WikiLeaks Sparks Global Diplomatic Crisis
Monday, 29 November 2010

The United States was catapulted into a worldwide diplomatic crisis on Sunday, with the leaking to the Guardian and The New York Times and some other international media of more than 250,000 classified cables from its embassies, many sent as recently as February this year.

The documents show Saudi donors remain chief financiers of militant groups like al Qaeda and that Chinese government operatives have waged a coordinated campaign of computer sabotage targeting the United States and its allies, according to a review of the WikiLeaks documents published in the Times.

The WikiLeaks documents also show U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates believes any military strike on Iran would only delay its pursuit of a nuclear weapon by one to three years, the Times reported on its website on Sunday.

The Pentagon immediately condemned WikiLeaks' "reckless" dump of classified State Department documents and said it was taking steps to bolster security of U.S. military networks.

"The (Defence) Department has undertaken a series of actions to prevent such incidents from occurring in the future," Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said.

The White House said the leak of the diplomatic cables could compromise private discussions with foreign governments and opposition leaders and may put at risk the lives of named individuals living "under oppressive regimes."

The pending documents release had been widely reported for more than a week and expected on Sunday.

The U.S. government, which was informed in advance of the contents, has contacted governments around the world, including in Russia, Europe and the Middle East, to try to limit any damage. Sources familiar with the documents say they include corruption allegations against foreign leaders and governments.

WikiLeaks had reported earlier on Sunday that its website was under attack, but said later that media outlets would publish some of the classified documents it had released even if the group's website crashed.

"El Pais, Le Monde, Speigel, Guardian & NYT will publish many U.S. embassy cables tonight, even if WikiLeaks goes down," the website said in a Twitter posting an hour after it tweeted that its site was under attack.

The State Department had warned WikiLeaks that the expected release would endanger countless lives, jeopardize American military operations and hurt international cooperation on global security issues.

The department's top lawyer urged WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in a letter on Saturday to keep classified documents off the website, remove records of them from its database and return any material to the U.S. government.

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.

• 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.

• 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 Italian go-between.

• 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".

• 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.

• Inappropriate remarks by a member of the British royal family about a UK law enforcement agency and a foreign 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", 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.

A worldwide diplomatic crisis for the US is in prospect following the leaking of hundreds of thousands of secret cables sent from its embassies.

The dispatches, to which the Guardian has obtained unprecedented access, reveal startling information about the behaviour of the world's major superpower.

They include high-level allegations of corruption against foreign leaders, harsh criticisms and frank insights into the world of normally- secret diplomacy.

Among many allegations of corruption, the dispatches name a prominent western leader said to be in receipt of Russian bribes, a senior Afghan politician stopped at an airport with more than $50m in suitcases and a British businessman at the centre of a corruption scandal in Kazakhstan.

They name the "single most hated person" in a country the US relies on to help prosecute its war in Afghanistan; and they reveal deep fears about the safety of one state's nuclear weapons.

They also reveal why an alleged major Serbian war criminal has never been caught; why North Korea is soon likely to collapse and how an "environmental disaster" was only narrowly averted last year over secret shipments of highly enriched uranium.

Topics covered range from the technical detail of secret US-Russian nuclear missile negotiations in Geneva, to an intimate personality profile of Colonel Gaddaffi, the eccentric Libyan dictator, who they say is nowadays accompanied everywhere by a "voluptuous blonde" Ukrainian nurse.

The cables cover secretary of state Hillary Clinton's work under the Obama administration, as well as thousands of files from the Bush presidency.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.

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".

Source: bdnews24.com

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