Assange channels Marialejandra López


El País has published its report on the latest batch of Wikileaks, a significant bunch dealing with Venezuela. From a cursory read of the contents of the cables, the thing is just one big snooze.

Let’s see. According to the super secret Wikileaks documents that the world is abuzz about:

– Cuban intelligence services have direct access to Hugo Chávez.

– Cubans exercise control over immigration and documentation offices.

– Chávez trusts the Cubans more than he trusts his own Armed Forces.

– The image of the United States in Venezuela has suffered in the last 11 years.

– Venezuelan intelligence services infiltrate the opposition and do their best to divide them.

– Chávez only trusts in Adán Chávez, a communist, and in Fidel Castro.

– Chávez and the Cubans have tapped US Embassy communications.

– There are about 40,000 Cuban agents in Venezuela, although the Embassy can’t independently confirm these numbers.

Are you still awake?

Forgive me for stating the obvious, but we have heard all of this before in countless Nelson Bocaranda gossip columns. The El País story drably confirms what we all know.

Perhaps Hillary Clinton should resign – for allowing her Embassy to be staffed by people who know just about as much as the rest of us.

If anything, the Wikileaks content on Venezuela is interesting in what it does not contain. There are no known acknowledgments of US financing of Venezuelan political parties, no established links between the Embassy and opposition politicians, and no smoking gun regarding the much-touted but never-proven US involvement in the April 2002 coup against Chávez.

The Wikileaks Chávez chapter – at least what we have read so far – is all bark and no bite, all buildup and no payoff, all tease and no climax. It’s kind of a waste of time.

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  1. Well, the thing is: there’s no new stuff, but look who’s telling it. It´s a new chapter in the politics-as-spectacle practices. We are now all voyeurs, gazing into the intimacies of high diplomacy; WikiLeaks is the new Hola. And the show starts not with the revelations but with the reactions about the leaks. With the embarrassment. Caveat: it seems that it could become more interesting, as the Venezuela chapter is just beginning…

    • Yes, that is true. But I’m thinking that El Pais is publishing the best of the Venezuela cache now that the story is hot. Isn’t that what you would do?

      I mean, if I’m El Pais and I’m given a batch of cables from the US Embassy in Caracas, the first thing I would do is look for those dated April of 2002. The fact that they haven’t cited it strongly indicates… there’s nothing there.

  2. I thought the medicine memo interesting in that it was the worst-redacted document I’ve seen. Based on it, I expect to see more people more-or-less identified as embassy sources in the next few weeks. For Venezuelans, that could be dangerous.

    But other than that, yes. Juicy bits appear to remain filed away in Top Secret and above. Public disclosure of any military liaison reports, memos on anything about the coup, or a rundown on “democracy promotion” activities in Venezuela and their unceremonious conclusion — all will probably have to wait, maybe forever.

    • OK, now you’ve peaked my interest. What cables are you referring to that give away sources? And who could those sources be?

    • The Barrio Adentro leak narrows down the range of possible U.S. embassy sources on health to, erm, one person:

      6. (C) During a private meeting on November 10,
      XXXXXXXXXXXX, a health reporter for the “El Universal”

      I dunno the name, but it’ll take SEBIN about 30 seconds to figure it out. Would you want to be that dude?

    • I thought the same. That XXXXX does not help. Que Dios lo proteja por decir la verdad. I have heard much worse stuff from different sources, friends who work at different public hospitals all around the country. And the theft that is going on in those hospitals, specially by the ones at the very top, has reached incredible levels: directors who are providers of most hospital material, the most shameless overprices, basic material that does not work…
      and the “nurses” coming from so-called Bolivarian universidades do not know even what a surgical tape (esparadrapo) is.

  3. JC, my guess is that you were not serious when you wrote “super secret.” Just in case, though, it seems that the documents released so far were not categorized as “secret”. They were “confidential” which indicates that they were not considered too sensitive or anything of the sort. There are five levels of government information, “classified” is the third level (unclassified, restricted, classified, secret and top secret.)

    I have not seen any of the Venezuela-related cables, but if you were bored by them, I suggest you read a long cable from the US Embassy in Moscow titled “A Caucasus Wedding.” A three day wedding. The cable manages to be both eye-opening and entertaining.

    (Note: Kadyrov is the president of Chechnya (under Putin’s blessing), Dagestan is next to Chechnya. Both are officially in Russia. Even before Soviet times most Muslims of the Caucasus region were fairly relaxed about alcohol.)

    • I will clarify: I did not read the cables, I read the El Pais report on the cables. It was late, and I’m a single daddy this week. You should check out my ojeras.

      It would be great if some of you could read the cables themselves and point us to specifics.

    • I have to correct myself. The one cable I read from El Pais was classified as Secret. Not Top Secret, but a notch above Confidential.

      JC, I remember those times well. I hope you will get enough sleep soon.

  4. There’s clearly a lot of


    in the first few “revelations” about Venezuela, but I also think it’s too early to write-off the whole thing, cuz we don’t know what could be coming down the pipeline in the coming days and weeks.

    What is also clear is that writing ability is distributed very unevenly between U.S. diplomats. Some of the stuff coming out of Pakistan is extremely well written; rivetting, even. Duddy’s piece on Barrio Adentro is…a big dud.

