Intellectual debate over dinner
Published: 05 December 2010
Inevitably, our conversation about all things journalism drifted to the Wikileaks, around the same time main course arrived. I was fascinated to know more about this experienced journalist's opinion on the leaks, as they have been holding Britain in rapture.
There are massive implications for international relations, however, as Marie-Laura pointed out: did the leaks tell us anything we didn't already know?
However, Maria-Laura drew my attention to another similar case back in 1992, which happened before I was old enough to understand. A disgruntled Russian anarchist, Vasili Mitrokhin spent years smuggling secrets out of the KGB's foreign-intelligence headquarters in Moscow. He then painstakingly hand-copied thousands of classified files covering the period from the Bolshevik Revolution to the 1980s. The notes, which chronicle Soviet disinformation, smear campaigns and the Russian penetration of Western intelligence, were then hidden in bottles beneath his floor.
The details of the notes are expanded in "The Sword and the Shield", written with intelligence expert Christopher Andrew. I am adding it to my reading list.
I am surprised that the UK media have not drawn more of a correlation between the two stories. Perhaps Mitrokhin was the first 'Julian Assange', and started the ball rolling for citizen journalism.
It can only remain to be seen how damaging the Wikileaks will be for international relations. However, when asked her opinion on the concept overall, Maria-Laura was positive in saying, "Oh I would have Wikileaks every day if I could. But only if they have something worth saying."