2010: Flurry of leaked US embassy cables reveal foreign strategies By David Leigh

10 June 2011 — Source: The Guardian

Classified dispatches obtained by WikiLeaks, the whistleblowers’ website, were given to the Guardian

250,000 leaked files that lay bare US view of world

Washington engulfed by global diplomatic crisis Dispatches reveal US officials told to spy on UN 250,000 cables lay bare US view of world

The United States was catapulted into a worldwide diplomatic crisis today, with the leaking to the Guardian and other international media of more than 250,000 classified cables from its embassies, many sent as recently as February this year.

At the start of a series of daily extracts from the US embassy cables – many designated ‘secret’ – the Guardian can disclose that Arab leaders are privately urging an air strike on Iran and that US officials have been instructed to spy on the UN leadership.

These two revelations alone would be likely to reverberate around the world. But the secret dispatches, which were obtained by WikiLeaks, the whistleblowers’ website, also reveal Washington’s evaluation of many other highly sensitive international issues.

These include a shift in relations between China and North Korea, high level concerns over Pakistan’s growing instability, and details of clandestine US efforts to combat al-Qaida in Yemen.

Among scores of disclosures that are likely to cause uproar, the cables detail:

Grave fears in Washington and London over the security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons programme , with officials warning that as the country faces economic collapse, government employees could smuggle out enough nuclear material for terrorists to build a bomb.

Inappropriate remarks by Prince Andrew about a UK law enforcement agency and a foreign country.

Suspicions of corruption in the Afghan government, with one cable alleging vicepresident Zia Massoud was carrying $52m in cash when he was stopped during a visit to the United Arab Emirates. Massoud denies taking money out of Afghanistan.

How the hacker attacks which forced Google to quit China in January were orchestrated by a senior member of the Politburo who typed his own name into the global version of the search engine and found articles criticising him personally.

Allegations that Russia and its intelligence agencies are using mafi a bosses to carry out criminal operations, with one cable reporting that the country has become a ‘virtual mafi a state’.

The extraordinarily close relationship between Vladimir Putin, the Russian prime minister, and Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian prime minister . Cables detail allegations of ‘lavish gifts’, lucrative energy contracts and the use by Berlusconi of a ‘shadowy’ go-between.

Devastating criticism of the UK’s military operations in Afghanistan by US commanders, the Afghan president and local offi cials in Helmand. The dispatches reveal particular contempt for the failure to impose security around Sangin – the town which has claimed more British lives than any other in the country. The US has particularly intimate dealings with Britain, and some of the dispatches from the London embassy in Grosvenor Square will make uncomfortable reading in Whitehall and Westminster. They range from political criticisms of David Cameron to requests for specifi c intelligence about individual MPs.

The cables contain harsh criticism by US embassy staff of host governments , including a reference to Putin as an ‘alpha- 250,000 cables lay bare US view of world ? continued from page 1 dog’ and Hamid Karzai as being ‘driven by paranoia’, while Angela Merkel allegedly ‘avoids risk and is rarely creative’. There is also a comparison between Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Adolf Hitler.

The cables names Saudi donors as the biggest financiers of terror groups, and tell of an agreement between Washington and Yemen to cover up the use of US planes to bomb al-Qaida targets.

Other revelations include a description of a near ‘environmental disaster’ last year over a rogue shipment of enriched uranium, technical details of secret USRussian nuclear missile negotiations , and a profi le of Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi , who they say is accompanied everywhere by a ‘voluptuous blonde’ Ukrainian nurse.

Secretary of state Hillary Clinton led a frantic damage limitation exercise this weekend as Washington prepared foreign governments for the revelations , contacting leaders in Germany, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf, France and Afghanistan.

As the cables were published, the White House released a statement condemning their release. ‘Such disclosures put at risk our diplomats, intelligence professionals, and people around the world who come to the US for assistance in promoting democracy and open government. By releasing stolen and classified documents, Wiki – Leaks has put at risk not only the cause of human rights but also the lives and work of these individuals.’

In London, a Foreign Office spokesman said: ‘We condemn any unauthorised release of this classifi ed information, just as we condemn leaks of classifi ed material in the UK. They can damage national security, are not in the national interest and, as the US have said, may put lives at risk. We have a very strong relationship with the US government. That will continue.’

The US ambassador to Britain, Louis Susman , said : ‘We have briefed the UK government and other friends and allies around the world about the potential impact of these disclosures … I am confident that our uniquely productive relationship with the United Kingdom will remain close and strong, focused on promoting our shared objectives and values.’

Sir Christopher Meyer, who was British ambassador to the US in the Blair years, thought the leaks would have little impact on diplomatic behaviour. ‘This won’t restrain dips’ [diplomats’ ] candour,’ he said. ‘But people will be looking at the security of electronic communications and archives. Paper would have been impossible to steal in these quantities.’

The state department’s legal adviser has written to the founder of Wiki Leaks , Julian Assange , warning that the publication would place at risk ‘the lives of countless innocent individuals … ongoing military operations … and co-operation between countries’.

The archive was allegedly downloaded by a US soldier and passed to WikiLeaks. Assange made it available to the Guardian and four other news organisations: the New York Times , Der Spiegel in Germany, Le Monde in France and El País in Spain. All fi ve plan to publish extracts from the most signifi cant cables, but have decided neither to ‘dump’ the entire dataset into the public domain, nor to publish names that would endanger innocent individuals. WikiLeaks says that it also initially intends to post only limited cable extracts, and to redact identities.

The cables published today reveal how the US uses its embassies as part of a global espionage network, with diplomats tasked to obtain not just information from people they meet, but personal details, such as credit card details and DNA material.

The most controversial target was the UN leadership . That directive requested the specification of telecoms and IT systems used by top officials and their staff .

PJ Crowley, the state department spokesman in Washington, said: ‘ O ur diplomats are just that, diplomats. They do not engage in intelligence activities. ‘

Last night t he acting deputy spokesman for Ban Ki -moon, Farhan Haq, said the UN chief had no immediate comment: ‘We are aware of the reports.

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