Last November, when the State Department learned that an outfit called WikiLeaks had acquired tens of thousands of secret U.S. diplomatic cables, the reaction in Washington bordered on panic. WikiLeaks had already released secret papers on the Afghanistan war, which the Pentagon said had gravely endangered many lives. Facing an impending torrent of classified documents covering U.S. interests on all continents, top American diplomats tried to brace the country for the harsh impact. They anxiously predicted the massive leak would be "harmful to our national security."
Five months after WikiLeaks broke the latch on its treasure trove and started scattering the contents across the globe, the impact has proven far different than what Washington feared. A look at what WikiLeaks has wrought in one region in particular, Latin America, shows that more than harming or even embarrassing the U.S., the leaked documents have embarrassed politicians in other countries. They have done it, for the most part, not by revealing secrets the public did not know, but by confirming already existing suspicions and highlighting the corruption and political shenanigans familiar to those who live in the region.
To be sure, the document dump, which continues to this day, has created some very awkward moments for American diplomats. The harshest repercussions, however, have fallen not on the U.S., but on the countries that the American diplomatic corps wrote about in the secret cables.