Wikileaks Releases Documents, U.S. Officials Scramble

The anticipated Wikileaks document dump has arrived. It includes 250,000 American diplomatic cables, most from the past three years.

The cables, a huge sampling of the daily traffic between the State Department and some 270 embassies and consulates, amount to a secret chronicle of the United States’ relations with the world in an age of war and terrorism. ...The anticipated disclosure of the cables is already sending shudders through the diplomatic establishment, and could conceivably strain relations with some countries, influencing international affairs in ways that are impossible to predict.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and American ambassadors around the world have been contacting foreign officials in recent days to alert them to the expected disclosures. A statement from the White House on Sunday said: “We condemn in the strongest terms the unauthorized disclosure of classified documents and sensitive national security information.” Among their revelations, to be detailed in The Times in coming days.

Some of what's covered:[More...]

Bargaining to empty the Guantánamo Bay prison: When American diplomats pressed other countries to resettle detainees, they became reluctant players in a State Department version of “Let’s Make a Deal.” Slovenia was told to take a prisoner if it wanted to meet with President Obama, while the island nation of Kiribati was offered incentives worth millions of dollars to take in Chinese Muslim detainees, cables from diplomats recounted. The Americans, meanwhile, suggested that accepting more prisoners would be “a low-cost way for Belgium to attain prominence in Europe.”

...Clashes with Europe over human rights: American officials sharply warned Germany in 2007 not to enforce arrest warrants for Central Intelligence Agency officers involved in a bungled operation in which an innocent German citizen with the same name as a suspected militant was mistakenly kidnapped and held for months in Afghanistan. A senior American diplomat told a German official “that our intention was not to threaten Germany, but rather to urge that the German government weigh carefully at every step of the way the implications for relations with the U.S.

On Yemen:

For instance, it has been previously reported that the Yemeni government has sought to cover up the American role in missile strikes against the local branch of Al Qaeda. But a cable’s fly-on-the-wall account of a January meeting between the Yemeni president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, and Gen. David H. Petraeus, then the American commander in the Middle East, is nonetheless breathtaking.

“We’ll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours,” Mr. Saleh said, according to the cable sent by the American ambassador, prompting Yemen’s deputy prime minister to “joke that he had just ‘lied’ by telling Parliament” that Yemeni forces had carried out the strikes.

The Guardian calls the release a "global diplomatic crisis" " and says Hillary Clinton is in charge of damage control.

And, if there was any lingering doubt the U.S. has become Spy Central, there shouldn't be.

The cables published today reveal how the US uses its embassies as part of a global espionage network, with diplomats tasked to obtain not just information from the people they meet, but personal details, such as frequent flyer numbers, credit card details and even DNA material.

Classified "human intelligence directives" issued in the name of Hillary Clinton or her predecessor, Condoleeza Rice, instruct officials to gather information on military installations, weapons markings, vehicle details of political leaders as well as iris scans, fingerprints and DNA.

The most controversial target was the leadership of the United Nations. That directive requested the specification of telecoms and IT systems used by top UN officials and their staff and details of "private VIP networks used for official communication, to include upgrades, security measures, passwords, personal encryption keys".

Who has the Wikileaks documents? The New York Times, the Guardian, Der Spiegel in Germany, Le Monde in France and El País in Spain.

All five plan to publish extracts from the most significant cables, but have decided neither to "dump" the entire dataset into the public domain, nor to publish names that would endanger innocent individuals. WikiLeaks says that, contrary to the state department's fears, it also initially intends to post only limited cable extracts, and to redact identities.

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  • Display: Sort:
    The fact that the releasing parties (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by andgarden on Sun Nov 28, 2010 at 02:54:31 PM EST
    are themselves redacting lends considerable support to the notion that this release is simply a bad idea. Apparently nobody disagrees that there are actually matters of national security that should not be released to the public. Rather, there only appears to be disagreement over who should decide what information is sensitive.

    It seems to me that Wikileaks would be in a more defensible position logically if it actually dumped everything that it had. Now it is just usurping the role of elected officials and expert agencies. Who are they to decide what is sensitive to matters of national security and what is not?

    National security line has become a joke (5.00 / 3) (#3)
    by waldenpond on Sun Nov 28, 2010 at 03:37:41 PM EST
    good grief.... the US is a democratically elected govt.  What is does in my name is my public interest.  The thought that journalists have any obligation to protect the US govt from having it's corruption and illegal activiities exposed is absurd.  Some of it looks like juvenile gossip which fits the shallowness and vapidness of American reality culture.

    I want to know if it's true and under which sick eff of a President the pentagon was targeting the bombing of refugee camps.

    I couldn't appreciate more Wiki showing that the Dems are as craven as Repubs.


    There's only one party: The Property Party. (none / 0) (#4)
    by Yes2Truth on Sun Nov 28, 2010 at 03:51:59 PM EST

    It has two wings.
    As Gore Vidal described it more than 20 years ago.

    So you literally think (none / 0) (#13)
    by Socraticsilence on Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 01:03:14 PM EST
    that any and all information that the US goverment obtains should be public?

    Almost all (none / 0) (#14)
    by Romberry on Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 01:29:58 PM EST
    At least 95 percent of what is classified as secret or above should not be, and yes, in a democratic representative republic, it should be open and available to the public. How else is the public to actually know what their supposedly representative government is doing in their name?

