How 250,000 US embassy cables were leaked

From a fake Lady Gaga CD to a thumb drive that is a pocket-sized bombshell – the biggest intelligence leak in history

David Leigh
Guardian [UK]
28 November 2010

An innocuous-looking memory stick, no longer than a couple of fingernails, came into the hands of a Guardian reporter earlier this year. The device is so small it will hang easily on a keyring. But its contents will send shockwaves through the world’s chancelleries and deliver what one official described as “an epic blow” to US diplomacy.

The 1.6 gigabytes of text files on the memory stick ran to millions of words: the contents of more than 250,000 leaked state department cables, sent from, or to, US embassies around the world.

What will emerge in the days and weeks ahead is an unprecedented picture of secret diplomacy as conducted by the planet’s sole superpower. There are 251,287 dispatches in all, from more than 250 US embassies and consulates. They reveal how the US deals with both its allies and its enemies – negotiating, pressuring and sometimes brusquely denigrating foreign leaders, all behind the firewalls of ciphers and secrecy classifications that diplomats assume to be secure. The leaked cables range up to the “SECRET NOFORN” level, which means they are meant never to be shown to non-US citizens…

…[U.S. soldier Bradley] Manning told his correspondent Adrian Lamo, who subsequently denounced him to the authorities: “Hillary Clinton and several thousand diplomats around the world are going to have a heart attack when they wake up one morning and find an entire repository of classified foreign policy is available, in searchable format, to the public … Everywhere there’s a US post, there’s a diplomatic scandal that will be revealed. Worldwide anarchy in CSV format … It’s beautiful, and horrifying.”

He added: “Information should be free. It belongs in the public domain.”

Manning, according to the chatlogs, says he uploaded the copies to WikiLeaks, the “freedom of information activists” as he called them, led by Australian former hacker Julian Assange.

Assange and his circle apparently decided against immediately making the cables public. Instead they embarked on staged disclosure of the other material – aimed, as they put it on their website, at “maximising political impact”…

Read the entire article at the Guardian. Also at the Guardian, US embassy cables leak sparks global diplomatic crisis

And, via Blazing Cat Fur, this from The Surly Beaver:

With the US government frantically contacting its friends and allies across the world, trying to preempt any damaging revelations contained in the millions of diplomatic cables about to be released by Wikileaks, it’s worth considering for a moment who really stands to be embarrassed by this affair…

…I’ll end this thread with two predictions:

1. The only country that will come through this episode unscathed will be the French, because they are generally insouciant about how their actions will affect others’ opinions of them.

2. Julian Assange has just made a boatload of new enemies, many of them who will have far fewer scruples about offing him than the United States does.

CAJ note: There was a brief conversation about this news item last night here at Common American Journal. The WordBoss felt that, if DOJ and DHS are capable of shutting down websites immediately and without due process, he wondered why they weren’t capable of doing something similar to WikiLeaks (though the site did suffer a temporary Denial of Service on 11/28) rather than harassing Americans who are merely trying to travel and enjoy their Constitutional rights. Can we possibly be more of a threat to our government than Julian Assange?

Babalu Blog asked, Where Are The DHS and ICE When You Need ‘Em, Eh?

Update: At Ace of Spades HQ, OMG! Like, EVERYBODY’S Going to See Barack’s Burn Book!

Update 2: Rep. King calls for WikiLeaks to be declared a “foreign terrorist organization”

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