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Wikileaks releases 250k US State Department diplomatic cables

[UPDATE 11/30: More and more context and analysis is coming out daily. We’ll post links in the comments to stories of interest and would appreciate if readers would do the same. JRJ]

[Update 02/07/2011: I’d really like to know if any libraries are downloading and giving access to the cables. The best access I’ve seen so far is CableSearch. JRJ]

Wikileaks has just released its latest coordinated “radical transparency” document dump of 250,000+ US State Department diplomatic cables, with partnered coverage in the New York Times, Guardian and Der Spiegel (which also includes a cool visual interactive atlas of the cables). In addition, Wikileaks has expanded its partners to include El Pais and le Monde.

From wikileaks:

The cables, which date from 1966 up until the end of February this year, contain confidential communications between 274 embassies in countries throughout the world and the State Department in Washington DC. 15,652 of the cables are classified Secret.

The embassy cables will be released in stages over the next few months. The subject matter of these cables is of such importance, and the geographical spread so broad, that to do otherwise would not do this material justice.

The cables show the extent of US spying on its allies and the UN; turning a blind eye to corruption and human rights abuse in “client states”; backroom deals with supposedly neutral countries; lobbying for US corporations; and the measures US diplomats take to advance those who have access to them.

From the NY Times story (actually day 1 of 9 days of coverage):

A cache of a quarter-million confidential American diplomatic cables, most of them from the past three years, provides an unprecedented look at back-room bargaining by embassies around the world, brutally candid views of foreign leaders and frank assessments of nuclear and terrorist threats…

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.”

¶ Thinking about 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 Chinese Muslim 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.

CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.


  1. As you may have noticed, FGI has slowed down during this darkest of days period. But rest assured, we’ll be back with gusto in 2011. In the meantime, here are a few wikileaks related stories to keep you going:

    • WikiLeaks, 5 major newspapers collaborate.Jamey Keaten and Brett J. Blackledge. Associated Press. Decent article on the collaboration between 5 newspapers and Wikileaks.
    • The worsening journalistic disgrace at Wired. Glenn Greenwald.
    • WikiRiver. Dave Winer at ScriptingNews has put together a nice little tool to follow multiple news feeds re wikileaks from one place.
    • Last but not least, I find it continually interesting that, despite the gnashing of journalistic teeth, there are a growing number of stories coming out in which the leaked cables are central to the stories. Witness yesterday’s story in the NY Times “Cables Portray Expanded Reach of Drug Agency” as well as their continuing series called State’s Secrets. Thanks to Daniel Cornwall for tagging stories in delicious with the tag wikileaks.sourced. I highly recommend that others use the same delicious tag.
  2. The buzz about Wikileaks in the mainstream media seems to be slowing down a bit — and thankfully with it the demonization of Wikileaks — but there continues to be more on contextualizing and actually digging through the cables for news-worthy items. CableSearch is a nice tool for searching through the cables. CableSearch re-indexes as more are released — and Stanford Library was the first one to catalog CableSearch and add to our databases page w00t!!

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