26 Nov 2010

US briefs allies on new WikiLeaks documents

The United States has briefed Britain, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Norway and Israel ahead of the expected release of classified US documents, according to WikiLeaks.

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange (Reuters)

The whistle-blowing website said by Twitter that American diplomats briefed government officials of its six allies in advance of the release, due in the next few days.

It is expected to include thousands of diplomatic cables reporting corruption allegations against politicians in Russia, Afghanistan and other Central Asian nations, sources familiar with the State Department cables held by WikiLeaks told Reuters.

The allegations are major enough to cause serious embarrassment for foreign governments, the sources said.

Dr John Gearson, who is Director of the Centre for Defence Studies at King’s College London, told Channel 4 News that the imminent leak will cause concern: “If this material includes contradictions, for example, about the government’s public and private stance on progress in Afghanistan then it could be very embarrassing.

“If there’s a massive gap between what the population is being told and what is being said in private then that is something the government is going to have to deal with.”

Dr Gearson said the long-term implications of WikiLeaks could also be significant: “This could be a sign of things to come..it may not lead to better policy but to people in government being mindful that what they write could be leaked.

“People will be more reluctant to put things on paper which is a worry because we do need a candid and accurate record of what has been discussed.

“It’s like having a microphone at the office cooler and knowing that everything you say about your colleagues could become public.”

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Special relationship

WikiLeaks said on its Twitter feed earlier this week that its new release would be seven times larger than the nearly 400,000 Pentagon documents related to the Iraq war which it made public in October.

A State Department spokesman said on Wednesday that Washington was notifying foreign governments about the possible release of documents.

It is understood the UK has been briefed along with Australia, Canada, Denmark, Norway and Israel.

Professor Michael Cox is Director of IDEAS at the London School of Economics: “I don’t think it’ll make a great deal of difference to the relationships between a variety of states.

“Everyone knows that everyone reads each other’s emails..if you send an email you might as well send a postcard.

“Keeping things secret is extremely difficult”

Channel 4 News has been looking at how the imminent leak is being reported worldwide:
Washington Post
-U.S. warns allies about WikiLeaks
Toronto Star
- Canada braced for weekend WikiLeaks release
Jerusalem Post
- U.S. warns Israel about WikiLeaks documents
ABC online
- Australia braced for WikiLeaks release

WikiLeaks controversy

In October WikiLeaks was behind the biggest official files leak in history.

Nearly 400,000 Iraq war logs revealed the massive scale of civilian deaths and new torture allegations following an investigation by Channel 4’s Dispatches.

At the time the US Pentagon said it “deplored” WikiLeaks for “inducing individuals to break the law, leak classified documents and then cavalierly share that secret information with the world, including our enemies”.

Prior to the Iraq logs, WikiLeaks released 90,000 U.S. military files about the war in Afghanistan.