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Leaking of Secret U.S. Cables Sparks Diplomacy Crisis

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NEW YORK -- A large batch of secret American diplomatic cables over the past three years offers an unusual look at back-channel discussions by embassies around the world, unflattering views of world leaders and stark evaluations of nuclear and terrorist threats, The New York Times reported Sunday.

The disclosures in the Times and four other major world news organizations could fuel a worldwide diplomacy crisis with the United States at its center. "It is nothing short of a political meltdown for U.S. foreign policy," said Der Spiegel, the German publication that, like The Times, obtained the secret cables.

The White House condemned the disclosure of classified documents and released a statement Sunday saying, in part: "We anticipate release of what are claimed to be several hundred thousand classified State Department cables on Sunday night that detail diplomatic discussions with foreign governments. By its very nature, field reporting to Washington is candid and often incomplete information. It is not an expression of policy, nor does it shape final policy decisions." The statement acknowledged that the cables could "compromise private discussions with foreign governments and opposition leaders,'' and warned that the disclosures put diplomats and intelligence and other officials at risk.

The cables were initially obtained by WikiLeaks, a website dedicated to obtaining and disseminating government secrets. Late Sunday, WikiLeaks issued a statement saying the leaked cables are the largest set of confidential documents ever to be released into the public domain. The website said that the cables, which date from 1966 until the end of February this year, will be released in stages over the next few months. WikiLeaks claimed that the documents show the extent of United States spying on its allies and the United Nations; overlooking or accepting corruption and human rights abuse in friendly states; doing backroom deals with supposedly neutral countries; and lobbying for American corporations.

"Every American schoolchild is taught that George Washington – the country's first president – could not tell a lie," WikiLeaks said. "If the administrations of his successors lived up to the same principle, today's document flood would be a mere embarrassment. Instead, the U.S. government has been warning governments -- even the most corrupt -- around the world about the coming leaks and is bracing itself for the exposures."

The cache of a quarter-million U.S. diplomatic cables were obtained in turn by the Times, Der Spiegel in Germany, The Guardian in Britain, Le Monde in France and El País in Spain. The cables constitute the third bundle of classified material involving the United States released by WikiLeaks to selected news media in the past six months.

The cables, most of them from the past three years, reportedly reveal the Obama administration's communications and discussions over foreign crises. Among startling revelations, The Guardian disclosed that Arab leaders privately urged an air strike on Iran and that American officials have been ordered to spy on the United Nations leadership.

Such revelations have thrown Washington into a worldwide diplomatic crisis. The expected disclosure of the cables had reportedly alarmed the diplomatic establishment in Washington and other world capitals in the past days.

Anticipating an uproar, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and American ambassadors around the world have been contacting foreign officials in recent days to alert them to the expected disclosures, The Times said Sunday.

The cables are part of the daily traffic between the State Department and some 270 embassies and consulates and, according to the Times, amount to a secret account of Washington's relations with the world in an era of global terrorism.

Among disclosures that could potentially cause a problem for Washington, according to The Guardian, are fears in Washington and London over Pakistan's nuclear program; suspected links between the Russian government and organized crime; criticism of British military operations in Afghanistan; and claims of inappropriate behavior by a British royal family member.

The Times cited "gaming out an eventual collapse of North Korea: American and South Korean officials have discussed the prospects for a unified Korea, should the North's economic troubles and political transition lead the state to implode. The South Koreans even considered commercial inducements to China, according to the American ambassador to Seoul. She told Washington in February that South Korean officials believe that the right business deals would 'help salve' China's 'concerns about living with a reunified Korea' that is in a 'benign alliance' with the United States.''

The Times also cited "suspicions of corruption in the Afghan government: When Afghanistan's vice president visited the United Arab Emirates last year, local authorities working with the Drug Enforcement Administration discovered that he was carrying $52 million in cash. With wry understatement, a cable from the American Embassy in Kabul called the money 'a significant amount' that the official, Ahmed Zia Massoud, 'was ultimately allowed to keep without revealing the money's origin or destination.' (Mr. Massoud denies taking any money out of Afghanistan.)"

The Times said that more than 251,287 cables, first obtained by WikiLeaks, were obtained by the newspaper from an intermediary to whom the newspaper promised anonymity. Many of the documents, the Times said, were unclassified and none were marked "top secret." But some 11,000 are classified "secret."

The Times concluded that the cables demonstrated that "the dark shadow of terrorism still dominates the United States' relations with the world." The Times said it planned to publish details of the revelations in the coming days.

In a critical article Sunday, Der Spiegel concluded: "Never before in history has a superpower lost control of such vast amounts of such sensitive information -- data that can help paint a picture of the foundation upon which U.S. foreign policy is built. Never before has the trust America's partners have in the country been as badly shaken. Now, their own personal views and policy recommendations have been made public -- as have America's true view of them."

As for WikiLeaks, the U.S. Justice Department and other agencies have been investigating the website for potential violation of national security laws. In the meantime, the controversial founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, is under investigation in Sweden on allegations that he sexually abused two women while visiting that country last summer. Assange, an Australian master hacker, is believed to be living in London.

