Web abuzz with possible nightmare at C Street

Not good news — 260,000 classified diplomaticc cables allegedly sent to Wikileaks.

In case you’ve missed this troubling news.  Yep, that’s 260,000 classified cables the news outlets are reporting and buzzing the internets in the last few days.

Here is CNN blog’s take: Dept. of State, embassies anxious about cable link claims

Officials at Foggy Bottom and diplomats at U.S. embassies around the world are biting their nails as they await an investigation into claims by an Army intelligence analyst that he downloaded 260,000 classified State Department diplomatic cables and gave them to the whistleblower site Wikileaks.
“Hillary Clinton and several thousand diplomats around the world are going to have a heart attack when they wake up one morning and find an entire repository of classified foreign policy is available, in searchable format, to the public, he reportedly told Lamo, who then turned Manning into authorities. He is currently under arrest in Kuwait.
If posted online, the cables could also reveal details about State Department operations, according to the department’s spokesman.

“It has particular impact in terms of potentially revealing what we call ‘sources and methods,’  you know, compromising our ability to, you know, provide government leaders with the kind of analysis that they need to make informed decisions,” a State Department spokesman said last week.

Because the documents pertain more to human intelligence, rather than intelligence systems, there is more angst at State and among embassies about the potential diplomatic fallout than there is serious concern that major intelligence was compromised. But the bottom lineis, out of 260,000 documents, officials recognize there is bound to be something with a decent degree of sensitivity in some of them.

One silver lining for officials  is that because there is an investigation which could lead to possible criminal prosecution, the State Department doesn’t expect the documents will be posted.

For its part, Wikileaks said on its Twitter page that it had not been sent the cables.

“Allegations in Wired that we have been sent 260,000 classified US embassy cables are, as far as we can tell, incorrect,” Wikileaks posted on its Twitter page earlier this week.

The Daily Beast’s Philip Shenon, a former investigative reporter at The New York Times, writes about The State Department’s Worst Nightmare last week:

The State Department and American embassies around the world are bracing for what officials fear could be the massive, unauthorized release of secret diplomatic cables in which U.S. diplomats harshly evaluate foreign leaders and reveal the inner-workings of American foreign policy.
“If he really had access to these cables, we’ve got a terrible situation on our hands,” said an American diplomat. “We’re still trying to figure out what he had access to. A lot of my colleagues overseas are sweating this out, given what those cables may contain.”

He said Manning apparently had special access to cables prepared by diplomats and State Department officials throughout the Middle East regarding the workings of Arab governments and their leaders.

The cables, which date back over several years, went out over interagency computer networks available to the Army and contained information related to American diplomatic and intelligence efforts in the war zones in Afghanistan and Iraq, the diplomat said.

He added that the State Department and law-enforcement agencies are trying to determine whether, and how, to approach Wikileaks to urge the site not to publish the cables, given the damage they could do to diplomatic efforts involving the United States and its allies.

On June 10th, Shenon had a follow up post entitled, Pentagon Manhunt.  Excerpt:

Pentagon investigators are trying to determine the whereabouts of the Australian-born founder of the secretive website Wikileaks for fear that he may be about to publish a huge cache of classified State Department cables that, if made public, could do serious damage to national security, government officials tell The Daily Beast. The officials acknowledge that even if they found the website founder, Julian Assange, it is not clear what they could do to block publication of the cables on Wikileaks, which is nominally based on a server in Sweden and bills itself as a champion of whistleblowers.

Active links added above. Raffi Khatchadourian also has an interesting profile of Julian Assange in a recent issue of The New Yorker (read No Secrets |Julian Assange’s mission for total transparency).

We noted that Wikileak posted the following in Twitter, “Allegations in Wired that we have been sent 260,000 classified US embassy cables are, as far as we can tell, incorrect.”  However, over in the wikileaks website are two items reportedly from US Embassy Iceland — a classified cable with a declassification date of 01/13/2020 and a confidential/noforn profiles of Icelandic government officials.

Does that mean something’s up or just mere coincidence?

It does look like there’s a lot of headline baiting going around right now ….   

Quickie: Have you ever seen a "government in a box" work?

President Barack Obama meets with Army Lt. Gen...Image via Wikipedia

I haven’t. How does that work in a country with a foreign culture?

WaPo’s Rajiv Chandrasekaran reports that the longer-than-expected effort to secure Marja is prompting alarm among top American commanders that they will not be able to change the course of the war in the time President Obama has given them.  Excerpt:

Before the operation, McChrystal pledged to deliver a “government in a box” that would provide basic services to the population with the hope of winning its allegiance. The box has turned out to be largely empty. Marja’s chief official, Haji Zahir, who spent four years in a German prison for attempting to murder his stepson, is regarded by some of the civilian reconstruction advisers here as an ineffective manager with a proclivity for lengthy siestas and an unwillingness to engage in the nitty-gritty of governance.
The problems with governance in Marja echo concerns raised by the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Karl W. Eikenberry, during a White House review of the war last fall. He argued that the Afghan government was insufficiently committed to doing its part to make the counterinsurgency campaign a success.

“With more U.S. forces you can do more, but where is your Afghan partner?” said a State Department official in Afghanistan.

Top commanders remain confident that Afghan officials will be able provide the services and leadership necessary to marginalize the Taliban — if they are given enough time and mentoring.

“We’re on an Afghan timetable, and the Afghan timetable is not the American timetable,” said a senior U.S. military official in Afghanistan. “And that is the crux of the problem.”

Continue reading ‘Still a long way to go’ for U.S. operation in Marja, Afghanistan’