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ISSUES....
Inside, confidential and off the record

WIKI reactions

 

Updates on the Reaction to U.S. Diplomatic Cables Released by Wikileaks

On Sunday, The Lede is following the reaction online as The New York Times publishes the first in a series of articles based on secret American diplomatic cables obtained and released by WikiLeaks, the whistle-blowing Web site. Articles on what the documents reveal have also been published on the Web sites of four European publications: the Guardian , Der Spiegel , Le Monde and El País .

The Times has published the first four articles in its series and a selection of the documents discussed in those articles, along with a note from the editors explaining the series.

As the editors of The Times explain in “ A Note to Readers: The Decision to Publish Diplomatic Documents ,” introducing the series, State's Secrets , more than 250,000 American diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks, reveal “the daily traffic between the State Department and more than 270 diplomatic outposts around the world.” The Times editors note that “In all, The Times plans to post on its Web site the text of about 100 cables — some edited, some in full — that illuminate aspects of American foreign policy.”

For more information on the substance of the cables, how The Times dealt with the Obama administration's concerns about them and what their importance might be in regard to specific countries, please read the editors' note and the first four articles in the series, published today.

We will be taking reader comments here on what the secret documents reveal and filing updates and the global reaction to the release on the Web.

0:43 A.M. | Senator Calls on U.S. to Shut WikiLeaks

Joseph I. Lieberman, the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, issued a statement on Sunday condemning WikiLeaks and its decision to release more than 250,000 secret diplomatic cables. In his statement, he urged the Obama administration and other governments to use "all legal means" to shut down WikiLeaks.

By disseminating these materials, WikiLeaks is putting at risk the lives and the freedom of countless Americans and non-Americans around the world. It is an outrageous, reckless, and despicable action that will undermine the ability of our government and our partners to keep our people safe and to work together to defend our vital interests. Let there be no doubt: the individuals responsible are going to have blood on their hands. I stand in full support of the Obama Administration's condemnation of WikiLeaks for these disclosures. I also urge the Obama Administration -- both on its own and in cooperation with other responsible governments around the world -- to use all legal means necessary to shut down WikiLeaks before it can do more damage by releasing additional cables.

Read the full release on Mr. Lieberman's Web site .

On Sunday, the senator also tweeted:

WikiLeaks' deliberate disclosure of these diplomatic cables is nothing less than an attack on our national security.

0:10 A.M. | Pakistan Reacts to Disclosures

The Times's Salman Masood reports from Islamabad on reaction from Pakistan:

Local television news networks late Sunday night prominently highlighted a cable released by WikiLeaks that mentioned the Saudi King's damning assessment of Pakistan's president, Asif Ali Zardari.

On Monday morning, leading newspapers ran front-page coverage of the WikiLeaks documents. The News, a center-right newspaper that is critical of the current government, had a lead headline, "Zardari greatest obstacle to Pak progress: King Abdullah." That was a reference to the King's assertion that Mr. Zardari was an obstacle to Pakistan's progress. "When the head is rotten," the king was quoted as saying, "it affects the whole body."

The News article said, "The scathing remarks by the Saudi King explain why relations between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have remained cool and almost frozen during the current rule of the Pakistan Peoples' Party."

The News and Jang, the daily in the national Urdu language, carried an article by Cameron Munter, the American ambassador to Pakistan, that seemed aimed at damage control. Ambassador Munter wrote that he condemned the leaks and stressed that diplomats must engage in frank discussions with their colleagues. Terming Pakistan as an "important strategic partner of the United States," Ambassador Munter stated that "even a solid relationship will have its ups and downs."

Dawn, considered the country's  leading English daily, had a lead headline "US trying to remove enriched Pak uranium: WikiLeaks." That was a reaction to the revelation that since 2007, the United States has mounted a highly secret and unsuccessful effort to remove from a Pakistani research reactor highly enriched uranium that American officials fear could be diverted for use in an illicit nuclear device.

The Express Tribune, a Karachi-based English daily newspaper and a partner of International Herald Tribune, had a lead article that was headlined: "WikiLeaks shatters American diplomacy".

Shah Mehmood Qureshi, the Pakistani foreign minister, was quoted as saying that a response would be issued after a detailed reading of the leaked dispatches.

11:38 P.M. | Australia to Start Inquiry Into Leaks

Australia's attorney general, Robert McClelland, said on Monday that the government will investigate whether the release of confidential documents by Wikileaks broke any of that country's laws, the Associated Press reports :

McClelland told reporters on Monday he was not aware of a request from the United States to cancel the Australian passport of WikiLeaks' founder, Julian Assange. He said a range of options are under consideration by Australian government agencies in response to the latest disclosure of classified U.S. material. McClelland says there are "potentially a number of criminal laws" that could have been breached.

