Δευτέρα, 29 Νοεμβρίου 2010

Secret US embassy cables revealed


The US state department has worked to contain the potential fallout from the secret diplomatic cables [Reuters]




Documents detail calls for an attack on Iran, claims of US spying at the UN and widespread criticisms of world leaders,  with Vladimir Putin, the Russian prime minister, referred to as an "alpha-dog."  
Secret US embassy cables revealed
The whistleblowing website WikiLeaks has released a massive trove of leaked US diplomatic cables detailing candid opinions of various world leaders, repeated calls for a US attack on Iran, and requests for US diplomats to spy on officials of other countries.WikiLeaks started publishing the 251,287 cables - 15,652 of which are classified "secret" - from 274 US missions around the world on Sunday, even after its website apparently came under a denial of service attack before the release.
The cables, communications between diplomatic missions abroad and the US state department in Washington, were mostly sent between 2007 and last February and could embarrass both the US administration and foreign governments. Some of the diplomatic notes detailed how Arab leaders in the Gulf have been urging an attack on "evil" Iran, while others reveal serious fears in Washington over the security of Pakistan's nuclear weapons programme. They also detail advice given to US diplomats on how to gather intelligence and pass information of interest over to the country's spy agencies. According to documents, senior UN figures were the target of intelligence gathering by US diplomats.
'US contradictions'
In an introduction to the documents on its website, WikiLeaks attacked "the contradictions between the US' public persona and what it says behind closed doors". "The cables show the extent of US spying on its allies and the UN; turning a blind eye to corruption and human rights abuse in 'client states'; backroom deals with supposedly neutral countries; lobbying for US corporations; and the measures US diplomats take to advance those who have access to them."   "As far as we are aware, and as far as anyone has ever alleged in any credible manner whatsoever, no single individual has ever come to harm as a result of anything that we have ever published," he said on Sunday. "To be clear - such disclosures put at risk our diplomats, intelligence professionals, and people around the world who come to the United States for assistance in promoting democracy and open government," Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, said in a statement. But Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, denied that any of the documents placed individuals at risk.The New York Times newspaper, which received the documents before their release, explained its decision to publish the cables by saying they "serve an important public interest".The newspaper said it had "taken care to exclude... information that would endanger confidential informants or compromise national security."It said it had notified White House officials of the cables and asked if other information should be redacted, adding that it "agreed to some, but not all" of their suggestions.The UK's Guardian newspaper said all five papers had decided "neither to 'dump' the entire dataset into the public domain, nor to publish names that would endanger innocent individuals". US officials took the unusual step on Saturday of sending a letter to WikiLeaks to warn against the release of the secret government documents, which it says will put "countless" lives at risk. The letter, from Harold Hongju Koh, the US state department's most-senior lawyer, argued that publishing the classified files would threaten counterterrorism operations and jeopardise US relations with its allies.
Leaders criticised 
The cache of documents contains allegations of corruption against foreign leaders, who are subjected to stinging criticism in the cables, with Vladimir Putin, the Russian prime minister, referred to as an "alpha-dog."  Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, "avoids risk and is rarely creative", and Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, is described as being "driven by paranoia", in comments contained within diplomatic dispatches.
Advisers to Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish premier, also come in for criticism for having "little understanding of politics beyond Ankara".US diplomats visited foreign ministries in the days before the release hoping to stave off anger over the cables, which are internal messages that often lack the niceties diplomats voice in public.
Steve Clemons, a political strategist and director of the American Strategy Programme at New America Foundation, told Al Jazeera that the US reaction to this latest round of leaks has been stronger than in the past because of mainly diplomatic concerns."Certainly I wouldn't take it to the level of lives lost on the battlefield. This is essentially diplomatic brouhaha," he said."I think also that the content of these documents is a lot about the gossip and innuendo and the nuance ... and there are going to be a lot of embarrassing things that come out of these documents."There are be political repercussions of the way foreign leaders are going to read these documents. And in that sense, you're going to see people, ranging from [Asif Ali] Zardari in Pakistan, to, I understand, Nelson Mandela of South Africa has had some bad swipes taken at him in these cables."WikiLeaks previously published 400,000 Iraq war documentsin October, the biggest leak to date in US intelligence history, and 77,000 classified US files on the Afghan conflict in July.
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According to The New York Times, the leak 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."The U.S. newspaper also disclosed that American and South Korean officials have discussed "prospects for a unified Korea, should the North's economic troubles and political transition lead the state to implode."The leaked materials also reveal how a senior member of China's Politburo directed the intrusion into Google's computer systems, and touch upon the "extraordinarily close relationship" between Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his Italian counterpart Silvio Berlusconi, which is "causing intense US suspicion," according to The Guardian.The White House said in a statement on Sunday: "We condemn in the strongest terms the unauthorized disclosure of classified documents and sensitive national security information."In July WikiLeaks published some 400,000 secret U.S. military files ("Iraq War Logs") on the conflict in Iraq. The documents suggest U.S. forces turned a blind eye to evidence of torture by the Iraqi authorities. Other files reveal that the number of civilian casualties was far greater than Washington admitted.
General George Casey, who was in charge of U.S. forces in Iraq from 2004 to 2007, rebutted the allegations of torture.The main suspect in the leak of secret documents to WikiLeaks is jailed U.S. Private Bradley Manning, who had top-secret clearance as an intelligence analyst for the Army when he was stationed in Iraq. The WikiLeaks website does not have a central office or any paid staff and its operations are run only by a small dedicated team and some 800 volunteers.WikiLeaks' founder, Australian activist Julian Assange, has no home address but he often pops up in Sweden and Iceland, where Internet anonymity is protected by laws. He is being hunted by Pentagon investigators and is suspected of releasing confidential U.S. State Department documents.A Swedish court recently issued a warrant for the arrest of Assange on suspicions of rape and sexual molestation.
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These two revelations alone would be likely to reverberate around the world. But the secret dispatches, which were obtained by WikiLeaks, the whistleblowers' website, also reveal Washington's evaluation of many other highly sensitive international issues.These include a shift in relations between China and North Korea, high-level concerns over Pakistan's growing instability, and details of clandestine US efforts to combat al-Qaida in Yemen.Among scores of disclosures that are likely to cause uproar, the cables detail:
• Grave fears in Washington and London over the security of Pakistan's nuclear weapons programme, with officials warning that as the country faces economic collapse, government employees could smuggle out enough nuclear material for terrorists to build a bomb.
• Inappropriate remarks by Prince Andrew about a UK law enforcement agency and a foreign country.
• Suspicions of corruption in the Afghan government, with one cable alleging that vice-president Zia Massoud was carrying $52m in cash when he was stopped during a visit to the United Arab Emirates. Massoud denies taking money out of Afghanistan.
• How the hacker attacks which forced Google to quit China in January were orchestrated by a senior member of the Politburo who typed his own name into the global version of the search engine and found articles criticising him personally.
• Allegations that Russia and its intelligence agencies are using mafia bosses to carry out criminal operations, with one cable reporting that the relationship is so close that the country has become a "virtual mafia state".
• The extraordinarily close relationship between Vladimir Putin, the Russian prime minister, and Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian prime minister, which is causing intense US suspicion. Cables detail allegations of "lavish gifts", lucrative energy contracts and the use by Berlusconi of a "shadowy" Russian-speaking Italiango-between.
• Devastating criticism of the UK's military operations in Afghanistan by US commanders, the Afghan president and local officials in Helmand. The dispatches reveal particular contempt for the failure to impose security around Sangin – the town which has claimed more British lives than any other in the country.
The US has particularly intimate dealings with Britain, and some of the dispatches from the London embassy in Grosvenor Square will make uncomfortable reading in Whitehall and Westminster. They range from political criticisms of David Cameron to requests for specific intelligence about individual MPs.
The cables contain specific allegations of corruption, as well as harsh criticism by US embassy staff of their host governments, from Caribbean islands to China and Russia. The material includes a reference to Putin as an "alpha-dog" and Hamid Karzai as being "driven by paranoia", while Angela Merkel allegedly "avoids risk and is rarely creative". There is also a comparison between Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Adolf Hitler.
