Risk of Reprisal in WikiLeaks Release, US Says
Washington. The United States on Tuesday voiced renewed concern over the risks to individuals after the anti-secrecy site WikiLeaks made public more diplomatic cables, many of which contain the names of sensitive sources.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland would not confirm the authenticity of the latest documents, but said “the United States strongly condemns any illegal disclosure of classified information.
“In addition to damaging our diplomatic efforts, it puts individuals’ security at risk, threatens our national security and undermines our effort to work with countries to solve shared problems,” Nuland told reporters.
The New York Times reported that the latest dump of 133,887 confidential and secret documents included many containing the names of sensitive sources who could be at risk of reprisals if they were known to be talking to US diplomats.
Australia meanwhile lambasted the whistle-blowing site for what it called an “incredibly irresponsible” move to publish secret US cables that detailed Australians with suspected links to Yemeni terrorism.
Australia’s Attorney General Robert McClelland also noted that, contrary to previous efforts to redact identifying features, this “has not occurred in this case”.
In a Twitter message the anti-secrecy Web site said it was “totally false that any WikiLeaks sources have been exposed or will be exposed.”
However, in sampling half a dozen cables written between 2003 and 2009 where the author wrote “protect source,” AFP observed that only one of them had the name of the source removed.
WikiLeaks meanwhile also said late on Tuesday that it was fending off a cyberattack after being lambasted for releasing more supposedly confidential US diplomatic cables.
Ever since WikiLeaks obtained around 250,000 cables and released the first batch of them in November last year, the US State Department has been exposed to embarrassing revelations about how it viewed foreign government officials.
Diplomats worried the disclosures would make it harder to do their work because sources would hesitate to talk to them privately for fear of being exposed.
But experts said WikiLeaks was much more careful about editing out the names of US government sources in the first batch of released documents.
That is not the case in the latest batch, according to Steven Aftergood, a specialist on government secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists, who reviewed dozens of cables and found only one case where the source was removed.
He said the consequences for the sources range from losing the confidence of the people they deal with to actually losing their jobs. “In some extreme cases,” he added, they may be in “personal jeopardy.”
“The point is that they [WikiLeaks] have changed their practice and the kinds of information that they were redacting as recently as a few months ago is now being put out in the open,” Aftergood said.