Wednesday, December 01, 2010

The WikiLeaks Cables And Spain....Interfering With The Course Of Justice

It's not entirely satisfying, the way in which WikiLeaks have chosen to make their hoard of US diplomatic cables available. That a single newspaper should be controlling the release of the cables concerning Spain means that we are dependent on their timescales and priorities. We're not yet at the stage where crowdsourcing information has become part of the Spanish media scene, and El País is publishing information from the cables before any of the original documents are made available.

Nevertheless, there is some interesting stuff in the information that has so far been made available. The content of the released cables will come as something of a disappointment to those who faithfully believe in the independence of the judiciary. It seems that US diplomats in the Spanish capital have managed to cultivate some useful contacts inside the Spanish judicial system and have used these contacts to the full to try and get their way on any judicial process affecting US interests.

The most notable case in this respect has been that involving the death of Spanish television cameraman José Couso in Baghdad. Couso was killed by fire from a US army tank as the American troops advanced into Baghdad during the invasion if Iraq in April 2003. He was in a hotel full of journalists, and which the US army knew to be full of journalists. Not surprisingly the US investigation into the incident found that nothing wrong had been done, but a Spanish judicial investigation led to charges against 3 US soldiers.

The Spanish case is still going, which is nothing short of a miracle when you read the cables from the US embassy in Madrid and realise what forces are stacked against it. That the US government should oppose any attempt to prosecute its soldiers in another country is not news, but the cables reveal that the US has been able to count on key supporters both in Zapatero's administration and from the judicial system. The Spanish attorney general and one of the most senior prosecutors have had meetings with US diplomats where they assured the latter that they would do their best to kill off the Couso case. This could not be done too openly without causing a political storm, and the delightful phrase used in one of the cables is that they would find a way to "quietly terminate" the case.

The Couso case is not the only judicial process to have been affected by pressure from the US embassy. The threat of investigation over the Guantanamo prison camp and the flights run by the CIA has also had them talking to their friends in Spain. The cables published so far also provided an insight into the evolution of relations between the two countries, from the tense years when the US representative was a typical Bush political appointee to the smoother times under the Obama administration. Not that the change of government altered in any way the interference with Spain's judicial system.

It's interesting to note, given the timing of Interpol issuing a warrant for the arrest of the founder of Wikileaks, the attitude of the same organisation concerning the Couso case. Interpol have done all they can to wriggle out of getting involved in bringing the 3 accused soldiers before a court, citing a clause which doesn't allow them to become involved in political or military issues. Not that this clause prevented them, to pick one random example, from becoming heavily involved in the elaborate charade mounted around the death of FARC guerilla leader Raul Reyes. Still, I imagine their involvement in that case didn't count with the opposition of the US government.


Lavengro said...

In the last few years this case has been on and off more times than my television. The surprising thing is not the revelation of US influence but that the Spanish media themselves never bothered to ask the relevant questions. Or is that surprising?

santcugat said...

It's also fun trying to figure out the Spanish translation of the English translation of the Spanish.

It seems like publishes the cables after they've been disclosed in the press, so you can see the originals.

Graeme said...

I was under the impression that El País was publishing the original cable text, is that not so? When I went looking on the Wikileaks page I only found the single cable from Madrid that I wrote about the other day.

Graeme said...

Now I've seen where they have them, although I'm not sure if its the same set of cables.