Open government. The right to know.
It sounds like an episode of 'Yes Minister' but the revelations made by wikileaks in recent days is much more significant than could ever have been imagined by a Jim Hacker or a Sir Humphrey.
These diplomatic and security revelations that are being made known by this whistle-blowing website are unprecedented and if their word it to be believed, are only the tip of the iceberg.
Here in the UK, top security documents are usually embargoed under the '30 year' rule if not longer. But now, cables from across the world have been leaked to wikileaks and are opening up the murky world of international diplomacy. Suddenly, we now know the intimate opinions of senior world leaders of their counterparts.
They include reports of some Arab leaders - including Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah - urging the US to attack Iran and end its nuclear weapons programme. Other concerns include the security of Pakistani nuclear material that could be used to make an atomic weapon.
In a statement, the White House said: "Such disclosures put at risk our diplomats, intelligence professionals, and people around the world who come to the United States for assistance in promoting democracy and open government."President Obama supports responsible, accountable, and open government at home and around the world, but this reckless and dangerous action runs counter to that goal."
This is the point. Much diplomatic dialogue that occurs, must be behind closed-doors. Individuals and nations, if in possession of the whole truth of a situation at any given time, may make dangerous decisions.
The Northern Ireland Example
An example from recent years comes from Northern Ireland. We now know, years after the time in question, that John Major in his early years as Prime Minister in the early 1990s, opened up channels of communication with Sinn Fein. This was a highly provocative and high-stakes gamble on his part. Sinn Fein after all were the political arm of the IRA which blew up the Conservative Party conference in Brighton in 1984.
If we knew then what we know now, there's no doubt in my mind that pressures would've been put onto him to stop what were tentative attempts to bring the Republicans to the diplomatic table. Had that have been the case, the 1998 Good Friday Agreement may not have been accomplished all those years later. We may now not have had the peaceful political settlement that has come about since 2007.
A Necessary Evil?
Security and diplomacy and future peace are threatened by these revelations. How can such news as we have read of in recent days help us with our dealings with Iran? They can't. It only adds to the tension that already exists.
We are not talking paperclips and clothes hangers as they may have done in the time of Hacker and Humphrey. We're talking of a post-cold war world where it isn't nations, but people within nations who are the threat to society. Nuclear arms have proliferated and great care must be taken when dealing with the leaders of nations and of peoples who have the access to these earth-changing weapons of destruction.
Diplomacy has a rightful place in modern society - indeed even more so than ever. Security also. It therefore imperils us all when such dimplomatic leaks are made public as we have seen this week. The ends do not justify the means in this case.
Wikileaks may mean well but in this case, they've gone way to far or as Sir Humphrey may have put it, "This is the thin end of the wedge".