The List

The WikiLeaks You Missed

From blatant bribery in India to Hugo Chávez’s war on Domino’s pizza, here are the highlights from the last four months of the secret State Department cables.

Since the first few Julian Assange-saturated months of 2011, the U.S. media have largely moved on to Arab revolutions and other sex scandals. But WikiLeaks has continued releasing embassy cables -- fewer than 16,000 of the more than 250,000 have been published so far. In contrast to its early, now-frayed partnerships with the Guardian and the New York Times, WikiLeaks is now working with local papers in countries like Peru, Haiti, and Ireland to release cables of national interest. Here are a few of the highlights:


With highly anticipated national elections approaching this weekend, the government certainly can't be thrilled with the State Department's candid assessments of the country's political turmoil and the health of its aging king. And the circumstances surrounding the release of the cables are controversial, to say the least.

The cables were viewed and analyzed by Andrew MacGregor Marshall, a British journalist working in Bangkok for Reuters. But the news agency decided not to publish his reporting on them due to "questions regarding length, sourcing, objectivity, and legal issues." Marshall says Reuters may be worried about the safety of its staff in Thailand, where insulting the royal family is an offense punishable by jail time. So, Marshall resigned, left Thailand, and is writing on the cables anyway.

One cable suggests that it is "hard to overestimate the political impact of the uncertainty surrounding the inevitable succession crisis which will be touched off once King Bhumibol passes" and that his presumed successor, Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn "neither commands the respect nor displays the charisma of his beloved father." Another relays reports that the king is "beset long-term by Parkinson's, depression, and chronic lower back pain."

But that's not nearly the best of it. There are some more bizarre details as well. The crown prince, according to the cables, now spends most of his time in Europe "with his leading mistress and beloved white poodle Fufu" -- the dog was named after one of his air marshals. Needless to say, Vajiralongkorn -- next in line for the throne -- isn't much loved by the Thai people. Another suggests the Thais might have a hard time accepting the crown prince's wife, Princess Srirasmi, as their queen because of a "widely distributed salacious video of the birthday celebration for the Crown Prince's white poodel Fufu, in which Srirasmi appears wearing nothing more than a G-string."

Athit Perawongmetha/Getty Images


In collaboration with the Nation, the Haitian newspaper Haiti Liberte has released a series of cables shedding light on U.S. involvement in the country between the 2004 coup that resulted in the removal of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and the devastating 2010 earthquake.

In 2009, for instance, the U.S. Embassy closely monitored the controversy over a proposed raise in the country's minimum wage -- Haitian workers are the lowest paid in the Western Hemisphere. Students violently protested in support of the measure in June 2009. Then-President René Préval, however, delayed signing it into law under apparent pressure from factory owners. U.S. diplomats cited a study by the Association of Industries of Haiti, arguing that the increase would devastate the country's textile sector, thereby provoking anger in Haiti over the perception that the United States was lobbying to keep the country's wages low.

In another cable dating shortly after Préval's inauguration in 2006, the U.S. Embassy stated that it "will continue to pressure Preval against joining PetroCaribe," a Latin American oil alliance led by Venezuela's Hugo Chávez. Haiti eventually joined the alliance anyway. In another, a group of ambassadors from donor countries discussed the country's upcoming (2010) election and decided to continue their support for the election despite concerns that the leftist Fanmi Lavalas party was being excluded from the vote. Although there's no smoking gun here showing U.S. interference in Haitian politics, media reports on the cables have portrayed them as a continuation of a long history of American meddling on the island.



Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is already facing a long series of corruption allegations that have prompted street protests and calls for his resignation, and the soft-spoken economist took another hit in March when the Hindu obtained a U.S. Embassy cable from WikiLeaks detailing corruption in its most blatant form.

The cable, dated July 17, 2008, describes a meeting between the embassy political counselor and Satish Sharma, a high-ranking Congress Party MP, in the run-up to a parliamentary confidence vote on a U.S.-India nuclear deal, which was expected to be close. Sharma told the embassy official that the Congress Party was working hard to ensure the Parliament's support for the deal and as proof, showed him "two chests containing cash and said that around Rupees 50-60 crore (about $25 million) was lying around the house for use as pay-offs." Another Congress official at the meeting mentioned that about $2.5 million had been paid to four MPs to ensure their support for the agreement, considered one of the Bush administration's signature foreign-policy achievements.

