Twelve years ago this month, WikiLeaks began publishing government secrets that the world public might otherwise never have known. What it has revealed about state duplicity, human rights abuses and corruption goes beyond anything published in the world’s “mainstream” media.
After over six months of being cut off from outside world, on 14 October Ecuador has partly restored Wikileaks founder Julian Assange’s communications with the outside world from its London embassy where the founder has been living for over six years.
The treatment – real and threatened – meted out to Assange by the US and UK governments contrasts sharply with the service Wikileaks has done their publics in revealing the nature of elite power, as shown in the following snapshot of Wikileaks’ revelations about British foreign policy in the Middle East.
Conniving with the Saudis
Whitehall’s special relationship with Riyadh is exposed in an extraordinary cable from 2013 highlighting how Britain conducted secret vote-trading deals with Saudi Arabia to ensure both states were elected to the UN human rights council. Britain initiated the secret negotiations by asking Saudi Arabia for its support.
The Wikileaks releases also shed details on Whitehall’s fawning relationship with Washington. A 2008 cable, for example, shows then shadow foreign secretary William Hague telling the US embassy that the British “want a pro-American regime. We need it. The world needs it.”
A cable the following year shows the lengths to which Whitehall goes to defend the special relationship from public scrutiny. Just as the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq War was beginning in 2009, Whitehall promised Washington that it had “put measures in place to protect your interests”.
It is not known what this protection amounted to, but no US officials were called to give evidence to Chilcot in public. The inquiry was also refused permission to publish letters between former US President George W Bush and former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair written in the run-up to the war.
Also in 2009, then prime minister Gordon Brown raised the prospect of reducing the number of British nuclear-armed Trident submarines from four to three, a policy opposed in Washington.