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 assistant editor of the New Statesman.

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Why hasn’t British Asian entertainment built on the Goodness Gracious Me golden age?

It is 20 years since the original radio series of Goodness Gracious Me aired. Over two decades, the UK media portrayal of Asians hasn’t used its success to evolve.

Save for a handful of special one-off episodes, Goodness Gracious Me hasn’t occupied a primetime TV slot for nearly two decades. Yet still it remains the measuring stick for British Asian comedy.

The sketch show, which transitioned seamlessly from radio to screen (it started as a BBC Radio 4 series in 1996), has stood the test of time and is as much a staple of modern British Asian culture as Tupperware or turning up an hour late.

What Goodness Gracious Me did so expertly was to take a set of serious issues facing first, second and now, I suppose, third generation migrants, and turn them on their heads. 

In making light of the pressures of academic expectation or family drama, Goodness Gracious Me wasn’t playing down the poignancy of such concerns; it was raising awareness and combatting their uglier side with humour.

It offered resonance and reassurance in equal measure; it was ok to have an embarrassing uncle who insisted he could get you anything much cheaper, including a new kidney, because other people like you did too.

That Goodness Gracious Me was broadcast on a mainstream channel was also a victory for minorities; it made us feel integrated and, perhaps more importantly, accepted. Against the backdrop of Brexit, what wouldn’t we give for that treatment now?

Really, though, the jewel in Goodness Gracious Me’s crown was its willingness to recognise diversity within diversity. It is a relic of a departed era when discourse on TV around Asians was different, when the broad church of that term was truly represented, rather than reduced to one catchall perception of British Muslims.

Goodness Gracious Me offered insight into the experiences and idiosyncrasies – religious or otherwise – of Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Sri Lankans and even English people. It’s what made it so accessible and, in answering why subsequent programmes have failed to reach similar heights, this is a good starting point.

Without the flexible sketch format, the modern Asian sitcom Citizen Khan has struggled to cover multiple topics, and, by being specifically about a Muslim family, it leaves many non-Muslim Asians wondering: where’s ours?

I hasten to add that I feel plenty of sympathy for the British Muslim community, hounded by tabloid headlines that attack their faith, but it would be disingenuous to suggest that non-Muslim Asians are sitting pretty in 2016 and don’t need a similar level of support in terms of positive public perception.

The current volume of British Asian media products is fairly good. The BBC has its dedicated network, The Good Immigrant essay collection was one of the outstanding reads of the year, and we still have champions of comedy in Romesh Ranganathan and Nish Kumar.

But I think ultimately it comes down to the broadness of appeal, rather than the quantity of products. Goodness Gracious Me was not only able to engage the full spectrum of British Asia; it transcended its target audience and was on terrestrial TV.

The British Asian media on offer now is up against it, released as the country’s attitude towards foreigners completes a full circle back to the same suspicion my grandfather encountered in the Sixties.

Fewer outlets are willing to explore the stretch of what it means to be Asian, either by denying it due consideration in mainstream shows or by peddling their own monolithic observations. The BBC Asian Network, for example, is laudable in its existence, but does little to engage the young Asians who aren’t into techno spliced with Bhangra.

The mainstream representations of Asians in Western film and television that are commissioned, meanwhile, are irritatingly limited and sometimes inaccurate. In an article for the Guardian last year, Sara Abassi lamented the disproportionate appetite for “gritty post-9/11 films about conservative Pakistani families”, and that the researchers of American series Homeland failed to realise that the national language of Pakistan isn’t Arabic.

When I interviewed the actor Himesh Patel for the No Country for Brown Men podcast, he suggested that the answer to re-establishing Asians in mainstream media, both here and in America, was three-fold. The first challenge to overcome was for outlets to acknowledge that not all Asians fit the same religious or cultural profile; the second was to be open to placing Asians in non-Asian specific products to better reflect their presence in society.

Patel, who is best known for his portrayal of Tamwar Masood in the soap opera EastEnders, made his third recommendation based on this role. He felt that characters should be written with only their personality in mind, making the ethnicity of the actor who plays them incidental. Tamwar’s awkwardness but underlying kindness, Patel said, was what defined him – not his skin colour.

Goodness Gracious Me, though a primarily Asian show and a comedy at that, actually taught some salient lessons about representation. It succeeded in providing a window into a multiplicity of cultures, but at the same time wasn’t a total slave to the politics of identity – several of the 100-plus characters needn’t have been Asian at all. It was reflexive to the times we lived in and a perfect advertisement for empathy. That is why we still talk about it today.

Rohan Banerjee is a Special Projects Writer at the New Statesman. He co-hosts the No Country For Brown Men podcast.