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

China May Be Biggest Winner From Ukraine Crisis

Missile sales, oil and gas shipments are among many areas that may drive Beijing and Moscow closer together in coming years More

Obama Faces Chaotic World, Limits of Power

Current foreign policy issues bring into focus challenges for US policymakers who are mindful of Americans' waning appetite for overseas military engagements More

SADC Meeting Lesotho Officials to Resolve Stalemate

Official says regional bloc has been engaged with leaders in Lesotho to resolve political disagreement that led to coup attempt 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.
West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015i
X
Carol Pearson
August 30, 2014 7:14 PM
A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

AppleAndroid