WikiLeaks releases another round of cables

WikiLeaks has dropped another load of secret cables, putting the United States in an embarrasing situation:

WikiLeaks has dropped its bombshell cache of U.S. diplomatic cables, ripping the cloak off scores of secret deals and duds, including clandestine North Korean support for Iran and the Bush administration’s failed attempt to remove nuclear material from Pakistan.

The release — more than a quarter-million back-channel cables that include brutally candid assessments of world leaders and previously undisclosed details of nuclear and antiterrorism activity — represents the most embarrassing and potentially damaging disclosure of American diplomatic material in decades.

“I don’t see the world ending … but lots of red, sputtering faces in D.C., embassies and capitals,” a senior American diplomat told POLITICO early Sunday, just before the release of the documents, which chronicle the sprawling growth of the U.S. diplomatic and intelligence corps after the 2001 terrorist attacks.

The diplomat also predicted that governments and individuals overseas are likely to clam up as a result of the disclosures, “since no one will trust us to keep a secret for a while,” while “various and sundry interest groups will cherry-pick whatever can be found in the documents to support whatever version of reality they are peddling.”

While Democrats have slammed WikiLeaks over the release of this information, and the Justice Department is launching a criminal investigation into the leaks. Many Republicans have reacted with outrage. And some, such as Rep. Peter King (R-NY), are pushing to have the WikiLeaks labeled as a terrorist organization, claiming that the leaks are putting lives at risk. However, that is an unsubstantiated claim, and it looks like WikiLeaks and the media are taking necessary steps to ensure that sensative material is not being released or reported:

Before Sunday’s release, news organizations given access to the documents and WikiLeaks took the greatest care to date to ensure no one would be put in danger. In statements accompanying stories about the documents, several newspapers said they voluntarily withheld information and that they cooperated with the State Department and the Obama administration to ensure nothing released could endanger lives or national security.

The newspapers “established lists in common of people to protect, notably in countries ruled by dictators, controlled by criminals or at war,” according to an account by Le Monde, a French newspaper that was among the five news organizations that were given access to the documents. “All the identities of people the journalists believed would be threatened were redacted,” the newspaper said in what would be an unprecedented act of self censorship by journalists toward government documents.

The newspapers also communicated U.S. government concerns to WikiLeaks to ensure sensitive data didn’t appear on the organization’s website.

“After its own redactions, The (New York) Times sent Obama administration officials the cables it planned to post and invited them to challenge publication of any information that, in the official view, would harm the national interest,” The New York Times said in a story published on its website Sunday. “After reviewing the cables, the officials — while making clear they condemn the publication of secret material — suggested additional redactions. The Times agreed to some, but not all.”

Indeed, the information in the cables is embarrassing. There are reports that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton instructed diplomats to spy on representatives from other countries at the United Nations, something UN leaders are seeking answers on. Other reports indicate that we were less than flattering in our depiction of some world leaders.

One of the more interesting revelations was that China may be ready to abandon North Korea, which is relevent given recent actions by the communist North threatening South Korea:

China has signalled its readiness to accept Korean reunification and is privately distancing itself from the North Korean regime, according to leaked US embassy cables that reveal senior Beijing figures regard their official ally as a “spoiled child”.

News of the Chinese shift comes at a crucial juncture after the North’s artillery bombardment of a South Korean island last week that killed four people and led both sides to threaten war. China has refused to condemn the North Korean action. But today Beijing appeared to bow to US pressure to help bring about a diplomatic solution, calling for “emergency consultations” and inviting a senior North Korean official to Beijing.

China is sharply critical of US pressure tactics towards North Korea and wants a resumption of the six-party nuclear disarmament talks. But the Guardian can reveal Beijing’s frustration with Pyongyang has grown since its missile and nuclear tests last year, worries about the economic impact of regional instability, and fears that the death of the dictator, Kim Jong-il, could spark a succession struggle.

The New York Times has a run down of other interesting pieces of information to come out of the cables, some of which is sure to raise eyebrows.

I’m not endorsing this, I do have concerns about how the information was received by WikiLeaks, but when our government does so much in our name around the world in secret, it’s going to breed this sort of exposure; especially in this day and age where nearly everything seems to be available on the web.

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