Why Do Diplomats Still Send Cables?

To keep a record and advance their careers.

BY JOSHUA E. KEATING

WikiLeaks’ release of nearly 250,000 U.S. State Department cables has given the public a rare look into the inner workings of American diplomacy. The files document everything from the U.S. take on Turkish foreign policy to accounts of meetings between U.S. and Chinese diplomats on North Korea’s nuclear program, to instructions for intelligence gathering at the United Nations. The cables provide the media, scholars, and foreign governments the kind of access that they normally don’t get until decades later, but also raise the question of why, in the era of modern communications, U.S. diplomats are still using a format left over from the days of the telegraph. Why does the State Department still send cables?

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