On November 28, 2010, WikiLeaks began publishing 251,287 leaked United States embassy cables. According to WikiLeaks’ website, this is the largest set of confidential documents ever to be released into the public domain. These actions have set off a firestorm of governmental and non-governmental reactions around the world, all of which is being covered by the New York Times, The Guardian, and the BBC.
The type of information found in these cables might have found the “light of day” at some point in the future; however, the Department of State has a time delay in releasing the documentary record of major diplomatic activity. The books that contain diplomatic cables are called the Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) series and they are available in print (on the Second Floor of the Library in the SuDoc Stacks – S 1.1) and online. Notably, the most recent releases from the State Department cover the early 1970’s, and therein lies the rub. The State Department considers the embassy cables to be extremely sensitive, and waits about thirty years before releasing them to the public. WikiLeaks’ distribution of documents includes items from 1966 through 2010. The Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton, has unequivocally condemned the release of documents, and has argued that WikiLeaks “puts people’s lives in danger, threatens our national security, and undermines our efforts to work with other countries to solve shared problems.” To counter that argument, the leadership of WikiLeaks argues that good governance requires transparency.