Click play below to watch a Today Show report on the WikiLeaks release:

Filed Under: WikiLeaks

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A president representing the Free people of the United States Of America has no 'secret' rights. His life becomes an open book for all the U.S. Citizens to see, it is THEIR RIGHT! They have the right to know what or who is 'representing' them. Frankly, I don't believe this man has enough divided intelligence to represent the greatest nation in the world's people responsibly. He is too envolved in his personal agendas to care about the elderly, bring the troups home to protect our boarders and send back the invaders that have infiltrated our nation and attempting to take it over completely, making it look like their own country. He does absolutely nothing about it in a genuine manner, makes a public statement against the AZ governor for at least making an attempt to run these invaders out. You want to help them? Send them back to their own country and deal with the Mexican president, not let the people over run our country to take our jobs, our education, our health care from our people, our elderly, our disabled!!!! Give them jobs to do in Mexico to keep them and their deadly drugs there. It's destroying the minds of our young people. Our country is becoming less and less intelligent by the day due to brain cells being destroyed by drugs. Stop the harassment at the airline entries against Americans! That is abhorable, we are the people you are suppose to be 'protecting' yet you harass us when we go in our OWN public buildings! They belong to the people not the government. The government belongs to the people not the hired hands to run it. Treat your employers with more respect, we the people employ you!

November 29 2010 at 10:20 AM

Is it treason to publish classified information?

November 29 2010 at 10:19 AM

If these "leaks" were about the sinister doings of other countries, we'd be pointing the usual accusatory finger, bemoaning and scolding their unwholesome behavior. All puffed-up, holier-than-thou, judging them and extolling "our way of life". "We're better than that", we'd say. Now we have an inside glimpse into just how underhanded this country is and so many, including the "president", squeal like pigs stuck under a gate. Or write the actions off as "necessary to preserve our freedom". Or how thoroughly unacceptable it is for these "state secrets" to be leaked. Why, those scoundrels at WikiLeaks should be shot at sunrise as traitors! Baloney. We can't handle the truth about "US" and just how crooked the dubious leadership of this country really is and has been for decades. Wonder where the Afghani VP got his mitts on $52,000,000.00 IN CASH??? I'm sure he has some very reasonable explanation. Of course, the DEA allowed him to keep it. No questions asked. Would YOU have been afforded the same luxury?

November 29 2010 at 10:18 AM

I agree that the release of this information should be considered "treasonous", and that the media who have helped spread news of this "leak" should be considered "unethical" at the very least. Of course everyone is spying on everyone else! And of course, what is said/done privately is often quite different than what is said/done publicly! This whole thing is ridiculous.

November 29 2010 at 10:18 AM

First of all. Bush and Cheney never outed Valerie. It has been proven otherwise and Libby was finally convicted of Lying under Oath because after a large amount of taxpayer money and investigations this was the only thing they could prove on him. It was a journalist who outed her check your facts. The Democrats have been the majority party in both Houses since January 3, 2007. Congress has oversight on these things. This administration has been on office since Janiary 3, 2009.This release happened on their watch. Doesnt it concern anybody that our troops are dying, being wounded and maimed in Afghanistan which has not been subdued since Alexander the Great which was over two thousand years ago and has been known to be corrupt for some time? Doesnt it concern anybody that the U.S. has been ignoring some friendly States for Human Rights abuse while filing a brief with he U.N. that Arizona is considered to be guilty of Human Rights abuse alongside such Countries as Iran etc?Doesnt it concern anybody that the right Business deals would justify a benign alliance with North and South Korea? Doesnt it concern anybody that this Administration critized a chief ally in Afghanistan that may now ignore us? As usual there are some people who blame the messenger and see everything through baised ideological eyes and cant see the message.

November 29 2010 at 10:17 AM
David Anderson

What's the news? Nothing new here. What I imagined was going on.

November 29 2010 at 10:16 AM
Jaiyme Flores

I think that the wiki leaks should be shut down and the owner executed for treason the country needs to keep some stuff to its self and this is not the first time they have leaked sensitive information

November 29 2010 at 10:16 AM

Let me see if I understand. The government can shut down web sites for illegal music sharing and selling counterfeit Gucci bags but they are helpless against leaking secret information? The Obama administration is either helpless or purposely allowing this to go on. There should be serious prosecution for everyone involved.

November 29 2010 at 10:15 AM

If the release of the documents pose a threat to the U.S. or put our people & allies in danger. Take the persons responsible OUT. If not ignore it.

November 29 2010 at 10:15 AM
Whats Going On

This was definately an inside leak like maybe the c.i.a. . We in America may have to eat crow at the hands of some unscrupulous dill meading dough makers. Hey, no one is a saint in glory or lets hope above the law. We can all sit back and laugh or sit down and cry. Can't wait to hear the rest of all the juicy tidbits to come. Asking forgiveness never gets old here in my home.

November 29 2010 at 10:15 AM

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