The leaked cables can be insightful not for what they tell us at face value but what we can extract from them after a careful scrutiny. Otherwise, these fragments of documents, even in instances where they are authentic, can be very misleading. Jeremy Scahill engages in such a critical exercise in a recent piece published in The Nation (December 1, 2010). I quote two passages:
"A special operations veteran and a former CIA operative with direct experience in Pakistan have told The Nation that JSOC has long engaged in combat in Pakistan—which raises a question: How in-the-loop is the US embassy about the activities of JSOC in Pakistan? Just because Ambassador Anne Patterson approves a cable saying that US special ops forces have only done two operations with Pakistani forces and plays this up as a major-league development doesn't make it true. JSOC has conducted operations across the globe without the direct knowledge of the US ambassador. In 2006, the US military and Pakistan struck a deal that authorized JSOC to enter Pakistan to hunt Osama bin Laden and other Al Qaeda leaders with the understanding that Pakistan would deny it had given permission. JSOC has struck multiple times inside Pakistan over the years, regardless of what Ambassador Patterson's cables may say." ...
"Since the Nation story originally ran, Blackwater has continued to work under the Obama administration. In June, the company won a $100 million global contract with the CIA and continues to operate in Afghanistan, where it protects senior US officials and trains Afghan forces. Earlier this year, Blackwater's owner, Erik Prince, put the company up for sale and moved to the Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. Whether Blackwater or former Blackwater operatives continue to work in Pakistan is not known. What is clear is that there is great reason to believe that the October 2009 cable from Ambassador Anne Patterson describing US special operations forces activities in Pakistan represents only a tiny glimpse into one of the darkest corners of current US policy in Pakistan." (Jeremy Scahill, The Nation, Dec 1, 2010)
See an interview (DemocracyNow!, Dec 2, 2010) with Scahill on the same issue below.
[In a previous post, I comment on the Hersh's New Yorker piece which Scahill mentions in the above clip. There I also link my comments on the nature of Pak-US relationship and the role of the current civilian government in it.]
Not many people will go through all the leaked documents. They will mostly hear what the mainstream media and political groups choose to focus on.
Source, intent, editorial choices, fragmented form of cables, politics of the editors in what they release and what they do not, their timing, targets, then media spins and selective appropriation by politicians... I haven't seen many reports that engage in these critical considerations.
For how media can put a spin on these leaks, see the following story from The Real News (Dec 2, 2010): "New York Times Beats Drums for War".