Former US president Bill Clinton has said that "this whole Wikileaks issue" illustrates the problem of global instability, and has thrown cybersecurity issues into "high dudgeon and high relief".
Bill Clinton speaks at Dreamforce (Credit: Stilgherrian)
Speaking to a standing-room-only audience of around 15,000 at Salesforce.com's Dreamforce 2010 user conference in San Francisco, President Clinton defended the government's decision to give the Department of Defense access to diplomatic cables, but warned that fears of lax cybersecurity could hamper US efforts internationally.
"Who knew that — at least apparently — this whole crisis was caused by a young man who joined the military because his father had been in the military and had loved being in the relationship with his father, was displeased with the Iraq War, broke into computers, transferred all the information," Clinton said.
"The information on Iraq and Afghanistan didn't create enough of a stir, and just by coincidence all the diplomatic cables of the United States had been given to the Defense Department in a new effort to share information — which was a good thing for America — after 9/11. And it turned out that gossip in the diplomatic cables has gotten more press than all the information that we had on Iraq and Afghanistan. I don't know what that says about all this, but it's true."
Clinton saw Wikileaks' actions as "the beginning", and was clearly concerned about the potential for longer-term harm to US interests.
"What you don't see is how many people who were helping America to try to understand what was going on in their countries who will now be hounded. Some of them may be killed. Countless numbers of them, their careers are over. And how many people may now be reluctant to talk with us for fear that our cybersecurity is so weak that there will never be any such a thing as confidential conversation again if it's memorialised electronically?"
"It is an unstable world," he said.
Political and financial instability is one of three critical problems currently facing today's world that were highlighted in President Clinton's speech, along with economic inequality and environmental unsustainability.
"We have a lot of work to do," Clinton said, before highlighting a series of metrics in which the US lags behind other wealthy nations — especially health and education.
Calling for an end to the politics of Democrat versus Republican, Clinton urged his audience to focus on the most forward-thinking solutions to the current problems facing the nation.
"You are all sitting in these chairs because you are in the tomorrow business," Clinton said.
"I like America's odds. People have been counting us out for 200 years. But we've got to get back to the tomorrow business."
Stilgherrian is in San Francisco as a guest of Salesforce.com.