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

IS Militants Release 49 Turkish Hostages

Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency reports that no ransom was paid and no conditions accepted for the hostages' release; few details of the release are known More

Photogallery IS Attacks Send Thousands of Syrian Kurds Fleeing to Turkey

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says more than 300 Kurdish fighters crossed into Syria from Turkey to defend a Kurdish area from attack by the Islamic militants More

Sierra Leone's Ebola Lockdown Continues

Thousands of health workers are going door to door in the West African country of 6 million, informing people of how to avoid Ebola, handing out soap 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.
Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calaisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 19, 2014 5:04 PM
The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video CERN Accelerator Back in Business

The long upgrade of the Large Hadron Collider is over. The scientific instrument responsible for the discovery of the Higgs boson -- the so-called "God particle" -- is being brought up to speed in time for this month's 60th anniversary of the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known by its French acronym CERN. Physicists hope the accelerator will help them uncover more secrets about the origins of the universe. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid