Patrick Kennedy attempts to support claim of Cablegate’s “chilling effect”: trial report, day 27
By Nathan Fuller, Bradley Manning Support Network. August 5, 2013.
Patrick Kennedy, the U.S. State Department’s Under Secretary of State for Management, testified today about the department’s response to WikiLeaks’ release of hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables. He led the Diplomatic Security Service, which handled the investigation as it related to the State Dept., and echoed previous testimony that the Cablegate release instilled a “chilling effect” on those who would talk to U.S. diplomats in secret.
However, on cross-examination, Kennedy worked to reconcile his testimony to Congress in March 2011, in which he downplayed the harms, and his current claims of an ongoing chilling effect. Two months prior, Reuters reported,
A congressional official briefed on the reviews said the administration felt compelled to say publicly that the revelations had seriously damaged American interests in order to bolster legal efforts to shut down the WikiLeaks website and bring charges against the leakers.
Kennedy said he didn’t recall saying something to that effect to Congress, but he did say that he agreed with comments from Defense Secretary Robert Gates, State Secretary Hillary Clinton, and State Department official Alex Ross downplaying the harm caused.
Now, I’ve heard the impact of these releases on our foreign policy described as a meltdown, as a game-changer, and so on. I think those descriptions are fairly significantly overwrought. The fact is, governments deal with the United States because it’s in their interest, not because they like us, not because they trust us, and not because they believe we can keep secrets. Many governments — some governments — deal with us because they fear us, some because they respect us, most because they need us. We are still essentially, as has been said before, the indispensable nation.
So other nations will continue to deal with us. They will continue to work with us. We will continue to share sensitive information with one another.
Is this embarrassing? Yes. Is it awkward? Yes. Consequences for U.S. foreign policy? I think fairly modest.
Diplomatic cables are not policy. They are meant to inform. They are not always accurate. They are passing on information for whatever it’s worth.
Coombs also said that Clinton had said she found “no hesitancy” from foreign leaders to continue working with the U.S.
28 months after the release of the State Dept cables, here is the headline: “Wikileaks reveals massive rightdoing by American diplomats.” They showed our private actions matched our public policies. They showed our diplomats are very, very good at their jobs.
But Kennedy said that his agreement with these statements did not contradict his claims of a ‘chilling effect,’ because while governments continued to deal with the U.S. diplomatically, it was other government officials and private sector leaders who became reluctant to talk.
No one told Kennedy directly that they were unwilling to talk, but he says that several (but a “relatively small number” of) U.S. diplomats reported decreased communication.
Why was the State Dept.’s damage assessment never completed?
Defense lawyer David Coombs questioned Kennedy over the State Dept.’s “draft” damage assessment that was abandoned in August 2011 and never finalized (and therefore never signed). He said that he was in the process of reviewing the assessment when the next “tranche” of documents – the September 2011 release of the full, unredacted cables – emerged, and so he decided that the assessment as a “snapshot” of the damage up to that point was no longer worth pursuing.
But the State Dept. never completed that assessment in the two years since Kennedy dropped it, despite his claim that the damaging “chilling effect” is “ongoing.”
Kennedy testified that he would never halt an investigation simply because it alleged little or no harm, but he did confirm that he is currently under investigation for stopping another investigation. Asked for more information, he said defensively, “I have no idea what the allegation says, it just says that I stopped the investigation, and it happens to be entirely false.”
Kennedy’s classification review rubber stamp
Kennedy was in charge of the classification review for the 117 charged diplomatic cables in Manning’s case, and he signed off on a report concluding that they had been properly classified. Under oath, however, he testified that he didn’t write the report or read the cables it reviewed. “Subject matter experts” within the State Dept. reviewed the files, determined they were properly classified, and forwarded their conclusions to Kennedy. But he essentially rubber-stamped the report: he merely “skimmed” and didn’t read in full the charged cables, he didn’t have the classification guide at hand, and he didn’t disagree with any of the report, ultimately signing his name in approval.
The parties then briefly argued the defense’s motion to merge unreasonably multiplied charges, outlined here.