Diplomatic Furor Grows Over WikiLeaks Revelations

Wednesday, 01 Dec 2010 08:12 PM

By David A. Patten

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U.S. officials struck back Wednesday at the WikiLeaks site that has embarrassed diplomats and angered world leaders, successfully pressuring Amazon Web Services to pull the information off the Internet. But the site was down for only about an hour before WikiLeaks switched to a new hosting company.

Brief though it may have been, the server cutoff reflected growing American resolve to respond to the unauthorized, embarrassing publication of more than a quarter-million secret diplomatic communiqués.

The Justice Department is conducting an investigation into whether the leaks could lead to criminal prosecution, Attorney General Eric Holder has said. Legal experts disagree over whether a foreign national can be indicted for receiving and posting the stolen data.

Amazon Web Services, a division of the company that sells books and products online, reportedly yanked the WikiLeaks site after it received inquiries from staffers at the Senate’s Homeland Security Committee. U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman, the influential chairman of the committee, asked staff to ask Amazon Web Services why it was hosting a site that was publishing classified, stolen U.S. documents.

Lieberman praised the company’s decision to terminate its relationship with WikiLeaks, adding in a statement: “I call on any other company or organization that is hosting WikiLeaks to immediately terminate its relationship with them.”

Amazon declined to comment to the media on its decision to end its relationship with WikiLeaks.

WikiLeaks reacted testily to Amazon’s action, posting a message posted on its Twitter account that read: “WikiLeaks servers at Amazon ousted. Free speech the land of the free — fine our [dollars] are now spent to employ people in Europe. If Amazon are so uncomfortable with the First Amendment, they should get out of the business of selling books.”

A Computerworld.com trace showed the site had been relocated to servers at Bahnhof Internet AB, a Swedish firm about 45 miles north of Stockholm.

Fred Burton, vice president of intelligence for the Austin, Texas-based Stratfor global intelligence company, tells Newsmax that it appears there’s no end in sight yet for an end to the bleeding from WikiLeaks revelations.

The embarrassing revelations could continue to dribble out for weeks, he says, “until someone turns the spigot off.”

“You got the death by a thousand cuts here,” Burton added.

The Obama administration on Wednesday continued its efforts to downplay the incident and mend diplomatic fences.

The bulk of that unenviable work fell to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who visited Khazakhstan on Wednesday for a meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. There she met with several world leaders who had been described in less than flattering terms in private U.S. cables.

"I have certainly raised the issue of the leaks,” Clinton said, “in order to assure our colleagues that it will not in any way interfere with American diplomacy or our commitment to continuing important work that is ongoing."

But Clinton herself was drawn into the controversy Wednesday, as WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange told Time magazine that Clinton should resign if she tried to use diplomats as intelligence operatives, as some of the cables appear to indicate.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs dismissed the call for Clinton’s resignation as as "ridiculous.”

"I'm not entirely sure why we care about the opinion of one guy with one website," Gibbs said. "Our foreign policy and the interests of this country are far stronger than his one website."

Burton tells Newsmax that the huge WikiLeaks data dump does pose a longer-term problem for U.S. security, however. Other nations, he says, are now less likely to share intelligence with their U.S. counterparts.

According to Burton, foreign diplomats are now likely to ask: “How little information can I pass to the Americans to give them what they’re asking for, recognizing fully that this may be disclosed at some point in time?”

The State Department announced Tuesday that it is cutting off access to its internal documents until it can determine how to enhance security and prevent more leaks in the future.

Sources in the intelligence community tell Newsmax, however, that restricting access to intelligence could reduce information sharing and leave the nation more vulnerable to a terrorist plot in the future.

Other indications that the fallout from the WikiLeaks scandal continues to spread:
  • There were calls for the governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King, to resign after WikiLeaks documents showed he expressed “great concern” about the leadership of British Prime Minister Cameron Brown, and suggested he was guided by politics rather than a view of the best interests of the nation. Critics said King’s remarks had compromised the central bank’s independence.
  • Sensitive disclosures emerged that high-ranking Spanish justice officials provided information to American sources.
  • Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was said to have told a French colleague that Russian democracy no longer exists, and that the country had become "an oligarchy run by the security services."
  • Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin reacted angrily to the disclosures Wednesday. In a CNN interview, he complained about the “arrogance” and “rudeness” displayed by U.S. diplomats. Regarding speculation that Putin, rather than Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, is calling the shots in Russia, Putin added: “To our colleagues [in America] I would also like to advise you, do not interfere either with the sovereign choice of the Russian people."
  • WikiLeaks has stated that among its not-yet-released cache of documents are 852 sensitive cables involving U.S.-Vatican relations. A Catholic news agency asked the State Department for more information on the cables. The request was denied.

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