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. She writes a weekly podcast column.

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How Devon's humpback whale is dredging up the politics of the sea

The arrival of a humpback whale at Slapton Sands has caused a local splash. But the history of the village has a warning for those who think of the sea as spectacle alone.

The Devon coast road from Dartmouth to Torcross is as pretty as it is treacherous. After winding through a cliff-top village, the road ahead falls away to reveal a giant lake – the Slapton Ley - flanked by green hills on one side and ocean on the other. 

Tourists (or "grockles") gasp at the view and, in recent weeks, even locals have been staring out to sea - where a giant humpback whale has taken up residence in the bay.

Not seen at Slapton in living memory, the whale has swum into rural stardom. Hundreds have lined the beach with cameras and telescopes. The nearby pub and farm shop have seen levels of trade only usually enjoyed in the summer.

According to Keith Pugh, (the ice-cream-van-man who has been keeping the crowds supplied with tea) one lady from Plymouth caught the bus here every day for six weeks just to catch a single glimpse. That’s a four-hour round trip.

If this all sounds a bit fishy, that's because it is. Experts believe that the whale is feeding on the bumper numbers of small fish and mackerel that have been reported in the area. But even these are behaving in unexpected ways. “The mackerel are further north than usual for this time of year,” says Mark Darlaston, a photographer who first identified the whale as a humpback (and jokingly named it after storm “Doris”).

So what is the humpback up to, so far south of its northern feeding grounds? And should its presence be seen as a sign of recovery - for whales and UK waters in general? 

Not yet, say conservationists. And not if the history of Slapton is anything to go by.

Troubled waters

Villagers at Torcross, at the far end of Slapton sands, are familiar with secrets from the deep. In 1944, a military training in the bay went horribly wrong, when nearly 1,000 American servicemen were drowned. The tragedy was hushed up for decades.

But the greatest threat to the community comes from mismanagement of the sea itself. On 26 January 1917 the entire neighbouring village of Hallsands was swallowed by a storm. The tragedy was partially manmade. The underwater sandbanks, which had helped protect the shore from longshore drift, had been thoughtlessly dredged to supply building materials for the Plymouth docks. Some 660,000 tonnes of material were removed and never replaced.

The results of that plunder are still felt at Slapton today. In 2014, a gale-force storm swept away part of the road that runs between the sea and the ley. Just last year, the seawall at Torcross crumbled, as the protective beach beneath was carried away by waves.

Into the Brexit deeps

So much in our oceans is tightly connected to human activity. If whales are a rare sight on the UK coast, it is partly because of the human campaign against them for many years in the form of whaling. According to Sally Hamilton from the conservation charity Orca, the 1980s moratorium on whaling has helped some populations to recover. 

But others are still fighting to survive in the face of pollution, noise, and over-fishing. The UK’s last resident pod of killer whales looks likely to die out after high levels of PCB chemicals have stopped the females reproducing. In Norway, a stranded whale was found to have over 30 plastic bags blocking its digestive system.

There is also no certainty that the glut of fish that the whale is feeding on will come again next year. “There is still masses we don’t understand about the ocean,” says Will McCallum from Greenpeace, “Climate change and the threat of over-fishing mean that where fish are moving to is more unpredictable that it has ever been.”

And it's not just whales that could get caught out. Some UK politicians have demanded that a Brexit deal include blocking foreign vessels from fishing in British waters. With 58 per cent of UK-caught fish caught by non-British fleets, it is argued that a ban would benefit the UK industry.

But with migration patterns becoming more erratic, McCallum is sceptical. "Re-territorialising our waters would be an absolute potential disaster because we just don’t know where fish stocks are going to move," he says. 

Out of the Blues

At Torcross, the sea has long been a source of worry. Claire, the landlady at the Start Bay Inn, recalls the many storms that have pelted the seafront pub since she was a child. Just last year she was “running from one end to the other” trying to sweep the water out, while bottles rattled and the chip-fryer shook.

So it was perhaps unsurprising that news of the whale’s arrival first met with local concern. “I can’t bear to see it,” one woman tells me. She had read in the press that it had come so close in to shore to “beach” itself and die, and heard rumours it was in mourning for a lost calf.

But thanks to the investigations of Mark Darlaston and the divers at the British Divers Marine Life Rescue, such fake whale-news has been corrected - and its visits are fast becoming a source of wider hope. The owner of the Stokely farmshop has joked about replacing it with a decoy “nessie” when it leaves. Claire cannot wait to put its picture on the front of her menus (where the picture is currently of the recent storm).

It is not yet known what lies ahead for Brexit fishing policy, or for whales. But dip into the history of the village of Torcross, and it's clear that understanding and protecting the sea is inseparable from protecting ourselves.

India Bourke is an environment writer and editorial assistant at the New Statesman.