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From WikiLeaks to Irangate: The art of shredding documents - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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When the WikiLeaks documents found their way to the free press, this had a tremendous impact on astonishing new developments in international political affairs. This situation was akin to fortune-telling, but instead of revealing the future the WikiLeaks documents retroactively embarrassed and worried many foreign ministry officials in important states, forcing them to begin shredding their more sensitive documents.

We are also witnessing astonishing scenes in the security apparatus of the Egyptian Interior Ministry after Egyptian protestors broke into the Interior Ministry and discovered that senior officials had ordered important and sensitive official documents to be shredded in an attempt to protect themselves and conceal their clandestine operations. However not all the documents were shredded, and some surviving documents have revealed that certain media figures who were known as being outspoken critics of the government were actually colluding with the Egyptian security apparatus. Other documents revealed that these media figures even accepted bribes from influential businessmen, and received and followed instructions from senior government officials. All of this is being revealed at the same time that the former Egyptian Interior Minister is being tried for alleged money laundering.

This same charge has been brought against two giant financial corporations in Bahrain whose cases have now been transferred to the International Criminal Court, which is a brave and courageous move by Governor of the Bahrain Central Bank Rasheed Al Meraj and the Bahraini Attorney General [Ali al-Buainain]. Both men were keen to protect Bahrain’s image as a strong and active financial center despite the current political unrest in the country. These two officials were able to bring charges against the senior executives of the two corporations in question despite attempts by these companies to shred important and incriminating documents.

In the midst of the Khomeini revolution, with the US embassy in Tehran surrounded by revolutionaries, the embassy staff there shredded a large number of classified documents about the CIA’s operations in the country. However thanks to the Iranian revolutionaries’ ceaseless efforts (similar to the precise weaving required for the production of Persian carpets), they were able to piece together these shredded documents and uncover the CIA’s secret operations, which represented a huge blow to America. The Iranians were able to do this because the paper shredder used by the US embassy in Tehran only shredded documents in one direction, and after this was uncovered paper shredding manufactures updated their machines so that they shredded paper both horizontally and vertically, making it practically impossible to piece together shredded documents. Today, it seems that a heated struggle is taking place between those who advocate documents such as these being disclosed to the public, and others who are trying to shred them fearing what would happen should these documents be revealed and their roles exposed. If this were to happen, their deceptive nature and false positions would be revealed to the world, and they could kiss goodbye any credibility they had managed to obtain.

It seems that paper shredding machines are not as available in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Sudan and Bahrain as they are in other parts of the world, as a large amount of unbelievable information has been leaked and is being circulated in these countries. It is important at this point to note that some of these documents are being leaked in order to settle old scores, especially as the amount of protection and privacy enjoyed by certain figures, and even institutions and corporations, has decreased significantly following the revolutions and unrest. In the past, such information was monopolized by the elite, and was solely in the possession of a tiny minority; however during the current situation, and with the advancement of telecommunication technology, this information now belongs to the public.

We are truly living in strange times…and that is the least that we can say about the current situation.

Hussein Shobokshi

Hussein Shobokshi

Hussein Shobokshi is a businessman and prominent columnist. Mr. Shobokshi hosts the weekly current affairs program Al-Takreer on Al-Arabiya, and in 1995 he was chosen as one of the "Global Leaders for Tomorrow" by the World Economic Forum. He received his BA in Political Science and Management from the University of Tulsa.

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