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

Photogallery Strong Words Start, May End, S. African Xenophobic Attacks

President Jacob Zuma publicly condemned rise in attacks on foreign nationals but critics say leadership has been less than welcoming to foreign residents More

Video Family Waits to Hear Charges Against Reporter Jailed in Iran

Reports in Iran say Jason Rezaian has been charged with espionage, but brother tells VOA indictment has not been made public More

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Action to Stabilize Libya

Amnesty International says multinational concerted humanitarian effort must be enacted to address crisis; decrepit boats continue to bring thousands of new arrivals daily 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.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs