than either opposition leaders, who ought to have known better, or sections of the media. He said that all that the WikiLeaks exposures merited was a fresh investigation.

                TV anchors went to town assuming that all content in the released cables was gospel truth simply because the information emanated from official US sources. They should have reminded themselves about the veracity or otherwise of all information emanating from official Indian sources. Or is it that our great Uncle Sam in Washington cannot ever be wrong? Ah, that is the nub of the problem! The collective opposition response betrays a pathetic servility to the US. It is ironical that the Left that never tires of castigating the US of calumny is also displaying such touching faith in the veracity of its cables right now.

                Well, Mr Ajit Singh has rubbished the references made to him in the released US cables. He pointed out factual errors. His party had three MPs not four. He denied voting for the government. Mr Nachiketa Kapoor described as aide to Congress MP Satish Sharma allegedly showed loads of banknotes to a US diplomat for distribution to opposition MPs. He has denied meeting formally any US diplomat, displaying any money, or having been an aide to Mr Sharma. He has demanded a thorough probe in the whole affair and threatened to sue for defamation those who put out the information. It could be bravado. It could be the truth. But a TV anchor argued that perhaps Mr Sharma acted individually and not on behalf of the Congress party. He assumed thereby that the leaked cable could not be wrong and by implication Mr Kapoor was wrong. Why? Because Mr Kapoor is not an American but Indian?

                This hidden servility that lies at the heart of the Indian elite makes the nation particularly vulnerable. The West can at any time of its choosing manipulate India and make it hurtle or halt. We have reduced ourselves to acting like puppets. One fervently hopes this government goes even if it is for the wrong reason. One also hopes that this opposition does not replace it because that would continue drift towards disaster. One hopes for a mid-term general election. That might throw up a new class of leaders less servile to foreign influence and more committed to homegrown democracy. (RP)

Assange told his interviewer: “Similarly in response to the cables alleging that the US State Embassy was shown cash boxes for bribing parliamentarians, we saw something rather disturbing. We saw an immediate rush, not to deny the allegations in these facts were not true, we want to investigate properly to make sure everything is clear, that we are innocent. Rather what we saw was an attempt to distort the record and fool the public about the nature of the material. First to say that they refused to comment at all, to suggest that the materials are not verified…is actually the behaviour of guilty men.” Later on he added the caveat: “No organization is free from making mistakes when you deal with things on this scale.”

                Mr Ajit Singh has denied the facts pertaining to his party contained in the cables. How does Mr Assange respond to the denials? No critics have denied the need for a thorough investigation into the allegations contained in the cables. But Mr Assange’s protestations betray not only overlooking much of the questioning by critics but also an intriguing foray into partisanship in Indian politics. And that brings us to some relevant questions about Mr Assange himself.

                Today he has become a global cult figure. But did he create his image or was his image created? The US government he is reputedly thrashing has certainly exhibited very odd behaviour in dealing with him. WikiLeaks distributed its material to a select group of newspapers in different countries. The newspapers chosen, certainly The Hindu in India, were selected by Mr Assange personally. There has been much public condemnation by the US State Department and the US Department of Defence of the WikiLeaks exposures. The world is led to believe that single handedly Mr Assange is crusading against the big bad establishment in Washington. But is that really the truth?

                After the material was distributed to the newspapers The New York Times much before publishing it got it cleared by the White House. After making its own deletions of the material, NYT sent it to the White House for verification and proper vetting to safeguard security. It sought the official view of any material that might harm the national interest. While the White House continued to publicly maintain that it condemned the publication of the material, it nevertheless suggested additional redactions to those made by the newspaper. NYT wrote that it agreed to some of the officially suggested redactions but not to all. On advice of the State Department the newspaper forwarded the US administration’s concerns to all the newspapers in different countries also privy to the WikiLeaks material. Does this suggest a genuine confrontation between WikiLeaks and the US government?

                What was the source of WikiLeaks material that contained thousands of official cables running into millions of words? Surprise, surprise! It was just one US Army Private, Bradley Manning. He joined the US Army just four years ago and was posted to Baghdad, where he worked on classified army networks. He has been identified as the source of 76,000 US military documents published by WikiLeaks in July 2010, 400,000 US war logs from Iraq, and 250,000 classified US diplomatic cables. Manning is currently in a US jail, awaiting a military court marshal. Allegedly he is being tortured. Is there any evidence of that apart from official leaks? Is it believable that the US that spends trillions on defence, space, espionage and security can be outwitted by an army Private single handedly? Could Private Manning have accessed all the material he leaked without help from powerful elements in the Pentagon? Tell that to the marines!

                So Indians should ask themselves whether the exposures put out by WikiLeaks emanate in spite of the US government or because of it. They should also carefully assess not what is contained in the cables at face value but the impression on the public mind that the leaked information creates.

                For instance, the latest revelations enormously boost the image of Mr Narendra Modi who is supposedly bitterly opposed by the US government. And finally, how selective might be the material leaked by…err…Private Manning?

 By Rajinder Puri

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