These document releases threaten the national security of the United States and our diplomatic efforts worldwide. This is on the heels of a previous release of military documents that threatened US interests in Afghanistan and Iraq - which contained unredacted information that put the lives of those who worked with the US in jeopardy of being targeted for reprisals.
Wikileaks claims that they are in the business of releasing classified government documents from around the world, but their overwhelming focus has been on the undermining of US national security and diplomatic efforts of and by the US.
The US State Department is in damage control mode as they're trying to scramble to figure out who the leaks are coming from, what those documents could say and who might be offended by the documents and analysis - both among our allies, potential allies, and our foes.
The scope of these most recent diplomatic documents is breathtaking in the damage that has been done and cover most of the last three years - pretty much running from the end of the Bush Administration to the present:
The cables, a huge sampling of the daily traffic between the State Department and some 270 embassies and consulates, amount to a secret chronicle of the United States’ relations with the world in an age of war and terrorism. Among their revelations, to be detailed in The Times in coming days:
— A dangerous standoff with Pakistan over nuclear fuel: Since 2007, the United States has mounted a highly secret effort, so far unsuccessful, to remove from a Pakistani research reactor highly enriched uranium that American officials fear could be diverted for use in an illicit nuclear device. In May 2009, Ambassador Anne W. Patterson reported that Pakistan was refusing to schedule a visit by American technical experts because, as a Pakistani official said, “if the local media got word of the fuel removal, ‘they certainly would portray it as the United States taking Pakistan’s nuclear weapons,’ he argued.”
— 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.
— Bargaining to empty the Guantánamo Bay prison: When American diplomats pressed other countries to resettle detainees, they became reluctant players in a State Department version of “Let’s Make a Deal.” Slovenia was told to take a prisoner if it wanted to meet with President Obama, while the island nation of Kiribati was offered incentives worth millions of dollars to take in a group of detainees, cables from diplomats recounted. The Americans, meanwhile, suggested that accepting more prisoners would be “a low-cost way for Belgium to attain prominence in Europe.”
— 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.)
— A global computer hacking effort: China’s Politburo directed the intrusion into Google’s computer systems in that country, a Chinese contact told the American Embassy in Beijing in January, one cable reported. The Google hacking was part of a coordinated campaign of computer sabotage carried out by government operatives, private security experts and Internet outlaws recruited by the Chinese government. They have broken into American government computers and those of Western allies, the Dalai Lama and American businesses since 2002, cables said.
There are very good reasons why these kinds of documents remain classified - because they go to the heart of negotiating tough situations like with North Korea or the Middle East. They include unvarnished analysis and game situations such as the collapse of the North Korean regime and what various other countries might do.
At this point, even some who had previously worked with Wikileaks are now critical of the group and are demanding that criminal prosecutions take place because they're putting lives in danger. In fact, it's one of Julian Assange's cofounders of Wikileaks that holds the organization in contempt for its blatant disregard for the law.
Then again, some of those documents aren't exactly a surprise. One such document notes the ties between Iran and North Korea's nuclear programs. Other documents point to Jordan and Saudi Arabia calling on the US to take action against Iran - in light of Iran's nuclear ambitions. That latter release shows how these documents can affect the strategic balance in the Middle East and further complicate efforts to contain Iran and North Korea among others.
Julian Assange and the other people working for Wikileaks must be held to account for their supernational effort to undermine US national security. Their actions are fully within the scope of 18 USC 794 and 18 USC 798, which relates to the disclosure of classified information. Further, Congress should undertake a review of those relevant statutes to specifically include leaks of information that can benefit terror regimes and foreign governments when not specifically and directly transmitted - that Internet posting is sufficient such that any regime seeking to obtain an advantage of the classified documents can view these documents online.