The latest WikiLeaks revelation

New release includes the CIA memo: “What If Foreigners See the United States as an ‘Exporter of Terr

Even while mired in personal controversy over rape allegations in Sweden and whispers about Pentagon smears, the WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, is still managing to make his mark on world affairs.

The latest release from WikiLeaks is a CIA Red Cell memo from 5 February this year entitled "What If Foreigners See the United States as an 'Exporter of Terrorism' ". It assesses the impact on foreign relations of incidents of "home-grown terrorism", citing in particular the five American Muslims who travelled to Pakistan last year allegedly to join the Taliban, long-term financial support from Americans for the IRA, and the involvement of the Pakistani-American David Headley in the Mumbai bombings.

The memo argues that the consequences of such events can be far-reaching for the US in terms of maintaining good relations with other states, and regarding extradition treaties in particular. It also raises the complex question of the US relationship with the International Criminal Court, which it has so far failed to join (mainly as a result of the Bush administration's policy) on the grounds that allowing US citizens to be tried for crimes committed on US soil but outside of the US judicial system would be unconstitutional.

The leaked document goes on to say that refusal to co-operate fully with other countries could lead to instances of these states withholding intelligence, and cites the case of Abdelghani Mzoudi, freed by a German court in 2005. According to the memo, he was acquitted because "the US refused to allow Ramzi bin al-Shibh, a suspected ringleader of the 9/11 plot who was in US custody, to testify". The memo concludes:

More such instances could impede actions to lock up terrorists, whether in the US or abroad, or result in the release of suspects.

A "Red Cell" memo means it was issued by the special group within the CIA set up after the 11 September 2001 attacks by George Tenet, the director who subsequently resigned over the WMD claims in Iraq. The group was created to "think unconventionally", take an "out-of-the-box approach" and produce ideas intended to "provoke" rather than provide "authoritative assessment".

There seems very little "out-of-the-box" thinking involved in the production of this memo, as its main conclusions are that terrorism can affect the perception of a country on the international stage, and that being uncooperative with other states can lead to similar treatment being meted out in return. We need look no further than the furore that resulted from David Cameron's recent remarks about Pakistan to see yet another example of such action. But, as ever, WikiLeaks has facilitated a fascinating insight into the hidden processes of a state.

As Assange deals with his problems in Sweden, a potential problem for his organisation has been voiced in the US. Sonia Sotomayor, the newest judge on the US Supreme Court, said in response to a student's question at an event at Denver University this week that the question of balancing freedom of speech with national security is "very likely" to come before the court in the near future.

She went on to discuss the publication of the Pentagon Papers in 1971, at which time the Supreme Court declined to block the release:

That was not the beginning of that question, but an issue that keeps arising from generation to generation, of how far we will permit government restriction on freedom of speech in favour of protection of the country. There's no black-and-white line.

There will no doubt be many arguments in the future over whether it is the role of the Supreme Court to determine whether there is such a line at all and, if so, where it lies. But for the moment, I think we can safely say Julian Assange and his followers would argue that there's no line at all.

Caroline Crampton is web editor of the New Statesman.

Screengrab
Show Hide image

The politics of the kiss

From the classical period via the Kremlin to the Clintons: a brief history of political smooching.

Iowa and New Hampshire are behind us. Super Tuesday beckons. For fans of the competitive sport of baby-kissing, this is as good as it gets.

Meanwhile, closer to Britain, kissing’s in our very constitution. Jeremy Corbyn’s future, depending on his success, could involve taking a trip to the Palace to kiss hands as Prime Minister – and as a republican. Being sworn into the Privy Council in November, he even managed a peck on the royal paw, but reportedly stood fast and did not kneel.

Why is there so much snogging in politics? 

Ancient Romans and Persians established – dare we – a pecking order on meeting. This ritual would make it instantly clear if they were equals (full-on, mouthy kiss, the basium), separated by a slight gap (cheeky peck, an osculum), or vast unequals (foot-kissing accompanied by much grovelling). Even heads of state greeted people in this way.

