Wikileaks to release thousands of secret documents; 'international embarrassment' likely

Saturday, November 27, 2010

James Jeffrey, U.S. ambassador to Baghdad told journalists officials in the White House "worried" about leak.
Image: Matt H. Wade.

Whistle-blowing website Wikileaks is preparing to leak thousands of documents detailing correspondence between U.S. embassies around the world. American diplomats have contacted international allies, briefing them on the planned disclosure.

James Jeffrey, U.S. ambassador to Baghdad, told journalists Washington is "worried" about the leak. "Wikileaks are an absolutely awful impediment to my business, which is to be able to have discussions in confidence with people. I do not understand the motivation for releasing these documents. They will not help, they will simply hurt our ability to do our work here." He said Iraqi officials were "very unhappy" at the news. "Anybody who has confidential discussions, who finds these confidential discussions find their way into the press, is going to be very unhappy and very upset".

The documents may reveal the U.S. assisted Iraqi separatist Kurdish rebels fighting Turkey.

Whilst it is not known when the documents will be released, it is thought that it will be this weekend. The White House confirmed this week that Congress had been made aware of the planned disclosure, and foreign governments were being notified.

U.S. State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley condemned the release; "[t]hese revelations are harmful to the United States and our interests, [...] They are going to create tension in relationships between our diplomats and our friends around the world." Officials have suggested American envoys in Britain, Denmark, Israel, Norway, and Turkey have been alerted to the leak. The files are thought to be diplomatic cables—internal documents detailing secret communications between Washington and American embassies.

WikiLeaks' website claims the files are seven times larger than the release of the Iraq War Logs in October, the largest leak in United States intelligence history. Officials in Washington admitted they were aware for some time that WikiLeaks held the documents. News agencies report Bradley Manning, an intelligence analyst with the U.S. Army, may have passed the documents to the website. Manning has been charged with leaking a video showing American soldiers shooting two journalists dead from a helicopter. In 2009, British newspaper The Guardian praised the website as "an uncensorable and untraceable depository for the truth, able to publish documents that the courts may prevent newspapers and broadcasters from being able to touch."