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Saturday, December 11, 2010

3 million had access to secret cables

An embassy dispatch marked SIPDIS is automatically downloaded on to its embassy classified website, reports the Guardian. 'From there, it can be accessed not only by anyone in the state department, but also by anyone in the US military who has a security clearance up to the 'Secret' level, a password, and a computer connected to SIPRNet - which astonishingly covers over 3m people. There are several layers of data in here - ranging up to the "SECRET NOFORN" level, which means that they are designed never be shown to non-US citizens. Instead, they are supposed to be read by officials in Washington up to the level of current Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The cables are normally drafted by the local ambassador or subordinates. The "Top Secret" and above foreign intelligence documents cannot be accessed from SIPRNet.'

Either Washington wasn't particularly worried about the content of these cables, or President Obama's Defense and State departments had a mammoth security hole.

Plainly, Defense Secretary Robert Gates -- a former CIA chief -- would prefer that the attention be focused on Julian Assange rather than on the fact that the egregious security problem occurred on Gates' watch. Gates, who has spent a career as a security professional, would seem far more culpable than Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who would have been far less familiar with the details of security issues.

As Washington lobbies foreign governments to hold Assange and prepare to deliver him to the United States for prosecution, secret cables show that U.S. officials quietly pressured German authorities to prevent them from issuing international arrest warrants for CIA operatives responsible for kidnapping Khalid al-Masri, who was wrongly identified as a terrorist. (See cable below.)

It's quite interesting BTW that Sweden demands the extradition of Assange -- though no charges have been filed -- but has, the Independent reports, told U.S. officials Sweden will only transfer Assange to U.S. custody if the United States files charges. This implies that the international arrest warrant was a gimmick meant to hold Assange until Washington could cook up something that was politically sellable to the American people.

Assange asked the State Dept. to indicate which cables it thought would endanger lives but a State Dept. official replied Nov. 27 that it would not "engage in negotiations regarding the further release or dissemination of illegally obtained U.S. Government classified materials."

Sen. Diane Feinstein rejected Assange's offer as inadequate and yet the New York Times reported that the White House had worked with that newspaper in sifting the cables for true "national security" material.

See Judith Miller's latest column (sidebar) for a full account.


DE RUEHRL #0242 0371748
O 061748Z FEB 07

S E C R E T BERLIN 000242 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/06/2017 
     ¶B. BERLIN 200 
Classified By: DCM John M. Koenig for Reasons 1.4 (b) and (d) 
¶1.  (S/NF) In a February 6 discussion with German Deputy 
National Security Adviser Rolf Nikel, the DCM reiterated our 
strong concerns about the possible issuance of international 
arrest warrants in the al-Masri case.  The DCM noted that the 
reports in the German media of the discussion on the issue 
between the Secretary and FM Steinmeier in Washington were 
not accurate, in that the media reports suggest the USG was 
not troubled by developments in the al-Masri case.  The DCM 
emphasized that this was not the case and that issuance of 
international arrest warrants would have a negative impact on 
our bilateral relationship.  He reminded Nikel of the 
repercussions to U.S.-Italian bilateral relations in the wake 
of a similar move by Italian authorities last year. 
¶2.  (S/NF) The DCM pointed out that our intention was not to 
threaten Germany, but rather to urge that the German 
Government weigh carefully at every step of the way the 
implications for relations with the U.S.  We of course 
recognized the independence of the German judiciary, but 
noted that a decision to issue international arrest warrants 
or extradition requests would require the concurrence of the 
German Federal Government, specifically the MFA and the 
Ministry of Justice (MOJ).  The DCM said our initial 
indications had been that the German federal authorities 
would not allow the warrants to be issued, but that 
subsequent contacts led us to believe this was not the case. 
¶3.  (S/NF) Nikel also underscored the independence of the 
German judiciary, but confirmed that the MFA and MOJ would 
have a procedural role to play.  He said the case was subject 
to political, as well as judicial, scrutiny.  From a judicial 
standpoint, the facts are clear, and the Munich prosecutor 
has acted correctly.  Politically speaking, said Nikel, 
Germany would have to examine the implications for relations 
with the U.S.  At the same time, he noted our political 
differences about how the global war on terrorism should be 
waged, for example on the appropriateness of the Guantanamo 
facility and the alleged use of renditions. 
¶4.  (S/NF) Nikel also cited intense pressure from the 
Bundestag and the German media.  The German federal 
Government must consider the "entire political context," said 
Nikel.  He assured the DCM that the Chancellery is well aware 
of the bilateral political implications of the case, but 
added that this case "will not be easy."  The Chancellery 
would nonetheless try to be as constructive as possible. 
¶5.  (S/NF) The DCM pointed out that the USG would likewise 
have a difficult time in managing domestic political 
implications if international arrest warrants are issued.  He 
reiterated our concerns and expressed the hope that the 
Chancellery would keep us informed of further developments in 
the case, so as to avoid surprises.  Nikel undertook to do 
so, but reiterated that he could not, at this point "promise 
that everything will turn out well." 

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