News / USA

Former US Government Officials Assess Wikileaks Damage

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, Dec 16, 2010 (file photo)
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, Dec 16, 2010 (file photo)

Multimedia

Audio

The website WikiLeaks continues to publish confidential documents, many of them apparently obtained from a U.S. Army intelligence officer.

Two months after the website WikiLeaks began releasing diplomatic documents,- many of them classified "secret," experts say it has published more than 2,600 U.S. State Department cables - just over one percent of its cache of more than 250,000 documents.

The impact

U.S. government officials have been working to assess the damage done to American diplomatic and military operations by the publishing of those documents.

Retired Marine Corps General Anthony Zinni says the release of those cables is a tragedy.

"Those who view this as a matter of transparency, freedom of speech, freedom of the press are mistaken because they don't understand the implications for this and what it means in terms of international diplomatic engagement, in terms of lives that could be threatened, people that have taken great risks, in challenging human rights issues, very sensitive security issues."

Zinni says the action by WikiLeaks places lives in jeopardy.

"Those who in confidence express views that may have put them counter to their own government, to their own society, those who are trying to reform, those who provided intelligence information - they become at risk, our soldiers become at risk," added Zinni.  "It may create a hostile environment that we would find some of our military and diplomatic personnel at risk."

But former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger disagrees.

"If jeopardy means loss of life, I'm not so sure that is the case," noted Eagleburger.  "But if what it means is that some diplomats won't be able to do their jobs because they will have been - shall we say 'outed' in something they've done that puts them in an awkward position in terms of their reputations - it may be that there will be some diplomats who will have to seek other employment because nobody will want to talk to them or use them. But I don't think it's life-threatening, let's put it that way."

An embarrassment?

Some of the WikiLeaks cables dealing with the United States, show that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton instructed American diplomats to obtain a wide variety of information about senior United Nations officials, including credit card numbers, fingerprints and computer passwords.

Eagleburger says the documents show normal diplomatic activity.

"It's revealing some of our secrets," added Eagleburger.  "It's revealing some of the ways in which we do business. When people say how could the Secretary of State be involved in encouraging us, to encourage spies and so forth - I would have to tell them that if she weren't encouraging our recruiting of spies, I would think that she should be fired.  If we want to act like we've never hired a spy or should never hire one, that's about as absurd as you can get."

Long term consequences

The publication of the WikiLeaks documents created a diplomatic uproar around the world when the website began releasing them late last year. But Eagleburger questions what impact the cables will have in the long term.

"It's an awkward issue for us right now, but in a year or two from now we will barely remember it," Eagleburger said.  "I do not think it is going to have a major impact on the way we do business. I hope we will have found ways to avoid it ever happening again. But I don't think it is going to have a major impact over a longer period of time. It's not going to prove to be the big issue that we think it is right now."

Some experts say the WikiLeaks disclosures were possible because some barriers to sharing information among the various U.S. government agencies were brought down following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Analysts say that gave many more people access to classified documents.

Former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft says there may be a backlash.

"In sharing information, there needs to be some monitoring of unusual activity which could reveal that the system is being misused," Scowcroft explained.  "And one of the dangers of the WikiLeaks [revelations] is that all those barriers will now go back up again. And therefore, we will suffer by each agency protecting its important documents and not sharing across the board."

Scowcroft says the information-sharing system must be fixed so that people who need the access could have it and people who don't need it don't get it. The former national security adviser says that should not be an overwhelming challenge.

You May Like

US Imposes Sanctions on Alleged Honduran Drug Gang

Treasury department alleges Los Valles group is responsible for smuggling tens of thousands of kilograms of cocaine into US each month More

At 91, Marvel Creator Stan Lee Continues to Expand his Universe

Company's chief emeritus hopes to interest new generation of children in superheroes of all shapes and sizes by publishing content across multiple media platforms More

Photogallery New Drug Protects Against Virus in Ebola Family

Study by researchers at University of Texas Medical Branch, Tekmira Pharmaceuticals is first looking at drug's effectiveness after onset of symptoms More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improvingi
X
Carol Pearson
August 19, 2014 11:43 PM
The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.
Video

Video For Obama, Racial Violence is Personal Issue

The racial violence in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson is presenting U.S. President Barack Obama with an issue to which he has a deep personal connection. To many Americans, Obama's election as America's first black president marked a turning point in race relations in the United States, and Obama has made ending the violence a policy priority. On Monday he issued a new call for calm and understanding. Luis Ramirez reports from the White House.
Video

Video Clinton-Obama Relationship Could Impact 2016 Election

President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have a long and complicated relationship. That relationship took another turn recently when Clinton criticized the president’s foreign policy. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports there is renewed attention on the Clinton-Obama relationship as Hillary Clinton considers running for
Video

Video Iran Looks to Maintain Influence in Baghdad With New Shia PM

Washington and Tehran share the goal of stopping Syrian-based militants in Iraq. But experts say it's Iran, not the United States, that will most influence how the new government in Baghdad approaches internal reforms and the war in Syria. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

AppleAndroid