And there was nothing more dramatic – and bizarre – than the socialist fraternal kiss. Kremlinologists would even measure its intensity, to see how close Communist leaders were. The rule was to do three alternate kisses on the cheek, aping the Ancien Régime’s Orthodox Easter greeting. When two leaders were especially chummy – like then Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev and GDR head Erich Honecker at the 30th anniversary of the GDR in East Berlin in 1979 – the world would witness a big, sloppy lip-plant. Paris Match splashed Régis Bossu’s iconic black-and-white image of the socialist snog across a double-page spread. Le Baiser, they called it.

Nikita Khrushchev, Joseph Stalin’s successor, locked lips with USSR chairman Klim Voroshilov when returning from a US visit in 1959. In July 1937, Stalin planted a decidedly non-frigid one on Ivan Spirin, a polar explorer and state hero.

But Brezhnev was the true practitioner. The joke in Russia went that he described a Warsaw Pact comrade “as a politician, rubbish...but a good kisser!”

Aside from the steamy Kremlin, social kissing on the mouth declined with the Black Death.

The courtly handkuss (kiss on the hand) generally went the same way with the fall of the German and Russian monarchies in 1917-18, though hung on longer in Austria. 

But French president Jacques Chirac made it his trademark, playing to the gallery with French élégance. An Associated Press story from 1967 chronicles the sad plight of European diplomats who had chanced it in Washington. One congressional wife jumped back, claiming she had been bitten; another said a stone was missing from her ring. “Chivalry has its drawbacks,” the story observed.

But back to the babies. We see kissing-as-canvassing in William Hogarth’s 1755 series The Humours of an Election

And in a close-fought 1784 Westminster by-election, we read of 24 women out canvassing with kisses – including the Duchesses of Rutland, Argyll, Ancaster, and (somewhat infamously) Devonshire. 

Kissing voters’ wives – now probably frowned upon by CCHQ – was customary fare for the 18th-century candidate. It’s only in the following century that we see the desexualisation of the electioneering kiss, moving to babies as innocuous. 

In 1836, Charles Dickens has his character Pickwick go to witness a post-Reform Act by-election in Eatanswill. “He has patted the babies on the head,” says the candidate’s election agent, trembling with anxiety. Roar of applause. “He has kissed one of ‘em!” Second roar. “He's kissing ‘em all!” The crowd’s shouts are deafening. And the candidate Slumkey coasts home to Parliament.

US presidents Richard Nixon, Grover Cleveland and Benjamin Harrison forswore baby kissing, grasping for a higher-minded political plane. Bernie Sanders, too. 

But how are the rest of today's politicians doing, kiss-wise?

Barack Obama: After two terms, a kisser to be reckoned with. With adults. Apparently he doesn’t relish kissing babies, and has been called fatally ill-at-ease holding one. Full points for his lucky save with a reticent Aung San Suu Kyi in 2014, ending with a perfectly creditable side-hug and ear-kiss.

Pity Michelle, photographed rolling her eyes as Barack went in for the selfie with, say, Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt in 2013. (For her part, Michelle fobbed off Silvio Berlusconi with a fully outstretched arm, taking no chances.)

David Cameron: Utterly denied by SamCam after his Tory conference speech in October 2015. Lord Grantham says in Downton he spent most of Eton avoiding the kisses of other boys; clearly, the Prime Minister didn’t get much practice while at school.

Angela Merkel: In her first meeting with Nicolas Sarkozy, out she came with a businesslike German handshake just as he ducked for the Gallic kiss. In a moment of British romantic awkwardness last May, during Cameron’s EU reform tour, we saw the Prime Minister lean in, short of closing the deal, as she pulled back and possibly searched for some new regulations to beat him away with.

Hillary Clinton: Is said to enjoy kissing babies. Is said not to enjoy kissing Bill, as in the 2008 Correspondents’ Dinner when she expertly ducked one from him.  And scored one from Obama instead. But maybe she ought to lay off the baby-kissing: a journal article in Political Psychology suggests voters are 15 per cent less likely to vote for women candidates when their adverts evoke female gender stereotypes.

Donald Trump: In August, his baby-kiss in Alabama went viral – the baby’s mother just a bit too keen, the baby’s confusion mingled with slight fear reflecting the views of many of us. “That baby is us,” wrote blogger Stassa Edwards.

It’s a long road from here to the US election in November. And Cameron can look forward to kissing up to Merkel and a hot summer of Italian, Dutch, and even French kisses too.

So this Valentine’s Day, spare a thought for the babies. And the bureaucrats.