The release of the document caused a new uproar in parliament and renewed calls for Singh's resignation. The officials mentioned in the cable denied the charges. The Congress Party refused to discuss the cable, with Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee describing it as "a correspondence between a sovereign government and its mission abroad, and it enjoys diplomatic immunity. Therefore, it is not possible for the government to either confirm it or deny it."



U.S. officials' concerns about Pakistan's nuclear program were among the highlights of the initial burst of WikiLeaks releases, but the cables have continued to have an impact on Washington's fraught relationship with Islamabad. WikiLeaks partnered in March with Pakistan's Dawn newspaper along with India's NDTV and the Hindu to release a series of cables related to Pakistan. These included a 2008 request from Pakistani Army Chief Ashfaq Kayani that the United States provide "continuous Predator coverage of the conflict area" of Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas -- confirming the open secret that Islamabad had provided far more than tacit support for the U.S. drone program, despite public statements to the contrary.

The cables also show that the United States tried in vain to urge the chief of Inter-Services Intelligence to visit India in a gesture of good faith and cooperation following the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack. The cables also included strong criticism from then U.S. Ambassador Anne Patterson of President Asif Ali Zardari's handling of his feud with rival Nawaz Sharif and warned that he was starting to exhibit the obsessive and erratic behavior that led to the downfall of his predecessor, Pervez Musharraf.

Newly released cables also suggest that China may have continued to supply Pakistan with nuclear reactors as late as 2006, despite its agreement not to as a member of the international Nuclear Suppliers Group, contributing to growing U.S. fears of the proliferation risk posed by the Pakistan.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images


Peru's 2011 election, in which leftist former army officer and one-time coup leader Ollanta Humala defeated Keiko Fujimori, daughter of the country's jailed former president, may be the first time WikiLeaks revelations have had a major role in determining the outcome of an election.

The newspaper El Comercio obtained access to the cables and published reports throughout the election with new revelations about Keiko who had been leading in the polls up until election day. In one 2006 cable, U.S. officials recounted a meeting with Keiko and several other prominent Fujimoristas in which they suggest they might cut political deals with the government in order to end the "persecution" of Alberto, then imprisoned in neighboring Chile. For those wary of the Fujimoris, the cable reinforced the perception that Keiko was running simply to restore the political reputation of her family -- though Keiko had promised that if elected she wouldn't pardon her father. Equally damning was another indicated U.S. concerns that drug traffickers had infiltrated the Peruvian government and were tied to Keiko's campaign. The candidate was forced to admit that she had taken campaign contributions from an alleged trafficker. 

The revelations were certainly not the only reason for Keikos defeat, but with the two candidates running neck and neck for much of the race, their impact can't be discounted.



Just days after the deadly earthquake and tsunami that caused a nuclear disaster at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi power plant, Britain's Telegraph reported on cables from December 2008 that quote an international nuclear official warning that the country's nuclear facilities were vulnerable to seismic activity.

The unnamed International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) official reportedly "explained that [Japan's] safety guides for seismic safety have only been revised three times in the last 35 years and that the IAEA is now reexamining them."

In addition, the Japanese government opposed a court order to shut down another plant that did not meet earthquake-preparedness standards, according to the cable.

Aside from Japan, cables have raised concerns about nuclear safety in countries ranging from Vietnam to Azerbaijan to India.


A number of other countries have been WikiLeaked in recent days, including Ireland, where the Independent newspaper obtained a massive tranche of cables in which U.S. officials dish on everything from local Islamic extremists, to the Catholic Church sex scandal, to the Northern Ireland peace process. The cables' assessments of Irish politicians are quite blunt and contrast with the warm sentiments President Barack Obama expressed during his recent visit to the island. One cable says that then incoming Prime Minister Brian Cowen's nickname BIFFO, or "Big, Ignorant Fucker from Offaly," suits him "especially well."

Ecuadorean officials have strongly denied allegations made in cables that suggest President Rafael Correa received campaign donations from Colombia's FARC rebels.

A 2007 cable released by a Taiwanese paper discusses a rumor that China's finance minister may have been forced to step down after it was discovered that he had an affair with a Taiwanese honey-pot spy.

