Sunday, December 5, 2010

WikiLeaks off-limits to federal workers without clearance, memo says

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on most-wanted list

Interpol has placed the Australian-born founder of WikiLeaks on its most-wanted list after Sweden issued an arrest warrant against him as part of a rape investigation. (The Associated Press)


WikiLeaks off-limits to federal workers without clearance, memo says

Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 5, 2010; 9:10 PM

Obama administration officials reminded rank-and-file federal workers and contractors late Friday to steer clear of WikiLeaks, the controversial document-sharing Web site.

"Classified information, whether or not already posted on public Web sites or disclosed to the media, remains classified, and must be treated as such by federal employees and contractors, until it is declassified by an appropriate U.S. government authority," officials warned.

The Office of Management and Budget sent the message in a memo addressed to agency general counsel, asking them to remind workers of existing restrictions on access to classified documents.

OMB Director Jacob Lew had already instructed departments and agencies to ensure that employees with access to classified information networks did not have more access than necessary and to restrict the use of removable media such as CDs or flash drives on such networks. Those orders promptedsome departments to issue warnings to employees.

Friday's memo states that workers and contractors must "use government information technology systems in accordance with agency procedures so that the integrity of such systems is not compromised."

The memo is meant to be adapted and then sent to each agency's workers.

It does not instruct agencies to block the WikiLeaks Web site.

The Defense Department has issued a similar reminder to military personnel and contractors, stating that viewing the documents violates military policy even though they may be available on public Web sites.

Employees and contractors who inadvertently accessed or downloaded any classified or sensitive information without prior authorization are reminded to contact agency information security offices, the memo said.

In a similar warning, college students considering careers with the federal government received ane-mail this week warning against reviewing classified information posted by the document-sharing Web site.

Career counselors at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs urged students not to post links to the documents or make comments on social media Web sites, including Facebook or Twitter.

"Engaging in these activities would call into question your ability to deal with confidential information, which is part of most positions with the federal government," said an e-mail the office said it sent to students on the advice of an alumnus who works for the State Department.

But the employee's warning "does not represent a formal policy position," State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Saturday.

"This sounds like an overly zealous employee," Crowley said in an e-mail. "Our focus is advising current employees not to download classified documents to an unclassified network.

"While we condemn what WikiLeaks has done, we cannot control what is done through private Internet accounts."

Source : The Washington Post


WikiLeaks-revealed details of Russian Caucasus wedding are disputed, laughed off

Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 4, 2010; 9:59 PM

MOSCOW - It must have been the invitation of the season, that Caucasus wedding that was so memorably WikiLeaked the other day, and it resulted in such a titillating tale - replete with gold-bullion wedding gifts, awe-inspiring alcohol consumption and simmering cauldrons of sheep and cattle.

The author of that classified cable from the U.S. Embassy in Moscow has not been identified, but another part of the story is coming clear: how he cadged the invitation to the wedding, a three-day event that Gadzhi Makhachev, head of Dagestan Oil, put on for his 19-year-old son in the North Caucasus city of Makhachkala.

Though the mesmerizing August 2006 dispatch was signed "Burns," the State Department has denied that it was written by the obvious suspect, Undersecretary William J. Burns, who was U.S. ambassador to Moscow at the time.

Other denials are floating around as well.

This week, Makhachev was quoted by the Caucasian Knot news agency disputing various aspects of the cable: "There was a wedding of my son Dalgat and 200 of my relatives and friends were invited to the wedding. Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov [who was described as having given the bride and groom a five-kilogram lump of gold] was not among them. There was nothing special about the wedding - just an ordinary Dagestani wedding.

"I don't have houses in Moscow, Paris or San Diego, and I have never driven a Rolls Royce."

What to believe?

Enver Kisriyev, quoted in the cable as the leading scholar of Dagestani society, recalls how the American got invited, but not his name. Turns out, the diplomat simply made it known he intended to visit Dagestan, a restive Muslim region bordering Chechnya where it is not uncommon for people to disappear. The wedding invitation was issued as something of a safe-conduct pass in a society that is deeply hospitable.

"I do remember the Americans wanted to go to Dagestan, but it's dangerous to go there," Kisriyev said in Moscow. "If Gadzhi made them his personal guests, they would be safe. So he invited them to his son's wedding."

Makhachev is a revered figure in Dagestan, as a glance at his Web site shows. A major Dagestani entertainer even wrote a song in his honor. It's in a local language, but somehow the sentiment is unmistakable.

Kisriyev laughs merrily at the American's account of the wedding. He says he heard that Kadyrov was certainly at the wedding, but he thinks the writer was overly dramatic with accounts of dancing children showered with hundred-dollar bills and lump-of-gold presents.

"I had so much fun when I read it," he said. "It was an American comic interpretation of an ordinary Dagestani wedding."

No harm done, he said, even though the cable's publication was horribly undiplomatic.

"It's slightly embarrassing for my guys and for the Americans," he said. "It's like seeing someone naked by accident. You'll get over it."

The American described the lezginka, the Caucasian dance, with great enthusiasm. It comes in many styles, from the decorous to the rowdy.

"There's absolutely nothing new in all these leaks," said Sergei Arutyunov, head of the Caucasus Department at the Institute of Ethnic Studies. "Maybe it's a revelation for you, but not for us."

And governments shouldn't even think of prosecuting WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, he said.

"It's their job to make things confidential," he said, "and ours to find out what they say."


