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Why Do Editors Committed to Press Freedom Attack Wikileaks?
One of the more bizarre features of the soon-to-be-leaked Wikileaks revelations was the leaking of the fact that they were to be leaked. The US government clearly decided to get its retaliation in first.
The initiative by the US state department on Wednesday was evidently designed to explain to foreign governments that there would be embarrassing revelations in the sensitive diplomatic documents that Wikileaks was about to post on its site.
On Friday, I noted the British government's decision to spin editors by issuing a defence advisory notice calculated to remind them of their "responsibility" should they wish to report the contents of the leaked documents.
So how have editors responded? Largely, I'm afraid, with stories angled towards criticism of Wikileaks and its public face, namely Julian Assange
The Sun's Saturday story New Wikileaks data is 'threat to UK security' was typical. Today's News of the World carried a news story about "Taliban chiefs" setting up a "Wiki hit squad" to target informants identified by the leaks.
More dispiriting still were leader columns critical of the leaks. The great advocates of press freedom, for ever proclaiming the virtues of public disclosure, seem unable to stomach an outsider doing the job.
The Mail on Sunday's leader, Grim irony of Wikileaks, read like a memo from a government security consultant. It argued that modern states should take steps to protect their secrets by avoiding the storying of information on databases.
Aren't we in the job of ferreting out secrets so that our readers - the voters - can know what their elected governments are doing in their name? Isn't it therefore better that we can, at last, get at them?
Meanwhile, various papers - naturally enough - played guessing games about what we could expect, and the likely implications. The Sunday Telegraph thought the leaks would put fresh strain on the special relationship between Britain and the US.
The Sunday Express also expected David Cameron to be embarrassed by unflattering assessments of his political skills. The Independent on Sunday agreed that we were to learn what Washington "really thinks" of Britain's prime minister.
According to a BBC website report - also quoted on Radio 4's The World This Weekend - it meant that The Guardian's Simon Hoggart could speak with authority on what we can expect to read later today.
Hoggart was quoted as saying: "There is going to be some embarrassment certainly for Gordon Brown but even more so for David Cameron who was not very highly regarded by the Obama administration or by the US ambassador here."
I bet even Assange's detractors can hardly wait to read his revelations.