WikiLeaks has released new secret State Department cables showing the U.S.'s growing uneasiness with the Egyptian government--including its suppression of the press. In an attempted to silence critics and stop protests that have intensified in the past week, Egypt has switched off the Internet within its borders. Mediaite's Alex Alvarez points to several revealing cables from the latest WikiLeaks dump.
In September 2009, a State Department worker said Hosni Mubarak's government had taken a "series of selective actions" against bloggers, reporters, and a poet. In January of that year, a cable warned of police brutality, and that bad training led to coerced confessions. In January 2010, a cable said the government insisted it hadn't abused prisoners "in the past ten years." Egypt's state of emergency--invoked since 1967--allows the government to indefinitely detain people arrested without charge, a rule that has been used on labor demonstrators and bloggers, a memo from January 2010 said. Mubarak's son Gamal has his eyes on his dad's office, and has worked to eliminate the competition, a, April 2007 cable said.
- WikiLeaks Helped Spark Protests, By the Way, Robyn Creswell writes at N + 1, referring to an earlier leak-dump in December. Egyptians hate their government and are furious about recent elections, but "another remote cause, however limited and difficult to assess, is the release of WikiLeaks documents. A cache of diplomatic cables relating to the Middle East was published in early December by the independent newspaper al-Akhbar, and the leaks have been intensively discussed by Arab bloggers and political activists. Few subjects anger Egyptians more than their regime’s cooperation with Israel, and several leaked documents suggest just how closely the two countries' diplomats and security forces work together"
- Shows the Futility of Pushing Political Reform, Daniel Larison argues at The American Conservative. Larison notes that the new cables show Mubarak is skeptical of the U.S.'s urging of political reform. And maybe Mubarak is right. "One thing to take away from this is that every other time the U.S. has claimed to be seriously interested in promoting political reform in the Near East, it has either been associated with the empowerment of militants and terrorists, the devastation and occupation of an entire country, or some combination of the two." So maybe Mubarak is more savvy than the pro-reform West. "It should also drive home just how irrelevant American advocacy for reform really is: advocacy for these things has been going on all this time, and if anything Mubarak has simply become more stubborn and skeptical of the idea."
- Paying Lip Service to Internet Freedom, Wired's Spencer Ackerman writes. President Obama has called for more Internet freedom around the world, but hasn't done that much to convince protesters the U.S. is really on their side. "And it shows the Internet Freedom Agenda to be a dodge. ... Asking Mubarak to bring back the Internet pales in comparison to the annual $1.3 billion in U.S. military aid he receives. ... Keep pushing Internet freedom, and you risk weaken your allies' usefulness. ... So far, the U.S. is trying to have it both ways--which isn’t going to earn it any goodwill by the people who might take the place of the region's dictators, no matter how much the U.S. stands up for their right to tweet."
- Triumph of WikiLeaks, Stephen Blackwell writes at Death and Taxes. "The US State Department’s witch hunt for Julian Assange has toned down recently, perhaps because WikiLeaks’ potency as global news source has increased. In some ways, WikiLeaks has become an almanac for bad things that are going to happen in the world." Like many Americans, Blackwell says he had no idea Egypt wasn't a promising "beacon of semi-democracy" in the Middle East. In reality, "The Egyptian government, led by the 30-years-in-power-but-still-not-a-dictator Hosni Mubarak, jails bloggers and protesters, despises Facebook, and has shut off access to the Internet, an inglorious solution only a dictator would come to..."