    • Francisco,

      Having worked (previously) around (but not for) U.S. embassies, I can assure you that around 90% of U.S. diplomatic staff are unimaginative bureaucratic drones. In fact, I would say that over a third are sheer dead weight who should be fired at once.

      Within the DOS, they know who is who, and thus the real players don’t waste their time reading the memos from those who aren’t. Also, you can easily tell which locations in the world are considered “important” to the U.S. by the quality of the staff in those locations. You may make your own judgment as to exactly how important Venezuela and Chavez are to the DOS.

    • Ehemmm…

      Re my analysis of DOS personnel above: I think that decorum demands that I acknowledge that, of course, any DOS personnel who read this blog, are obviously included in the 10% of those with developed imaginations and capacity for independent thinking. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be here.

  5. The problem with these leaks is that we in Venezuela know them. As Colombians and Ecuadorans know those about their countries. The leaks we want Assange to show are the communications between the VBR govt and the GOC. Come on Julian, do you only hack the Americans?

    • Well, Venezuelans and Colombians ARE Americans, they are just not Anglo-Americans.

      Now, really: I am not so surprised about the issue. Whether there is special animosity or not from Assange towards the US, you have to take into account this:

      1) it was less of a hack,
      it was more of a (n apparently single) LEAK
      2) the whole records came from a very centralized system, a database to which millions of US employees had access (unbelievable until you remember how security officials have forgotten even memory sticks in the train in the last few years or sent CDs to the wrong addresses or how the US military just very recently sent a confidental offer of Boeing to AIRBUS and a confidential offer of AIRBUS to Boeing.
      3) the Venezuelan regime does not have such a system, but uses a myriad of mechanisms, from hotmail, gmail and mobile calls to just low-technology mouth-to-mouth communiques and drums and smoke signals in malandro talk.
      4) there is the language issue. Most of the guys working in Wikileaks seem to be English speakers or Germans or Scandinavians. They will have more difficulty dealing with masses of documents in other languages.

      I would be interested in some Chinese Wikileaks and some people have thought about it. I think the Chinese were not so compelled about creating such a system as the US Americans.

      The US had a huge amount of intelligence organisations working separatedly and without coordination, trying to keep an eye on their many bases and military groups around the world. The US took the decision of linking it all with a system that enabled a huge amount of people to see anything.

      The Chinese (and others) do not have armies all around the world, something that takes away lots of energy and resources. The Chinese do it all through one agency, it is easier to control access and who does what, they just have to keep an eye on their embassies and their activities with soldiers around oil fields like in Sudan and such.

      Just some thoughts

  6. In my opinion, the legacy of wikileaks is that every news agency in the world is kicking itself for not coming up with a bloody “leak” in… forever. After the massive attention that this Aussie is getting for his leaks, the CNNs of the world will stop filtering information and start leaking information from time to time, when the wow factor is big enough, no matter the consequences of doing so.

  7. Kepler, agree with you in everything. We are all Americans, it was not a hack and the US centralized system made the leak easier. I would add, along the lines of the main post that there is a big difference between letting the world know of how an invasion army is breaking norms, killing civilians and even having a great time in Irak or Afganistan and leaking the ordinary work of embassies.

    That, I guess, is one of the reasons why there are not many surprises. On the one hand, embassy reports depend a lot on the Bocarandas of every country. On the other hand, lazy intel operatives bribe the people at home by sending info given to them by lovers, friends, or just any person with a comment they like. That is not intelligence. It´s basically official gossiping.

    • I agree on that, David.
      I also think these leaks are of little use.
      What I am clarifying is this: why it was more likely that the whole thing would be the US system.

      1) it is not a hack from WIkileaks, it is a pure leak to them and their illegal handling of it. They depended on someone for this, someone within a very insecure system.
      A hacker is someone who breaks into a system illegally circumventing technical barrieers. The Wikileaks guys did not actually do that, it seems, but got -illegaly- the data from that Manning guy, who STOLE the data when he simply accessed a very unprotected system he had access to in the first place.

      As such, they depended basically from someone giving them that data, not them breaking a code or something. So it was not like -at least this time- they had to choose between “hacking” the Russian, the Chinese, the Venezuelan or the US system.
      2) Now, I think there were more chances of someone doing that to the US system because the US had precisely this huge network with millions of people accessing EVERYTHING. The Chinese and Russians, it seems to me, do not have it. Besides, as I say, people in the West are less likely to mine huge quantities of data in Chinese or Russia.
      So: independently of what these Wikileaks guys feel towards one or the other nation and given the societal and technical circumstances, I think it was much more likely that the US system was more likely to be affected.
      Of course, it should not have happened.

      The Russians had also lost quite some data, although in their case, as most things were not even digitalized, it was hard to copy them massively. One such occassion, also for good purposes and without bad consequences that I know of, was when Vladimir Bukovsky scanned thousands of KGB documents. I translated one of them in my Spanish blog. I thought initially it had historical value only but now I think it does show how the extreme left in Venezuela had acquired some capacity to create El Caracazo, among other things.
      The Russians now have lots of weaknesses but I doubt they have such an open system where a million employees have access to every digital record of their embassies.


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