American diplomats have briefed US allies around the world about the expected release of three million potentially embarrassing classified files by WikiLeaks, the whistleblowing website run by Julian Assange (photo, from aljazeera.net).
“Across the state department, senior officials are reaching out to countries and warning them about a possible release of documents,” PJ Crowley, the US state department spokesman, said.
Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, has reached out to leaders in China, Germany, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Britain, France and Afghanistan regarding WikiLeaks.
“We are all bracing for what may be coming and condemn WikiLeaks for the release of classified material,” Crowley said. “It will place lives and interests at risk. It is irresponsible.”
The documents are believed to be largely about diplomatic cables between overseas missions and the state department in Washington.
Although the timing has not been confirmed, Wikileaks is expected to release the documents over the weekend.
Officials in the UK and Italy have already confirmed that the US have warned them about the probable content of the leaks.
Italy’s foreign minister, Franco Frattini, said : “We’re talking about thousands and thousands of classified documents that the US will not comment on, as is their custom.”
The governments of Canada, Norway, and Denmark also said they had been briefed by US officials.
Israel has been warned as the release could include confidential reports from the US embassy in Tel Aviv.
Authorities in Ankara were also contacted, a senior Turkish diplomat told the AFP news agency, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Turkish media reports say the planned release includes papers suggesting that Turkey helped al-Qaeda fighters in Iraq, and that the US helped Iraq-based separatist Kurdish rebels fighting against Turkey.
The US relations with Russia could also be harmed by the data, the Kommersant newspaper reported Friday.
Citing a source from Wikileaks, the respected business daily reported that the confidential cables contain general assessments of the political situation in Russia and “unflattering characteristics” of Russian leaders.
“The documents include recordings of US diplomats’ conversations with Russian politicians, assessments of Russia’s most notable events, and analyses of what is happening in the country and in its domestic and foreign politics,” the newspaper wrote.
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov blamed the documents leak on “little thieves running around the internet” and said that his office has not been officially informed by Washington about the impending file dump.
“They steal secret documents there, but we do not get the same thing here – or at least not to the same extent,” the Interfax news agency quoted Lavrov as saying.
Thousands of diplomatic cables reporting corruption by politicians in Afghanistan and other Central Asian nations are also expected to be in the files.
In several countries, officials have issued defence advisory notices in order to contain the spill of data through media organizations covering the release.
WikiLeaks has said the release will be seven times the size of its October leak of 400,000 Iraq war documents, which was already the biggest leak to date in US intelligence history.
In July the website had published 77,000 classified US files on the Afghan conflict.
The US says it has known for some time that WikiLeaks held the diplomatic cables slated for release.
And although nobody has yet been charged with passing them to the website, suspicion focuses on Bradley Manning, a US army intelligence analyst arrested in Iraq in June and charged over an earlier leak.
“WikiLeaks are an absolutely awful impediment to my business, which is to be able to have discussions in confidence with people,” James Jeffrey, US ambassador to Iraq, said. “They will not help, they will simply hurt our ability to do our work here.”
He added that anyone whose “confidential discussions find their way into the press is going to be very unhappy and very upset”.
According to a transcript of a CNN interview set to air on Sunday, the most-senior US military commander, Admiral Mike Mullen, has urged WikiLeaks to stop its release of documents.
“I would hope that those who are responsible for this would, at some point in time, think about the responsibility that they have for lives that they’re exposing and the potential that’s there and stop leaking this information.”