History buffs and conspiracy theorists, rejoice. Thanks to WikiLeaks, millions of U.S. intelligence documents are now available online.
WikiLeaks combined the 250,000 State Department documents it had previously released in 2010 (now called “Cablegate”) with 1.7 million documents from the department’s Henry Kissinger era to launch the Public Library of U.S. Diplomacy (PlusD).
The Kissinger Cables date from Jan. 1, 1973 to Dec. 31, 1976, and include assessments of Vietnam and transcripts from conversations that include classic Kissinger-isms like, “The illegal we do immediately; the unconstitutional takes a little longer (see screenshot below).”
The government had previously declassified or made publicly available most of the documents included in the Kissinger Cables release, but the diplomatic records were largely in PDF format at the National Archives and Records Administration.
WikiLeaks converted the PDFs to text and cross-referenced each document to make sure the data was correct and searchable.
What Wikileaks found
In its research, WikiLeaks found that a chunk of the NARA files were corrupted by technical errors or reclassified as secret during George W. Bush’s administration. The organization noted that the government is supposed to assess documents and declassify them after 25 years, but that process is running about 12 years behind. This is why the PlusD database only contains files dated through the end of 1976.
Best known for its release of secret documents related to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, WikiLeaks lately is taking a longer, historical view of American diplomacy overseas.
Though not quite as revelatory as its previous releases, the Kissinger Cables do contain little-known news nuggets like the Vatican’s dismissal of reports of murdersin Chile under General Augusto Pinochet’s rule.
WikiLeaks hasn’t received any anonymous submissions in nearly three years, and publisher Julian Assange is still under house arrest in Britain. So the organization is turning to more mainstream projects like archiving publicly available but obscure documents like the Kissinger Cables.