    That is stupid. (none / 0) (#18)
    by nyrias on Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 04:19:08 PM EST
    You want the government to publish how we are gathering information about our enemies?

    And don't tell me that the US don't have enemies.


    It really isn't (none / 0) (#21)
    by Romberry on Tue Nov 30, 2010 at 07:24:34 PM EST
    The fact is that the vast majority of what is classified shouldn't be. But don't take my word for it. Search it out for yourself. Here's a start.

    Calling what I posted "stupid" only shows that you are ignorant. Learn.


    Eventually yes (none / 0) (#15)
    by waldenpond on Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 01:36:18 PM EST
    Of course.  Duh.  You won't get the govt to release troop movement of even an illegal war, but yes, eventually, all info should be released.  The debate should be over how many years something is lied about.

    Really, the only 'leak' so far that I haven't read about is that one of our US Presidents was considering bombing refugee camps.

    I can't imagine anyone coming up with a legitimate justification that info should be confidential forever.


    Well I agree (none / 0) (#22)
    by Socraticsilence on Wed Dec 01, 2010 at 11:53:26 AM EST
    with that without a doubt- hell, declassified info is a tremendous tool for political scientists and historians I just tend to think a 10 year period (or more if the possible victims are still alive and/or vulnerable) is prudent for a lot of things.

    Perhaps our national security is (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by observed on Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 07:09:24 AM EST
    also harmed by expensive and lengthy foreign occupations which reach no goal and which inflame sentiment against us by way of  our wanton slaughter of civilians.

    From (none / 0) (#2)
    by lentinel on Sun Nov 28, 2010 at 03:13:13 PM EST
    what I read above, the decision of Wikileaks is to only withhold names of certain individuals to protect them from immediate danger.

    They didn't make any statement that I read that they are interested in withholding information on the basis of so-and-so's "national security".

    I'm glad that they are publishing.

    I like governments who mislead their own people to be unmasked.


    Not every document dump (5.00 / 4) (#6)
    by andgarden on Sun Nov 28, 2010 at 09:37:58 PM EST
    should be hailed like the Pentagon Papers.

    No, this doesn't sit well with me at all.


    I (5.00 / 1) (#10)
    by lentinel on Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 12:27:36 PM EST
    guess I don't understand why the disclosure of this information doesn't sit well with you.

    I can think of a few reasons (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by CST on Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 12:53:50 PM EST
    I imagine that will seriously deter open conversations with foreign diplomats, it will strain relations with countries that don't need straining, and it will make it significantly harder to accomplish state department goals.

    Why trust wikileaks or some random third party to decide what information should be classified/not classified?  You are selling out information - in return for what?

    I'm not a fan of the death penalty, not for any reason, including this one.  But this is treason pure and simple.


    This (5.00 / 1) (#12)
    by Socraticsilence on Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 01:02:28 PM EST
    look I don't get how a state can be expected operate in a realm of complete disclosure.

    If (none / 0) (#17)
    by lentinel on Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 03:45:18 PM EST
    I have to choose between the secrecy that cloaks the stupidity that gets us into wars and transparency, I vote transparency.

    Over the top... (none / 0) (#16)
    by lentinel on Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 03:43:59 PM EST
    How can the release of this information be treasonous?
    The source of the information is not an American.

    I think we have a right to know what b.s. our government is handing out in our name. Lives are at stake.


    Have you considered .. (none / 0) (#19)
    by nyrias on Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 04:21:12 PM EST
    that it may harm diplomacy?

    I would much prefer some backroom deal that stops Iran's nuclear program, than eventually either a) there is a war over it, or b) everyone in the region would develop nuclear weapons because of it.


    I (none / 0) (#20)
    by lentinel on Tue Nov 30, 2010 at 05:56:34 PM EST
    did not read of any backroom deals that were aimed at stopping Iran's nuclear program.

    All the hot air about that is out in the open.

    Indeed, the backroom talk about Iran revealed that people in the area were trying to get the US to start a war over it - not to prevent a war.


    Why is it a bad idea? (none / 0) (#9)
    by BobTinKY on Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 07:50:15 AM EST
    I believe Wikileaks is redacting to protect identities of specific individuals who may be harmed as a result of publication.  

    National security, right.


    How many of this leak info are documented facts? (none / 0) (#5)
    by EL seattle on Sun Nov 28, 2010 at 07:39:34 PM EST
    I'm just guessing, but I'd imagine that in documents like this there can be lots of speculation, inaccurate paraphrasing, rumours, and gossip.  Some of this info is certainly true (even the yummy juicy stuff).  But if there's a fact-fail rate of even just a few percent, that would mean that details in tens of thousands of documents from this document dump of this size that could probably be accurately categorized as "incorrect" or "lies".

    Probably quite a bit considering (5.00 / 1) (#8)
    by BobTinKY on Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 07:48:11 AM EST
    our "intelligence" agencies failed to see the downfall fo the Soviet Union.  BUt if there are piles of erroneous information why is such information classified and being relied upon?

    I love wikileaks, more power to 'em.  Unlike Joe Leiberman I don't feel any less safe or secure, quite the contrary.  I like information in what is supposed to be a democracy, particularly information about what my government is doing in my name with my tax money.