11:21 P.M. | U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Says Leak May 'Imperil the Powerless'

Monday's edition of The News, a leading Pakistani newspaper, includes an essay by Cameron Munter, America's new ambassador to Pakistan, headlined simply " Wikileaks ." Writing on Twitter , Nick Schifrin, an ABC News correspondent, calls Mr. Munter's opinion piece, "Part attack, part apology."

The ambassador writes, in part:

Pakistan is an important strategic partner of the United States. Of course, even a solid relationship will have its ups and downs. We have seen that in the past few days, when documents purportedly downloaded from U.S. Defense Department computers became the subject of reports in the media. They appear to contain our diplomats' assessments of policies, negotiations, and leaders from countries around the world as well as reports on private conversations with people inside and outside other governments.

I cannot vouch for the authenticity of any one of these documents. But I can say that the United States deeply regrets the disclosure of any information that was intended to be confidential. And we condemn it. Diplomats must engage in frank discussions with their colleagues, and they must be assured that these discussions will remain private.

Honest dialogue - within governments and between them - is part of the basic bargain of international relations; we couldn't maintain peace, security, and international stability without it. I'm sure that Pakistan's ambassadors to the United States would say the same thing. They too depend on being able to exchange honest opinions with their counterparts in Washington and send home their assessments of America's leaders, policies, and actions....

But relations between governments aren't the only concern. U.S. diplomats meet with local human rights workers, journalists, religious leaders, and others outside the government who offer their own candid insights. These conversations depend on trust and confidence as well. If an anti-corruption activist shares information about official misconduct, or a social worker passes along documentation of sexual violence, revealing that person's identity could have serious repercussions: imprisonment, torture, even death.

The owners of the WikiLeaks Web site claim to possess some 250,000 classified documents, many of which have been released to the media. Whatever their motives are in publishing these documents, it is clear that releasing them poses real risks to real people, and often to particular people who have dedicated their lives to protecting others. An act intended to provoke the powerful may instead imperil the powerless. We support and are willing to have genuine debates about pressing questions of public policy. But releasing documents carelessly and without regard for the consequences is not the way to start such a debate.

8:18 P.M. | Praise for U.S. Diplomats From Former Blair Aide

In a Guardian video report on the leaked documents, Jonathan Powell, a former diplomat and chief of staff to Tony Blair said, "it was interesting to see, actually, what good analysis the American diplomats had, how well-informed they were, how well-connected they were and how much they knew about political situations."

World leaders called "thin-skinned" or "feckless, vain, and ineffective" might disagree, but, some of the cables published by WikiLeaks so far, containing briefings on, say, Turkey's "neo-Ottoman" foreign policy , or Iran's opposition green movement , are quite substantial and interesting.

7:51 P.M. | Diplomats Are Not Spies, State Dept. Says

On his Twitter feed , P.J Crowley, a State Department spokesman, responds to what he says is the misleading idea that American diplomats are acting as spies, writing:

Contrary to some #Wikileaks' reporting, our diplomats are diplomats. They are not intelligence assets.

Diplomats collect information that shapes our policies and actions. Diplomats for all nations do the same thing.

7:16 P.M. | Reaction From the Arab World

Issandr El Amrani, a journalist living in Cairo, writes on his blog the Arabist that the records of private conversations between American officials and Arab leaders released by WikiLeaks might reverberate much more strongly in the Arab world, where press freedom and government transparency are extremely limited. He explains:

I've only had time to look at a handful of the Wikileaks cables, but while many may just confirm certain widely held theories, they also provide tremendous insight into the day-to-day analysis of Embassy officials and a fascinating record of conversations with world leaders, security chiefs, senior politicians and diplomats across the Middle East. It's a treasure trove for any journalist or analyst to understand US positions and compare them to public positions, but even more of a find for doing the same for Middle Eastern states.

There is so much information flowing around about U.S. policy - and often, a good deal of transparency - that a smart observer with good contacts can get a good idea of what's happening. Not so in the Arab world, and the contents of the conversations Arab leader are having with their patron state are not out in the Arab public domain or easily guessable, as anyone who reads the meaningless press statements of government press agencies will tell you. Cablegate is in important record from the Arab perspective, perhaps more than from the U.S. one.

On his @arabist Twitter feed, Mr. Amrani is also providing a running commentary on the cables he finds most interesting. To cite one example, he points to this analysis of "Turkey's new, highly activist foreign policy," by the U.S. Embassy in Ankara in January, months before the country's confrontation with Israel over the Gaza flotilla raid.

7:00 P.M. | Diplomatic Cables Were on Military Computer Network

Simon Rogers reports on the Guardian's Data Blog that the secret diplomatic cables were apparently available to the person who downloaded them and passed them on to WikiLeaks because of an effort, after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States to increase the amount of information shared by U.S. government agencies. He explains:

The cables themselves come via the huge Secret Internet Protocol Router Network, or SIPRNet. SIPRNet is the worldwide US military Internet system, kept separate from the ordinary civilian Internet and run by the Department of Defense in Washington. Since the attacks of September 2001, there has been a move in the US to link up archives of government information, in the hope that key intelligence no longer gets trapped in information silos or "stovepipes". An increasing number of US embassies have become linked to SIPRNet over the past decade, so that military and diplomatic information can be shared. By 2002, 125 embassies were on SIPRNet: by 2005, the number had risen to 180, and by now the vast majority of US missions worldwide are linked to the system - which is why the bulk of these cables are from 2008 and 2009.

On Sunday the foreign policy Web site Stratfor noted that the documents were "allegedly downloaded by a U.S. Army soldier, Pfc. Bradley Manning," from SIPRNet . Stratfor added:

SIPRNet is a network used to distribute not particularly sensitive information that is classified at the secret level and below. However, while the last two batches of documents were largely battlefield reports from U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, this latest group allegedly consists of some 250,000 messages authored by the U.S. Department of State, many of which appear to have been sent by U.S. embassies and consulates abroad.

U.S. State Department messages are called "cables" in State Department parlance, a reference that hearkens back to the days when embassies really did send messages via telegraph rather than satellite transmissions or e-mail messages via SIPRNet. These State Department messages were intentionally placed on SIPRNet under an information-sharing initiative known as "net-centric diplomacy" that was enacted following criticism levied against the U.S. government for not sharing intelligence information that perhaps could have prevented the 9/11 attacks. Net-centric diplomacy ensured that even though Manning was a low-level soldier, he had access to hundreds of thousands of State Department cables by virtue of his access to SIPRNet.

It is important to understand that SIPRNet contains only information classified at the secret level and below. Because of this, it will not contain highly classified information pertaining to U.S. government intelligence operations, methods or sources. This information also will not contain the most sensitive diplomatic information passed between State Department headquarters in Washington and it constellation of diplomatic posts overseas. The fact that much of the diplomatic-message traffic being released was unclassified and the most heavily classified was at the secret level does not mean that the release will not cause real pain or embarrassment for the U.S. government. In fact, it is quite possible that these documents will do far more to damage U.S. foreign relations than the last two batches of documents released by WikiLeaks.

Some of the documents reportedly contain the minutes from meetings held with foreign leaders. Such reports may contain gossip, opinion and even evaluations of the intellect and mental state of foreign leaders by U.S. diplomats.

5:17 P.M. | 219 Documents on WikiLeaks Web Site So Far

After some problems earlier today, WikiLeaks.org appears to be working fine now, and the whistle-blowing site has published 219 documents from its trove of 251,287 secret diplomatic cables so far. The new " Secret U.S. Embassy Cables " section of the WikiLeaks site is an expanding archive of the documents that can be searched in several ways, including by subject, country or topic.

The selected documents discussed in articles by my Times colleagues can be read in our document viewer, here . More documents will be added over the coming days, as more articles are published.

5:05 P.M. | Social Media Reaction

My colleague Elizabeth Heron reports that commentary on the leaked documents on social media sites is divided along the same lines as it is in the comment thread below this post: into those who salute and those who decry both WikiLeaks and the news organizations that have published the documents.

On Twitter, an observation posted by David Waldock has been repeated hundreds of times: "Dear government: as you keep telling us, if you've done nothing wrong, you've got nothing to fear #wikileaks."

Another popular comment on the social network was posted by a microblogger using the scree name Renderfarm.fi, who wrote : "Sorry to all who disagree, but to me #cablegate represents why Internet was invented and what it should stand for. Freedom of information."

On Facebook, a follower of The Times named James Mitchell disagreed strongly, writing: "It's bad enough that WikiLeaks gets access to, and releases, classified documents. They release the documents to NYTimes and others to enhance what they are doing, which is wrong. It's sad that NYTimes and other media do not understand the dangers of disseminating this material." (It should be noted that The New York Times did not obtain the documents from WikiLeaks, but from another source.)

Other Facebook commentary focused on the fact that WikiLeaks has been obtaining and publishing American documents. One member of the social network, Peta Sku, noted, "Well, it is all anti-U.S. stuff, seems a little bit odd to me. What about Russian, French, British and Chinese leaks?" Another user, Boiboi Alavaren, added: "Assange will only leak US documents. Leaking documents from China or Russia would be his last. He knows he's safe with the U.S."

Writing on Twitter, Michael Hastings, the Rolling Stone journalist who wrote the candid profile of Gen. Stanley McChrystal in June that cost the American commander in Afghanistan his job, made a similar observation, asking:

Thought experiment: if Assange had exposed thousands of secret doc.s from China, Russia, Iran, [North Korea], etc., would we consider him a hero or villain?

4:29 P.M. | Frank Assessments and Snark About World Leaders

Several news organizations have pointed out that some of the cables released by WikiLeaks contain remarks about world leaders that might make future meetings for American diplomats with those figures a little uncomfortable. As the Guardian reports , for example, a 2008 message from the U.S. Embassy in Moscow describes Russia's president, Dmitri Medvedev, as the junior partner to the country's prime minister, Vladimir Putin, suggesting that he "plays Robin to Putin's Batman."

In a preview of what is to come in future days, as the news organizations reveal more of the contents of the leaked documents, the Spanish newspaper El País hints that the cables contain "judgments" on "the characters, hobbies and sins" of Latin American leaders, including Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, Argentina's president. According to El País, one cable it plans to publish on Monday indicates that questions were asked at the State Department's highest levels about the Argentine president's "mental health."

Among the other leaders who might be demanding explanations in the coming days are French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who was described in one cable as "thin-skinned," and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who was called a "feckless, vain, and ineffective" leader whose "frequent late nights and penchant for partying hard mean he does not get sufficient rest." Regular readers of The Lede will be aware of the fact that Mr. Sarkozy's prickliness is as notorious in France as Mr. Berlusconi's reputation as a lover of parties, and teenage girls is in Italy.

3:27 P.M. | American Ambasador to U.K. Decries Leak

Louis Susman, the American ambassador to the United Kingdom, said a statement on the leaks posted on his embassy's Web site on Sunday:

We have briefed the U.K. government and other friends and allies around the world about the potential impact of these disclosures.

While I will not discuss the details or authenticity of any material which may have been provided to the press, I can speak to the practice of diplomatic cable writing. These messages are the day-to-day record of the diplomatic activity conducted by our Embassies around the world. Diplomatic cables inform the foreign policy decisions made by the U.S. government but should not be seen as representing U.S. policy on their own. They are a part of the extensive cooperation we have with other countries, which is based on relationships of trust, so that we can share perspectives on events in confidence. When this trust is betrayed, it is harmful to the United States and our interests.

That note might be a preemptive attempt to apologize, given that the Guardian's live blog on the leak hints that, in the days ahead, "There's plenty more to come, including 'claims of inappropriate behavior' by a British royal.'"

3:06 P.M. | Sifting Through the Raw Material

While readers are strongly encouraged to read the four articles published by The Times on Sunday on what the secret diplomatic documents reveal, it should be noted that a fascinating conversation about the raw material has already begun online. On Twitter, journalists and bloggers have started pointing to interesting nuggets of information posted online by the other news organizations and bantering about the leak.

Evgeny Morozov, the author of the forthcoming "The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom," who writes about the impact of the Web on activism , is tracking that conversation on his Twitter feed . Mr. Morozov suggested that "WikiLeaks is what happens when the entire US government is forced to go through a full-body scanner."

He also noted that a cable posted on the Guardian's Web site - summarizing a March, 2009 meeting between Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and the White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan - includes a remarkable suggestion on how detainees released from the Guantánamo Bay prison might be tracked:

"I've just thought of something," the King added, and proposed implanting detainees with an electronic chip containing information about them and allowing their movements to be tracked with Bluetooth. This was done with horses and falcons, the King said. Brennan replied, "horses don't have good lawyers," and that such a proposal would face legal hurdles in the U.S., but agreed that keeping track of detainees was an extremely important issue that he would review with appropriate officials when he returned to the United States.

Mr. Morozov also repeats this wry observation from Sonia Moghe , a reporter for a New York news station: "Wikileaks: TMZ for the diplomatic set."

1:59 P.M. | Pentagon Claims Leak Endangers Lives

In an interview with CNN broadcast before the publication of the diplomatic documents, Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that the leak would put the lives of some people at risk.

As The Lede reported in July , after WikiLeaks released secret American military documents on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan , Admiral Mullen said:

Mr. Assange can say whatever he likes about the greater good he thinks he and his source are doing, but the truth is they might already have on their hands the blood of some young soldier or that of an Afghan family.

Despite that dire warning, Robert Gates, the defense secretary, told Congress in October that a Pentagon review "to date has not revealed any sensitive intelligence sources and methods compromised by the disclosure," of the war logs by WikiLeaks.

1:30 P.M. | WikiLeaks Web Site Is Down

The Web site WikiLeaks.org , is currently offline, just minutes after The New York Times and four European news organizations published the first in a series of articles based on more than a quarter-million secret American diplomatic cables. As The Lede reported earlier , WikiLeaks reported that it was experiencing a denial of service attack on its Web site more than an hour ago on its Twitter feed.

- Robert Mackey / thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/ The New York Times / 11/29/2010

ISSUES.... 11/29/2010 / - Send Us Your Issues

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