The cables names Saudi donors as the biggest financiers of terror groups, and provide an extraordinarily detailed account of an agreement between Washington and Yemen to cover up the use of US planes to bomb al-Qaida targets. One cable records that during a meeting in January with General David Petraeus, then US commander in the Middle East, Yemeni president Abdullah Saleh said: "We'll continue saying they are our bombs, not yours."
Other revelations include a description of a near "environmental disaster" last year over a rogue shipment of enriched uranium, technical details of secret US-Russian nuclear missile negotiations in Geneva, and a profile of Libya's Muammar Gaddafi, who they say is accompanied everywhere by a "voluptuous blonde" Ukrainian nurse.
Clinton led a frantic damage limitation exercise this weekend as Washington prepared foreign governments for the revelations, contacting leaders in Germany, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf, France and Afghanistan.
US ambassadors in other capitals were instructed to brief their hosts in advance of the release of unflattering pen-portraits or nakedly frank accounts of transactions with the US which they had thought would be kept quiet. Washington now faces a difficult task in convincing contacts around the world that any future conversations will remain confidential.
As the cables were published, the White House released a statement condemning their release. "Such disclosures put at risk our diplomats, intelligence professionals, and people around the world who come to the US for assistance in promoting democracy and open government. By releasing stolen and classified documents, WikiLeaks has put at risk not only the cause of human rights but also the lives and work of these individuals."
In London, a Foreign Office spokesman said: "We condemn any unauthorised release of this classified information, just as we condemn leaks of classified material in the UK. They can damage national security, are not in the national interest and, as the US have said, may put lives at risk. We have a very strong relationship with the US government. That will continue."
The US ambassador to Britain, Louis Susman, said: "We have briefed the UK government and other friends and allies around the world about the potential impact of these disclosures … I am confident that our uniquely productive relationship with the United Kingdom will remain close and strong, focused on promoting our shared objectives and values."
Sir Christopher Meyer, who was British ambassador to the US in the Blair years, thought the leaks would have little impact on diplomatic behaviour. "This won't restrain dips' [diplomats'] candour," he said. "But people will be looking at the security of electronic communications and archives. Paper would have been impossible to steal in these quantities."
The state department's legal adviser has written to the founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange and his London lawyer, warning that the cables were obtained illegally and that the publication would place at risk "the lives of countless innocent individuals … ongoing military operations … and co-operation between countries".
The electronic archive of embassy dispatches from around the world was allegedly downloaded by a US soldier earlier this year and passed to WikiLeaks. Assange made it available to the Guardian and four other news organisations: the New York TimesDer 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.
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 Clinton or her predecessor, Condoleezza 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 UN leadership. That directive requested the specification of telecoms and IT systems used by top officials and their staff and details of "private VIP networks used for official communication, to include upgrades, security measures, passwords, personal encryption keys".
PJ Crowley, the state department spokesman in Washington, said: "Let me assure you: our diplomats are just that, diplomats. They do not engage in intelligence activities. They represent our country around the world, maintain open and transparent contact with other governments as well as public and private figures, and report home. That's what diplomats have done for hundreds of years."
The acting deputy spokesman for Ban Ki-moon, Farhan Haq, said the UN chief had no immediate comment: "We are aware of the reports."
The dispatches also shed light on older diplomatic issues. One cable, for example, reveals, that Nelson Mandela was "furious" when a top adviser stopped him meeting Margaret Thatcher shortly after his release from prison to explain why the ANC objected to her policy of "constructive engagement" with the apartheid regime.
"We understand Mandela was keen for a Thatcher meeting but that [appointments secretary Zwelakhe] Sisulu argued successfully against it," according to the cable. It continues: "Mandela has on several occasions expressed his eagerness for an early meeting with Thatcher to express the ANC's objections to her policy. We were consequently surprised when the meeting didn't materialise on his mid-April visit to London and suspected that ANC hardliners had nixed Mandela's plans."
The US embassy cables are marked "Sipdis" – secret internet protocol distribution. They were compiled as part of a programme under which selected dispatches, considered moderately secret but suitable for sharing with other agencies, would be automatically loaded on to secure embassy websites, and linked with the military's Siprnet internet system.
They are classified at various levels up to "secret noforn" [no foreigners]. More than 11,000 are marked secret, while around 9,000 of the cables are marked noforn.
More than 3 million US government personnel and soldiers, many extremely junior, are cleared to have potential access to this material, even though the cables contain the identities of foreign informants, often sensitive contacts in dictatorial regimes. Some are marked "protect" or "strictly protect".
Last spring, 22-year-old intelligence analyst Bradley Manning was charged with leaking many of these cables, along with a gun-camera video of an Apache helicopter crew mistakenly killing two Reuters news agency employees in Baghdad in 2007, which was subsequently posted by WikiLeaks. Manning is facing a court martial.
In July and October WikiLeaks also published thousands of leaked military reports from Afghanistan and Iraq. These were made available for analysis beforehand to the Guardian, along with Der Spiegel and the New York Times.
A former hacker, Adrian Lamo, who reported Manning to the US authorities, said the soldier had told him in chat messages that the cables revealed "how the first world exploits the third, in detail".
He also said, according to Lamo, that Clinton "and several thousand diplomats around the world are going to have a heart attack when they wake up one morning and find an entire repository of classified foreign policy is available in searchable format to the public … everywhere there's a US post … there's a diplomatic scandal that will be revealed".
Asked why such sensitive material was posted on a network accessible to thousands of government employees, the state department spokesman told the Guardian: "The 9/11 attacks and their aftermath revealed gaps in intra-governmental information sharing. Since the attacks of 9/11, the US government has taken significant steps to facilitate information sharing. These efforts were focused on giving diplomatic, military, law enforcement and intelligence specialists quicker and easier access to more data to more effectively do their jobs."
He added: "We have been taking aggressive action in recent weeks and months to enhance the security of our systems and to prevent the leak of information."
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Wikileaks began on Sunday November 28th publishing 251,287 leaked United States embassy cables, the largest set of confidential documents ever to be released into the public domain. The documents will give people around the world an unprecedented insight into US Government foreign activities.
The cables, which date from 1966 up until the end of February this year, contain confidential communications between 274 embassies in countries throughout the world and the State Department in Washington DC. 15,652 of the cables are classified Secret.
The embassy cables will be released in stages over the next few months. The subject matter of these cables is of such importance, and the geographical spread so broad, that to do otherwise would not do this material justice.
The cables show the extent of US spying on its allies and the UN; turning a blind eye to corruption and human rights abuse in "client states"; backroom deals with supposedly neutral countries; lobbying for US corporations; and the measures US diplomats take to advance those who have access to them.
This document release reveals the contradictions between the US’s public persona and what it says behind closed doors – and shows that if citizens in a democracy want their governments to reflect their wishes, they should ask to see what’s going on behind the scenes.
Every American schoolchild is taught that George Washington – the country’s first President – could not tell a lie. If the administrations of his successors lived up to the same principle, today’s document flood would be a mere embarrassment. Instead, the US Government has been warning governments -- even the most corrupt -- around the world about the coming leaks and is bracing itself for the exposures.
The full set consists of 251,287 documents, comprising 261,276,536 words (seven times the size of "The Iraq War Logs", the world's previously largest classified information release).
The cables cover from 28th December 1966 to 28th February 2010 and originate from 274 embassies, consulates and diplomatic missions.

How to explore the data

Search for events that you remember that happened for example in your country. You can browse by date or search for an origin near you.
Pick out interesting events and tell others about them. Use twitter, reddit, mail whatever suits your audience best.
For twitter or other social networking services please use the #cablegate or unique reference ID (e.g.#66BUENOSAIRES2481) as hash tags.

Key figures:

  • 15, 652 secret
  • 101,748 confidential
  • 133,887 unclassified
  • Iraq most discussed country – 15,365 (Cables coming from Iraq – 6,677)
  • Ankara, Turkey had most cables coming from it – 7,918
  • From Secretary of State office - 8,017

According to the US State Departments labeling system, the most frequent subjects discussed are:
  • External political relations – 145,451
  • Internal government affairs – 122,896
  • Human rights – 55,211
  • Economic Conditions – 49,044
  • Terrorists and terrorism – 28,801
  • UN security council – 6,532

Graphics of the cablegate dataset



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