Sunday, November 28, 2010
Media unveils classified documents via Wikileaks website in explosive release of 250,000 'secrets'
The State Department's biggest secrets - from Arab nations privately pushing for an attack on Iran to U.S. diplomats spying on UN leaders - were laid bare in a stunning new avalanche of classified documents published by WikiLeaks.
The publication of 250,000 private State Department cables drawn from 2005 to the present unveiled long-secret projects and unflattering assessments of top allies, plunging Washington into a major diplomatic crisis.
Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini called it "the 9/11 of world diplomacy."
Among the many eye-opening revelations:
King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has repeatedly urged the United States to launch air strikes on Iran to destroy its nuclear program.
The Saudi ambassador to Washington told General David Petraeus in April 2008 to "cut off the head of the snake." Officials in Jordan, Bahrain, the UAE and Egyot have all also secretly pushed for military action against Tehran.
Saudi sheiks are the chief financiers of Al Qaeda, and the Persian Gulf state of Qatar, fearing reprisals, is the "worst in the region" in counterterrorism efforts.
In July 2009, diplomats assigned to the UN were asked to gather technical details about the communications systems used by top UN officials, including computer passwords, and detailed biometric information on all the top UN officials.
Washington also wanted credit card numbers, email addresses, phone, fax and pager numbers and even frequent-flyer account numbers for UN figures and "biographic and biometric information on UN Security Council permanent representatives."
Washington has been secretly battling Pakistan over nuclear fuel in a Pakistani reactor that the US wants to remove for fear it could fall into the wrong hands.
In May 2009, US Ambassador Anne Patterson reported Pakistan was balking, quoting a Pakistani official who said if the local media learned of the fuel removal "they certainly would portray it as the United States taking Pakistan's nuclear weapons."
China hacked into Google's computer systems as part of a coordinated campaign of computer sabotage.
Unflattering descriptions of foreign leaders by US diplomats: French President Nikola Sarkozy is called "an emperor without clothes;" Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is likened to Hitler; Russian President Dmitry Medvedev is termed "pale, hesitant;" Afghan President Hamid Karzai is a "weak" man "driven by paranoia;" and German Chancellor Angela Merkel "avoids risk and is rarely creative.
American diplomats are increasingly suspicious of the extraordinarily close relationship between Russian leader Vladimir Putin and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, including the exchange of "lavish gifts" and lucrative business contracts.
Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi is accompanied everywhere by a "voluptuous blonde" Ukrainian nurse.
In a statement Sunday afternoon, the White House condemned the publication "in the strongest terms."
"Such disclosures put at risk our diplomats, intelligence professionals, and people around the world who come to the United States for assistance...These documents also may include named individuals who in many cases live and work under oppressive regimes and who are trying to create more open and free societies," the White House said.
"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."
WikiLeaks won't say how it got the classified information but the US military has held soldier Bradley Manning, 22, in solitary confinement for the last seven months on suspicion of downloading the material while serving on an army base outside Baghdad.
Hours before WikiLeaks' planned 4:30 p.m info dump, the website reported that it was under attack.
"We are currently under a mass distributed denial of service attack," the shadowy WikiLeaks owners tweeted before noon Sunday. It was not clear who was trying to shut down the site.
The information it planned to reveal was already shared with the leading newspapers of Spain, France, Germany and Britain, as well as the New York Times, all of which published stories Sunday.
Washington, London, Rome and Berlin all condemned the info dump, some in the strongest possible terms.
Publication of the 250,000 classified diplomatic cables places "the lives of countless innocent individuals" at risk, Harold Koh, the State Department's top lawyer, wrote to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.