Monday, December 06, 2010

Wikileaks publish "terrorists' charter"

Ports such as this one in China are listed as "vital to national security"

The latest release of cables from the whistle-blowing website Wikileaks has been widely condemned after details were published concerning facilities considered "vital to national security". The long list of facilities ranges from vaccination production facilities to key ports and telecommunications hubs situated around the globe. The publication of such details may jeopardise national security, not only of American interests but also those of other countries.

The locations of the facilities are not in themselves secret. However, by publishing a list of facilities considered to be important, along with details as to how its destruction might affect the US will be of particular use to terrorist organisations. Security will be tight at many of the facilities on the list, but to raise the level of security at all of them will be difficult and potentially cost-prohibitive.

The BBC, Sky News and CNN all covered the story both on the web and in news broadcasts. Some also mentioned by name several of the facilities concerned, amongst them pipelines and factories. One cable warns that "if destroyed, disrupted or exploited, [it] would likely have an immediate and deleterious effect in the United States".

Reporting on the detail of the information published by Wikileaks has put media organisations in a tenuous position. Mark Mazzeti of the New York Times speaking to CNN, said "we have to report what's news-worthy" . Richard Stengel, managing editor of Time magazine defended the reporting of the material saying, "Our job is to give it greater transparency and put it in context". He went on to say "the criminal here, if there is a criminal, is Bradley Manning who is the PFC in the army who leaked those documents to Assange in the first place."

Downing Street issued a statement saying, "We unequivocally condemn the unauthorised release of classified information. The leaks and their publication are damaging to national security in the United States, Britain and elsewhere. It is vital that governments are able to operate on the basis of confidentiality of information" [FT]. Meanwhile Sir Malcolm Rifkind, a former defence and foreign secretary and chairman of the Commons Intelligence and Security Committee, said, "This is further evidence they have been generally irresponsible, bordering on criminal. This is the kind of information terrorists are interested in knowing."

His worries were echoed by Will Geddes, a security expert, who spoke of "untold concerns" surrounding the list of facilities. "Terrorist groups will select a target for maximum media impact and effect," Geddes told Al Jazeera, describing the released cables as a "terrorist charter". While exact addresses have not been published, it would not require a great deal of research to determine the locations of the facilities listed, he said. This was "pure and simply a national security issue" and insisted "data such as this server no purpose other than to highlight security risks."

Hundreds of locations are listed in the documents including electronic manufacturers in Isreal, international pipelines, Chinese ports [such as pictured above], mines across Africa, pharmaceutical companies in France, Sweden and Britain, and telecommunications infrastructural links.

The United States has yet to comment specifically on the latest cable leaks, but their reaction is likely to be extremely critical of Wikileaks' founder Julian Assange. Adam Brookes the BBC's US Correspondent said of the latest leaks, "It hasn't really registered here yet ... but when it does many are going to be unhappy about it." That is perhaps an understatement. In fact Sky News' international correspondent Tim Marshall suggested Assange could face 30 years imprisonment if he found himself extradited to the US.

tvnewswatch, London, UK

No comments: