U.S. Concerned Over WikiLeaks Blunder

U.S. expresses concern over risks to individuals after WikiLeaks releases cables without protecting names of sources.

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Elad Benari,

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange
Israel news photo: Espen Moe, Wikicommons

The United States voiced concern on Tuesday over the risks to individuals after WikiLeaks released more U.S. diplomatic cables, many of which contained the names of sensitive sources.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland was quoted by AFP as having said “the United States strongly condemns any illegal disclosure of classified information.”

“In addition to damaging our diplomatic efforts,” added Nuland, “it puts individuals’ security at risk, threatens our national security and undermines our effort to work with countries to solve shared problems. We remain concerned about these illegal disclosures and about concerns and risks to individuals," she said.

Nuland would not confirm the authenticity of the latest documents, which several German newspapers reported Monday are original and unedited documents that were accidentally uploaded to the WikiLeaks website.

According to the reports, the names in the documents include possible Israeli, Iranian and Jordanian intelligence agents. The release of the unedited cables could put the sources in danger as many of them are located in countries whose governments are hostile to the U.S.

The original classified documents were edited before distribution over six months ago, but the file which was leaked is the original one, which reveals information originally censored by WikiLeaks editors.

“We continue to carefully monitor what becomes public and to take steps to mitigate the damage to national security and to assist those who may be harmed by these illegal disclosures to the extent that we can,” Nuland was quoted as having said.

WikiLeaks itself said in a Twitter message Tuesday that it was “totally false that any WikiLeaks sources have been exposed or will be exposed.”

However, AFP reported that it sampled half a dozen cables written between 2003 and 2009 where the author wrote “protect source”.  Only one of them had the name of the source removed, reported the news agency.

While experts said WikiLeaks was much more careful about editing out the names of U.S. government sources in the first batch of released documents, a specialist on government secrecy told AFP that it is not the case in the latest batch.

“It’s a worrisome development particularly because a number of the confidential sources are not public officials but are private contacts, members of NGOs, or private firms,” Steven Aftergood, a specialist on government secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists told AFP. “And in several cases, the cables themselves have specified that the sources need to be protected.”

Aftergood added the consequences for the sources range from losing the confidence of the people they usually deal with to actually losing their jobs. He added that in some extreme cases they may be in “personal jeopardy.”