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US Warns of Prosecution Over Diplomatic Leaks

  • Henry Ridgwell

The State Department building in Washington, DC (file photo)

Governments around the world have started analyzing the contents of a huge leak of classified messages sent from U.S. embassies back to Washington. The U.S. has pledged to prosecute anyone responsible for leaking the data to the WikiLeaks website.

The first batch of more than 250,000 leaked classified messages sent from overseas embassies to Washington has been published by several newspapers across the world. The alleged contents vary from embarrassing to potentially damaging. Bob Ayers is a security analyst and former U.S. intelligence officer.

"A lot of it is repeating things we already knew. Some of the stories that there's corruption in Afghanistan or that the U.S. is trying to pawn off people from Guantanamo on other countries. This is not new news. But leaving that aside, there are several things of great interest that we probably want to explore a little bit more."

Among those, says Ayers, is the claim that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton directed American diplomats to spy on other delegations at the United Nations.

"This is a no-no and the U.S. has crossed the line in doing this," said Ayers.

Secretary Clinton had spent the weekend contacting allies overseas to warn them of the impending leak of information. She gave this response on Monday.

"I will not comment on or confirm what are alleged to be stolen State Department cables. But I can say that the U.S. deeply regrets the disclosure of any information that was intended to be confidential including private discussions between counterparts or our diplomats' personal observations and assessments. I want to make clear that our official foreign policy is not set through these messages but here in Washington."

Many of the details allegedly contained in the leaks are simply embarrassing for the U.S. It's claimed Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was described as "feckless, vain and ineffective." The Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi was allegedly listed as always being accompanied by "a voluptuous Ukrainian nurse."

But most concern focuses on the less personal but more damaging allegations.

It's alleged several Arab countries have been pressing the U.S. to attack Iran, to prevent the country from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

Sir Christopher Meyer is the former UK ambassador to the U.S.

"I think there is some damage, but overall it's embarrassing for the Americans, it's embarrassing for some leaders, and it's embarrassing for some countries, but let's see what happens over the next few days, there's more to come."

The Guardian newspaper says it will release further messages on Tuesday - among them files allegedly relating to North Korea and potentially embarrassing comments relating to the British Prime Minister David Cameron.