US readying other governments for WikiLeaks release

Friday, November 26, 2010

WASHINGTON - The US has been in discussions with countries around the world seeking to contain potential diplomat fallout over the pending publication of classified diplomatic cables and documents.

According to media reports in numerous countries Friday, US officials have reached out to the governments of Australia, Britain, Canada, Denmark, Israel, Norway and others to discuss the potential impact of the unauthorised leak.

WikiLeaks, the self-proclaimed whistleblower website, has indicated it will publish nearly 3 million documents. In the past, it has released secret papers through The New York Times, the Guardian and the German magazine Der Spiegel. The release is expected to take place within days but WikiLeaks has not specified the timing.

The US State Department is worried the information could include embarrassing details or communications about other countries, and is moving to contain the damage.

The revelations could be “harmful to the United States and our interests” and “are going to create tension in relationships between our diplomats and our friends around the world”, spokesman PJ Crowley said earlier this week.

The WikiLeaks release is expected to be the largest leak ever of classified documents. In October, WikiLeaks published nearly 400,000 classified US military documents related to the war in Iraq. It had previously published tens of thousands of military papers about Afghanistan.

Washington has harshly condemned WikiLeaks for compromising national security and putting lives at risk. The State Department maintains the documents have been stolen and should be returned.

The US military arrested Private First Class Bradley Manning and transferred him to the US in July in connection with leaking classified material to WikiLeaks. US authorities have not said whether Bradley was behind the leaking of the Iraq war logs or the forthcoming State Department documents.

Manning was working as an intelligence analyst in Iraq at the time of his arrest and reportedly had access to classified material. Reports said the military had obtained evidence from his computer showing he had downloaded secret information.

Typical diplomatic cables contain analysis of situations, as well as records of discussions between US diplomats and foreign officials in what Crowley described as “diplomacy in action”.

“Inherent in this day-to-day action is trust that we can convey our perspective to other governments in confidence and that they can convey their perspective on events to us,” he said. “And when this confidence is betrayed and ends up on the front pages of newspapers or lead stories on television and radio it has an impact.”

In hinting that a new release was imminent, WikiLeaks said on Twitter last Sunday that it will be “7x the size of the Iraq War Logs”. It has documented on its Twitter account press reports about the release and the ongoing discussions between US embassies and their host governments.

The State Department has also informed Congress of the latest pending release, Crowley said. He acknowledged the State Department “has known all along” that WikiLeaks obtained the diplomatic cables and was bracing for the publication.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is wanted in Sweden as part of an ongoing investigation into sexual assault. A lower court last week had approved the detention order by prosecutors who suspect the Australian of “rape, sexual molestation and unlawful coercion”.

Two women came forward in August with rape allegations against Assange while he was in Sweden. Assange has rejected the accusations.

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