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A list drawn up by U.S. officials of companies and installations around the world regarded as "critical" to the security of the United States has been published online by controversial website WikiLeaks.
The list includesfactories, ports, fuel companies, drug manufacturers, undersea cables, pipelines, communication hubs and a host of other "key resources."
A Danish insulin plant, a company making anti-snake venom in Australia and a Cobalt mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo are also included.Video: Assange readies ‘poison pill’ in case of arrest (on this page)
Its publication was denounced as "irresponsible" by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Philip Crowley, amid fears it could be used as a list of targets by terrorists, Britain's Times newspaper reported.
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The document was drawn up after the State Department asked diplomats in February 2009 to identify "systems and assets, whether physical or virtual, so vital to the United States the incapacitation or destruction of such systems and assets would have a debilitating impact on security, national economic security, national public health or safety, or any combination of those matters."
The cable is marked "secret state ... noforn, not for internet distribution." "Noforn" means it should not be shown to foreign governments or other non-U.S. interests.
'Targets for terror'
The Times reported the story with the headline "WikiLeaks lists 'targets for terror' against U.S."
"There are strong and valid reasons information is classified, including critical infrastructure and key resources that are vital to the national and economic security of any country," Crowley told The Times.
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"Julian Assange (WikiLeaks's founder) may be directing his efforts at the United States but he is placing the interests of many countries and regions at risk. This is irresponsible," he added.
The U.K. government also condemned the publication of the document. "The leaks and their publication are damaging to national security in the United States, Britain and elsewhere," a spokesman for the Prime Minister David Cameron said in a statement, according to NBC News. "It is vital that governments are able to operate on the basis of confidentiality of information."
Sir Malcolm Rifkind, a British lawmaker who has served as both defense and foreign secretary, told The Times that the publication of the list was "further evidence that they (WikiLeaks) have been generally irresponsible," adding that it was "bordering on criminal."
"This is the kind of information terrorists are interested in knowing," added Rifkind, who now serves as chairman of the British parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee.
Kristinn Hrafnsson, a WikiLeaks spokesman, told The Times that the list had been made available to 2.5 million people including military personnel and private contractors by the U.S. government, saying this was a "very wide distribution for information claimed to be of such high sensitivity."
"In terms of security issues, while this cable details the strategic importance of assets across the world, it does not give any information as to their exact locations, security measures, vulnerabilities or any similar factors, though it does reveal the U.S. asked its diplomats to report back on these matters," he told the paper.Story: Swiss infrastructure keeping WikiLeaks alive
"This further undermines claims made by the U.S. government that its embassy officials do not play an intelligence-gathering role," he added.
A global arrest warrant for Assange was issued last week by Interpol for alleged sex crimes committed in Sweden. Assange has denied any wrongdoing.
In Australia, the government and police have been taking advice on whether WikiLeaks and Assange, who is an Australian, have broken any laws by publishing the cables.
"I think the focus will ultimately be a United States law enforcement action, and if that is the case the Australian government will provide assistance there," Australia's Attorney-General Robert McClelland said.
Other revelations from the WikiLeaks documents included a suggestion by Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that the U.S. should be prepared to use force against China in March 2009.
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According to the leaked cable, Rudd — who speaks Mandarin Chinese and is regarded as an expert on the country — advised Clinton to try to integrate "China effectively into the international community ... while also preparing to deploy force if everything goes wrong."
He also said China's stance on separatist Taiwan was both "sub-rational" and "paranoid."
Rudd refused to confirm the cable's contents Monday, but added: "The business of diplomacy is not to roll over and have your tummy tickled from time to time, by China or anybody else. This is part and parcel of relations between states."Slideshow: WikiLeaks in cartoons (on this page)
Rudd said the U.S. should beef up security of information.
"There are deep lessons in providing proper protection for such a large volume of diplomatic documents," Rudd said. "Rule number one for our friends in the United States is, how do you tighten things up a bit? I think that's a fair old question. Maybe two million or so people having access to this stuff is a bit of a problem," Rudd said.
The Guardian newspaper also reported a cable which revealed U.S. diplomats' view that Qatar was using television news service al-Jazeera, which is based in the Gulf state, to further Qatari foreign policy, despite the station's declared editorial independence.
"Al-Jazeera's ability to influence public opinion throughout the region is a substantial source of leverage for Qatar, one which it is unlikely to relinquish," U.S. ambassador Joseph LeBaron wrote, according to a leaked document. "Moreover, the network can also be used as a chip to improve relations. For example, al-Jazeera's more favorable coverage of Saudi Arabia's royal family has facilitated Qatari-Saudi reconciliation over the past year."
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Al-Jazeera said the the U.S. embassy's assessment was "very far from the truth."
Other cables published by WikiLeaks said Saudi Arabia and its Gulf Arab neighbors remained major sources of financing for militant movements like al-Qaida and the Taliban, despite their governments having made some progress.
"While the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) takes seriously the threat of terrorism within Saudi Arabia, it has been an ongoing challenge to persuade Saudi officials to treat terrorist financing emanating from Saudi Arabia as a strategic priority," reads a December 2009 memo from Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
The cable said that while the kingdom has begun to "make important progress on this front ... donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide."
U.S. diplomats out in cold
On Sunday, a senior Saudi royal, Prince Turki al-Faisal, told a Gulf security conference that the source of WikiLeaks cables should be "vigorously punished" and suggested the credibility of America's diplomats had been hurt by the disclosures.
"If diplomats and leaders can't exchange their views freely on the matters that affect them, then we are all in trouble," he said.
One notable leak cited Saudi King Abdullah as urging the United States to attack Iran's nuclear installations. He was reported to have advised Washington to "cut off the head of the snake" while there was still time.Video: McConnell: Assange is a ‘high-tech terrorist’ (on this page)
The steady drip, drip, drip of embarrassing disclosures in the media has had a chilling effect on U.S. diplomacy.
"In the short run, we're almost out of business," said a senior U.S. diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity. "It is really, really bad. I cannot exaggerate it. In all honesty, nobody wants to talk to us."
He said it could take two to five years to rebuild trust. "Some people still have to talk to us, particularly (in) government but ... they are already asking us things like, 'Are you going to write about this?'" the source said. "People outside the government don't want to talk at all."
Reuters, The Associated Press and NBC News contributed to this report.
Monday, December 6, 2010
WikiLeaks reveals U.S. list of 'critical' sites - U.S. news - Security -