Leak Fatigue

Paul J. Saunders 

Although the novelty of the WikiLeaks debacle is beginning to wear off, and the American media is predictably getting tired of reading the state department’s mostly routine classified correspondence, the impact of this disastrous security breach seems likely to be with us for far longer than most seem to realize. And while now readily available secret documents have produced considerable praise for U.S. diplomats at home, their effects abroad have been much more destructive—and seem likely to get worse. Unfortunately, though the Obama administration has correctly worked hard to limit the damage in key relationships, the president and his team have not done nearly enough to try to stop the flow of leaked cables or to deter others from similar conduct.

Lost in the extensive discussion of WikiLeaks is the fact that the embattled web site has so far released only around 1,500 of the 250,000 U.S. State Department cables it is believed to possess. Assuming that Wikileaks releases cables at roughly the same rate moving forward, an average of fewer than one hundred per day, the exposure of new cables could continue for years. This in turn means that American diplomats will be coping with the steady trickle of cables for quite some time. As a result, WikiLeaks is fundamentally different from many past security breaches; it is not just one event, but a long ongoing process.

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