A cable on Venezuelan arms exports to Russia provides clues on where Libya's Muammar al-Qaddafi may be getting his surface-to-air missiles. On the lighter side, there's President Hugo Chávez's bizarre war on Western fast-food outlets, with health officials subjecting chains like McDonald's to near daily inspections. Regulators "explained that in the case of Domino's, 'two for one Tuesdays' discriminated against persons … who would like to eat pizza on the other days of the week."


The List

The Most Notable Revolutionaries of 2011

Right, wrong, or otherwise -- these freedom fighters haven't let the powers-that-be block them, and we're (mostly) better off for it.

The U.S. is celebrating Independence Day and 2011 has been a year of revolution. So, it only seems appropriate that we spend a moment or two celebrating the year's most notable revolutionaries. Some directly channel the spirit of Samuel Adams and Thomas Paine, others earned their place on the list inadvertently. But everyone cited below has, for better or for worse, generated some fireworks.

Let's begin with a few honorable mention contenders for top revolutionary honors, then we can conclude by crowning a Miss Congeniality, a runner up, and a champion.

Honorable Mention: Wael Ghonim

To start on a serious note, few people captured the revolutionary spirit more fully than did Wael Ghonim, the Egyptian Google executive that even President Obama cited as an ideal leader of tomorrow for the post-Mubarak Era. Ghonim's website "We Are All Khaled Said," named after a young Egyptian who died at the hands of the government, helped galvanize opposition to Mubarak. But it was his arrest and his appearances following his release that made him the face of Tahrir Square and helped fill the world with hope that this Arab Spring might lead to real political change in Cairo and throughout the region.


Honorable Mention: Mohamed Bouazizi

The year began with the death of Mohamed Bouazizi, the 26 year-old fruit vendor whose abuse by the authorities led him to burn himself in protest. He died on January 4. Ten days later, the president of Tunisia, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, fled the country and, in mid-winter, the Arab Spring was born. Bouazizi was an unlikely revolutionary, but that is what made him such a powerful symbol and empowered him to be the man who, with a single act of personal defiance, set a match to the entire region.

AFP/Getty Images

Honorable Mention: Austerity Protesters

The protestors in the streets of Greece and of England and of Wisconsin and everywhere else in the world where government austerity programs bit hard rival those of the Middle East for their impact this year. Like those in the Arab street, these demonstrators work may have just begun. Nonetheless, a strong message has been sent that average citizens will not quietly allow feckless politicians and greedy bankers to make the people the victims of the follies and misdeeds of the elites. Sadly, it is unlikely even the most vigorous protests will be able to protect them from the consequences of the fiscal, regulatory, and monetary irresponsibility of the recent past, but it is certain they will play a vital role in determining political outcomes worldwide for the foreseeable future.


Honorable Mention: Shanghai's Truckers

The Shanghai truckers who struck in April also earned a place on this list, not just because of the visibility of their strike in protest of fuel price inflation, but because the protests that began at the local port resonated so broadly throughout China. The impact of the rising cost of living in China has the leadership in that country deeply uneasy, so much so that they actively tried to suppress references to the Arab Spring on the Internet and elsewhere.

China's economic miracle is built on a fragile social foundation and with a leadership change scheduled for next year and with China increasingly attuned to upheaval elsewhere in the world, it could be that the aftershocks of the truckers' strike and protests like it could have the most profound implications of all this year's dramatic street scenes. 


Honorable Mention: Masataka Shimizu

Sometimes revolutions are triggered by accidental revolutionaries. One of these may have been Masataka Shimizu, the 66-year-old CEO of Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the operators of the Fukushima nuclear reactors. Shimizu earns his place on the list, of course, as a consequence of such prodigious mismanagement that the tens of billions he cost his company may be the least of his negative impacts. Within weeks of the catastrophe that TEPCO failed to prepare for and then failed to contain, the nuclear power industry worldwide was knocked on its heels. Given the need of many renewable energy sources for government supports that many developed world governments can't afford, it could end up being that Shimizu has done more for the fossil fuel industry than anyone since John D. Rockefeller, thus proving beyond doubt that hydrocarbons do come from dinosaurs.


