Why the media blackout of WikiLeaks-Belarus scandal?

The New York Times on Jan. 6 ran a story, “US Sends Warning to People Named in Cable Leaks,” finally giving some play to a critical issue in the WikiLeaks affair that neither supporters nor detractors of Julian Assange have been quick to examine: the impact of the leaks on dissidents under authoritarian regimes. But the story is more noteworthy for what it omits than what it reports:

WASHINGTON — The State Department is warning hundreds of human rights activists, foreign government officials and businesspeople identified in leaked diplomatic cables of potential threats to their safety and has moved a handful of them to safer locations, administration officials said Thursday.

The operation, which involves a team of 30 in Washington and embassies from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, reflects the administration’s fear that the disclosure of cables obtained by the organization WikiLeaks has damaged American interests by exposing foreigners who supply valuable information to the United States.

Administration officials said they were not aware of anyone who has been attacked or imprisoned as a direct result of information in the 2,700 cables that have been made public to date by WikiLeaks, The New York Times and several other publications, many with some names removed. But they caution that many dissidents are under constant harassment from their governments, so it is difficult to be certain of the cause of actions against them.

“Not aware of anyone who has been attacked or imprisoned as a direct result of the cables”? There may be 600 of them in Belarus, which is not mentioned anywhere in the Times article! Is the Times still unaware of claims that WikiLeaks’ representative in Belarus, the notorious anti-Semite Israel Shamir, actively provided Belarussian dictator Alexander Lukashenko with intelligence on dissidents who were then rounded up and tortured by the hundreds?

The reader who alerted us to this article, a WikiLeaks supporter, commented:

Golly, gee!

I wonder how the Times wrote such a long article on this story and forgot to mention that WikiLeaks asked the government for assistance in redacting names—and the government refused.

Also, according to, Ellison’s Vanity Fair piece, Times executive editor Bill Keller went to the White House and the Pentagon several days before publication for comment. Keller said that “we passed along an appeal to WikiLeaks” not to publish names of people who might be put at risk, but he failed to remind his interviewer that it was his newspaper, among others, that was choosing which memos to cover and what material to redact.

Must be simple oversights, huh?

To which we reply: If the point is that the Times is being less than honest in its reportage, we agree. But no indiscretions by either the Times or the federal government let WikiLeaks, Assange or Shamir off the hook for either (the most innocent possibility) reckless endangerment of dissidents in Belarussia and elsewhere, or (the worst possibility) active collaboration with the Lukashenko dictatorship. This much has been established:

1. Both Shamir and Lukashenko have engaged in unseemly crowing about how WikiLeaks revelations “prove” the Belarussian opposition movement was “orchestrated” by the US State Department.

2. Israel Shamir, as a representative of WikiLeaks, met with members of the Lukashenko administration in the immediate prelude to last month’s wave of repression.

Being less presumptuous than Shamir, we will not say this “proves” collaboration between WikiLeaks and the Lukashenko regime. But we will say that Assange owes us a forthright accounting on the Belarus affair. And the silence has been deafening.

Meanwhile, the New York Times (supposedly a pillar of the corporate media’s conspiracy to defame WikiLeaks) does not deem the claims of Shamir’s collaboration with Lukashenko “fit to print”—but does air non-news about a WikiLeaks cable from Belarus concerning (yes, really) UFO wackiness. The paper’s The Lede blog on Jan. 7 notes claims in the Norwegian daily Aftenposten that one such cable mentioned “a statement by the head of the former Soviet republic’s intelligence service, who explained that his agency did not have the resources to spend as much time investigating paranormal activity and UFO sightings as it did in the old days.” A block quote from the cable follows.

Stop the presses! The Belarussian security services are less interested in UFOs then they used to be! This warrants coverage! But the fact that the Belarussian security services rounded up 600 dissidents with the active or passive collaboration of WikiLeaks—Nah, who cares? Detained and tortured political dissidents can’t match the “jiggle interest” of UFOs and sex scandals, it seems…

See our last post on Belarus and the WikiLeaks affair.

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