Jeremy Wagstaff has a terrific post looking at the leaked cables not as a security problem but as an information problem. Too much data, not enough metadata, not enough sharing, not enough ability to sort and make sense of them all.
I hesitate to excerpt some key paragraphs from it for fear of distracting you from the post in its entirety. Nevertheless:
..,the problem that WikiLeaks unearths is that the most powerful nation on earth doesnâ€™t seem to have any better way of working with all this information than anyone else. Each cable has some header materialâ€”who itâ€™s intended for, who itâ€™s by, and when it was written. Then thereâ€™s a line called TAGS, which, in true U.S. bureaucratic style doesnâ€™t actually mean tags but â€œTraffic Analysis by Geography and Subjectâ€â€”a state department system to organize and manage the cables. Many are two letter country or regional tagsâ€”US, AF, PK etcâ€”while others are four letter subject tagsâ€”from AADP for Automated Data Processing to PREL for external political relations, or SMIG for immigration related terms.
Of course thereâ€™s nothing wrong with thisâ€”the tag list is updated regularly (that last one seems to be in January 2008). You can filter a search by, say, a combination of countries, a subject tag and then whatâ€™s called a program tag, which always begins with K, such as KPAO for Public Affairs Office.
This is all very well, but itâ€™s very dark ages. The trouble is, as my buff friend in the Kabul garden points out, thereâ€™s not much out there thatâ€™s better. A CIA or State Department analyst may use a computer to sift through the tags and other metadata, but that seems to be the only real difference between him and his Mum or Dad 50 years before.
Read the whole thing here.