Honorable Mention: Bridge and Tunnel Twins

In U.S. politics, on the plus side, there were a few -- sadly, a very few -- revolutionaries who actually tried to fix the mess the country was in. In the interests of bi-partisanship, we shall give the award on behalf of all such outliers to the Bridge and Tunnel Twins, Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York and Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey. Aside from their bluntness and effectiveness, these two are very different but they do illustrate what can happen when political leaders set aside ideological litmus tests, roll up their sleeves and actually work hard on behalf of their constituents.

Mario Tama/Getty Images

Honorable Mention: The Not-So-Noble

Of course, there are countless more candidates who deserve mention for their revolutionary approaches, noble and otherwise. We have for example, the revolutionary Hamid Karzai and the Pakistani government seeking to blaze new trails in the annals of diplomacy by seeking to be both the United States' allies and enemies at the same time, demanding U.S. money and support and condemning it all at the same time. We have the cultural revolutionaries in our rising generation who this year made "Call of Duty: Black Ops" not only the top-selling video game in U.S. history but have conspired to place it in one out of every eight households in the U.S. (Be afraid, be very afraid.) And of course, we have Lindsay Lohan, serving again as the Samuel Adams of her generation, a lone voice standing up to authority, demanding, in her case, that stupidity actually be recognized as a legal defense in the State of California.

Majid Saeedi/Getty Images

Miss Congeniality: Michele Bachmann

No contest is complete without a Miss Congeniality and in this case, the winner of this award is definitely more of a miss than a hit. This year's award is in fact given to Republican U.S. presidential candidate Michele Bachmann for misunderstanding the most basic aspects of the revolutionary spirit she had hoped to embody when she mistakenly suggested that the battles of Lexington and Concord took place in New Hampshire rather than Massachusetts. This gaffe would be easy to over look because she makes so many, but it deserves recognition as a symbol of a larger, more revolutionary idea on the part of her party.

In a nation beset with financial problems, confronted by failing students and a withering workforce, in need of technological innovation and seeking to drawn on the best precedents from the past, the Republicans this year have decided to throw convention to the wind and actually run on a platform that is against math, science, history and, given the performance of Bachmann, Palin and others, also, it seems, against the English language. They argue that budgets can be balanced without revenue enhancements, that the facts of evolution and climate science are "theories," and that the founders sought a theocracy they actually fought to avoid. They are wrong in their approaches, their tactics, their logic and their facts … but you have to give them credit. They are bold.

Alex Wong/Getty Images

Runner-Up: The Women of Barabacoas

The women of Barbacoas in Colombia deserve a special place on this list for their understanding of effective revolutionary tactics. 300 such women from the small town on the Pacific coast of the Andean nation banded together to demand the paving of a road connecting their community to the next town that happens to be the nearest place medical services are available. In what has been dubbed "the strike of the crossed legs" they have resolved to deny sex to their husbands until the roadwork was completed. Although the men have failed to comply with the protest, begun late in June, and they have ungallantly suggested that they would prefer their wives indulge in a hunger-strike instead, such protests have been known to work in the past in Colombia … and elsewhere. In fact, apparently, these Colombian woman have learned a lesson their Greek counterparts have forgotten, but might reconsider, as illustrated by Aristophanes' Lysistrata, a comedy about a similar strike designed to end the Peloponnesian War.


Winner: No One

The winner is no one. And by no one … I mean no one individual. The revolutionary of the year for 2011 was, in the end, without one name or one face, it was and is the people who are combating the autocrats and thugs of the regimes of North Africa and the Middle East...and who are standing up to the fat cats and big spenders of the West and the party bureaucrats in China. Ghonim captured the idea well when he compared the revolution to Wikipedia and said, "Everyone is contributing content, [but] you don't know the names of the people contributing the content. This is exactly what happened. Revolution 2.0 in Egypt was exactly the same. Everyone contributing small pieces, bits and pieces. We drew this whole picture of a revolution. And no one is the hero in that picture." The battles are all still on-going and outcomes everywhere are in doubt. But the idea that the people could rise up as a group and, in the case of the Middle East, successfully depose leaders who raised on traditions of cults of personality or dynasties, sent what undoubtedly has to be seen as the most important revolutionary message of 2011 so far.