Pakistani media publishes fake WikiLeaks scoops

Pakistani media publishes fake WikiLeaks scoops

A front-page story in Pakistan’s The News today reports that new WikiLeaks cables have confirmed what reads like a laundry list of Pakistani suspicions and grievances against India:

A cable from US Embassy in Islamabad leaked by whistle-blower website WikiLeaks disclosed that there were enough evidences of Indian involvement in Waziristan and other tribal areas of Pakistan as well as Balochistan.[…]

An earlier cable ruled out any direct or indirect involvement of ISI in 26/11 under Pasha’s command while Mumbai’s dossier, based on prime accused Ajmal Kasab’s confessional statement was termed funny and "shockingly immature."

WikiLeaks revealed that a cable sent from a US mission in India termed former Indian Army chief General Deepak Kapoor as an incompetent combat leader and rather a geek.
His war doctrine, suggesting eliminating China and Pakistan in a simultaneous war front was termed as "much far from reality." Another cable indicates that General Kapoor was dubbed as a general who was least bothered about security challenges to the country but was more concerned about making personal assets and strengthening his own cult in the army. The cable also suggested that a tug-of-war between Kapoor and the current Indian Army chief had divided the Indian Army into two groups.

An earlier cable described Indian Army involved in gross human rights violations in Indian-held Kashmir while some Lt Gen HS Panag, the then GOC-in-Chief of the Northern Command of the Indian Army, was equated with General Milosevic of Bosnia with regard to butchering Muslims through war crimes.

The only problem is that none of these cables appear to be real. The Guardian, which has full access to the unreleased WikiLeaks cables, can’t find any of them. The story, which ran in four Pakistani newspapers, isn’t bylined and was credited only to Online Agency, an Islamabad-based pro-army news service.

It’s actually surprising this hasn’t happened yet. The vast majority of the cables are still unreleased, but the newspapers which have access to them have often reported on some of the more salacious details before the original cables are actually available. (Take for instance, the famous "Batman and Robin" description of Putin and Medvedev, which appeared in newspapers days before the actual cable was available). 

So, it’s pretty easy to just make up cables to serve your political agenda. If the Pakistani forgers had been more sophisticated they would have invented quotes or even mocked up fake cables rather than just paraphrasing. This, in my opinion, is an argument for just releasing the full archive now rather than trickling them out at the newspapers’ pace. It will be a lot easier to fact check false claims if we no longer have to rely on the Guardian as WikiLeaks’ gatekeeper. 

On another note, while the Pakistani revelations seem cartoonish, it wouldn’t be surprising if some damaging cables from New Delhi are coming soon. In working to improve the political and economic relationship with India, both the Bush and Obama administrations have papered over a number of unpleasant facts, from India’s tacit support to the Burmese military junta to still rampant governmental corruption. I’m guessing the embassy staff in New Delhi has probably been a lot blunter. 

The WikiLeaks revelations about Pakistan mostly just confirmed how both governments not-so-privately already feel about each other. In the case of U.S.-India relations, there’s a lot more to lose.