By EZEKIEL MUTUA
The first essential in affairs of State is secrecy, so said Cardinal Richelieu, the man known as the power behind the throne of France’s King Louis XIII in the 17th Century. But it would appear our big brother — the United States of America — has no respect for this rule of thumb when it comes to keeping the secrets of other states.
Courtesy of WikiLeaks, the online whistle-blowing website run by the fugitive Australian Julian Assange, we now know that no state secret is safe anymore — anywhere in the world. Indeed, those who trust America to keep other nations’ official secrets and treat others as sovereign states deserving of respect, live in a fool’s paradise.
The next time an African president goes to an American ambassador’s residence for a July 4 luncheon or cocktails, he or she would be well advised to wear gloves (like the Queen of England), carry his own glass, plate and cutlery and avoid using the rest rooms.
After all, it has just been incontrovertibly revealed that the United States Intelligence Services have orders signed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton herself to surreptitiously harvest the DNA and fingerprints of a number of African heads of state and government in our region.
Mrs Clinton, herself one of the world’s most frequent fliers, also wants the frequent- flier card details of VIPs in the Great Lakes region. Why on earth would anyone want anyone else’s DNA, fingerprints and air travel details in advance of any eventuality?
Are these highly elevated individuals about to suffer some calamity in which only DNA smears and fingerprints can help identify their remains?
The implications for a personage like Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame — one of those Mrs Clinton has specifically identified for DNA and fingerprint harvesting — are both startling and sinister. The pity of it all is that President Kagame is actually one of the most US-compliant leaders in our region, a fact that seems to count for nothing when it comes to high tech espionage.
The King of Saudi Arabia has suffered a terrible blow to his prestige and standing, with the revelations of his stand on the Iranian nuclear programme.
These are just two of the extremely amazing and distressing factors that emerge from the secret diplomatic cables from US embassies around the world (out of more than 250,000) leaked by WikiLeaks, whose editor Julian Assange, is often associated with Kenya. Indeed, Assange is so much mistaken for a Kenyan that when an Australian university awarded him an honorary doctorate earlier this year, the announcement spoke of “Julian Assange of Nairobi, Kenya”.
Last year Assange won the Amnesty International Media Award for his whistle-blowing work on extra-judicial killings in Kenya. The Americans and EU nations applied relentless pressure on the Kenya Government following these disclosures. Today, thanks to the same “Julian Assange of Kenya”, all pointy fingers of accusation in the West are suddenly curled, some of them into fists of fury. Assange has been denounced as a reckless anarchist. There have even been accusations of high treason and calls for his assassination by very senior persons in American and European societies. Suddenly, Interpol has alerted 180-plus police forces across the world to nab Assange on allegations of sex crimes.
The Obama Administration is hurting in ways that no US leadership team has suffered since President Richard Milhous Nixon’s time and the Watergate affair 36 years ago. Four months ago, when WikiLeaks leaked tens of thousands of secret military files on Afghanistan and Iraq, I felt constrained to run a three-part analysis, across three weeks, pointing out, among other things, that the biggest leak of security secrets in history most probably contained the seed of the first term fall of the Obama team. Today, Mrs Clinton stands exposed as ordering that the United Nations itself be spied upon. A congressional probe in the near future could well torpedo her career.
I am also persuaded by Times of London columnist David Aaronovich’s remark last Friday that, with Assange and WikiLeaks, the information society has reached a point of no return. The road ahead is going to be an extremely steep learning curve for governments and governance, including in the non-governmental sector — everywhere on the face of the earth.
Among other things, official secrecy will increasingly have to adapt to a world with ICTs that are not exactly secrecy compli ant. Access to information and freedom of information paradigms are going to shift in ways that are not even foreseeable at the end of 2010.
The writer is the Director of Information and Public Communications of the Republic of Kenya