Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday condemned the release of more than 250,000 confidential U.S. diplomatic documents by the Internet website WikiLeaks. The leaks come ahead of Clinton's trip to Central Asia and the Middle East.
Clinton told reporters that she would not comment on or confirm what she said are allegedly stolen State Department cables. The documents appeared on the WikiLeaks website on Sunday and are the subject of countless news stories around the world.
"But I can say that the United States deeply regrets the disclosure of any information that was intended to be confidential, including private discussions between counterparts or our diplomats' personal assessments and observations," said Hillary Clinton.
The apparently classified cables reveal some of the diplomatic corps' candid and sometimes critical assessments of foreign officials and world leaders.
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Clinton said she telephoned several of her counterparts in advance of the disclosure of the documents. She called the release more than an attack on U.S. foreign policy interests.
"It is an attack on the international community, the alliances and partnerships, the conversations and negotiations that safeguard global security and advance economic prosperity," said Clinton. "I am confident that the partnerships that the Obama administration has worked so hard to build will withstand this challenge."
Clinton said the leak is a matter of "great concern" because Washington does not want any government to doubt its intentions and commitments. She also emphasized that American diplomats who offer raw appraisals are doing the work that is expected of them.
"It is imperative that we have candid reporting from those who are in the field, working with their counterparts, in order to inform our decision making back here in Washington," she said. "I can tell you that in my conversations, at least one of my counterparts said to me, 'Well, don't worry about it. You should see what we say about you.'"
The Secretary of State said the United States is taking "aggressive steps" to hold those who leaked the information accountable. She also has ordered specific measures be taken at the State Department to prevent another such breach.
In the days leading up to the public disclosure of the documents, State Department legal adviser Harold Koh sent a letter to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, warning that publishing classified U.S. information violates U.S. law.
Clinton and other U.S. officials have strongly condemned the disclosure of classified information, saying it endangers lives, threatens national security and undermines international cooperation.
The secretary of state is expected to meet with dozens of her counterparts when she travels this week to Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Bahrain. Clinton said she will continue conversations about the leaks, in person and by phone, during the next few days.