Leaders in Afghanistan, Pakistan speak out against WikiLeaks information

Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 4, 2010; 9:17 AM

KABUL - The Afghan president and the Pakistani prime minister on Saturday disputed the accuracy of derogatory information contained in leaked U.S. diplomatic cables, calling some of the allegations in the dispatches absurd.

Pakistani Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani said reports that the country's civilian leaders are subservient to military and intelligence chiefs are unfounded.

"I would request that you not trust Wikileaks," the prime minister said at a press conference in Kabul during his first official visit to the neighboring country.

"These are some of the views of junior [U.S.] officers. We should not even take them seriously."

The release on Sunday of the first batch of thousands of diplomatic cables obtained by Wikileaks, an online whistleblower group, has strained Washington's already tense relationships with leaders in Kabul and Islamabad.

The cables have added an irritant to bilateral relations with the two governments at a time when the Obama administration is trying to show that its Afghan war effort is on solid footing after nine years of missteps.

U.S. officials view Pakistani cooperation in Afghanistan as crucial because the leadership of the Taliban and other extremist groups operate in safe havens the Pakistani government has little control over.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai pushed back on the notion that some of his cabinet members have been working behind the scenes with U.S. officials to reel in the president's sometimes erratic behavior.

A cable sent to Washington last February quotes Afghan Finance Minister Omar Zakhilwal telling U.S. officials that Karzai was "an extremely weak man."

The dispatch said the minister felt Karzai "did not listen to facts but was instead easily swayed by anyone who came to him to report even the most bizarre stories or plots against him. Whenever this happened, Karzai would immediately judge that person to be loyal and would reward him."

Karzai said the finance minister has assured him the information in the U.S. cable is inaccurate.

The cables have shed light on the extent to which the relationship between Karzai and Washington has deteriorated in recent years.

They also address Afghanistan's endemic corruption in excruciating detail.

Karzai mocked one of the most startling anecdotes in the cables: that authorities in the United Arab Emirates detected Afghan vice president Ahmad Zia Masood carrying $52 in cash during a trip to Dubai - an allegation Masood has denied.

"If you put $52 million in boxes, it will be at least 30 suitcases," Karzai said in a scornful tone. "Can someone carry 30 suitcases with him?"

The two leaders addressed each other warmly as they sought to portray the historically frayed relationship between the two nations as thawing.

"Whatever the intention was of Wikileaks, they helped the relationship between Afghanistan and Pakistan," Karzai said.

The official visit came a day after President Obama flew to Afghanistan for a three-hour trip. Obama and Karzai did not meet during the three-hour visit, which both leaders attributed to hazy weather that made it dangerous for Obama to fly from Bagram Airfield to the capital.

Has release of Wikileaks documents cost lives?

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Hillary Clinton called Wikileaks' latest release "an attack on the international community"

The latest release of Wikileaks documents - a trove of US diplomatic cables which offer, among other things, unflattering and candid assessments of world leaders - has deeply angered American officials.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Wikileaks' actions undermined US foreign policy efforts and amounted to "an attack on the international community, the alliances and partnerships, the conventions and negotiations that safeguard global security and advance economic prosperity".

New York Congressman Pete King has called for the US Attorney General to designate Wikileaks a terrorist organisation and to prosecute founder Julian Assange for espionage.

Much of the criticism of Wikileaks, though, revolves around the notion that releasing such information risks lives.

Identities of informants could be compromised, spies exposed, and the safety of human rights activists, journalists and dissidents jeopardised when information of their activities is made public, the argument goes.

US military officials contend that allowing enemies access to their strategic and operational documents creates a dangerous environment for American troops serving abroad.

On Saturday, US state department legal adviser Harold Koh wrote in a letter to Wikileaks that the most recent document dump "could place at risk the lives of countless innocent individuals" as well as "ongoing military operations".

He accused Wikileaks of endangerment "without regard to the security and the sanctity of the lives your actions endanger".

But is there any real evidence of this peril?

Justification for secrecy

The problem for officials like Mr Koh is proving direct links between the information released and any loss of life.

After the release of an enormous haul of US defence department documents in August, Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell told the Washington Post: "We have yet to see any harm come to anyone in Afghanistan that we can directly tie to exposure in the Wikileaks documents."

Daniel Ellsberg Pentagon Papers whistle-blower Daniel Ellsberg says silence puts lives at risk

But, he added: "There is in all likelihood a lag between exposure of these documents and jeopardy in the field."

After this latest release a Pentagon official, who wished to remain anonymous due to the sensitive nature of the material involved, told the McClatchy newspaper group that even three months later the US military still had no evidence that people had died or been harmed because of information gleaned from Wikileaks documents.

Daniel Ellsberg, the former military analyst who in 1971 released the Pentagon Papers which detailed government lies and cover-ups in the Vietnam War, is sceptical of whether the government really believes that lives are at stake.

He told the BBC's World Today programme that US officials made that same argument every time there was a potentially embarrassing leak.

"The best justification they can find for secrecy is that lives are at stake. Actually, lives are at stake as a result of the silences and lies which a lot of these leaks reveal," he said.

"The same charges were made against the Pentagon Papers and turned out to be quite invalid."

Unknowable effects

Mr Ellsberg noted that with this release, the newspapers involved co-operated with the US government to ensure that the information they published did not imperil lives.

Start Quote

I don't think it has been proven that this is dangerous to US troops, for instance. I haven't seen that case made very clearly”

End Quote Carne Ross Former UK ambassador to the UN


New York Times executive editor Bill Keller told the BBC that although his newspaper did not always agree with the advice of US authorities, it had carefully redacted the published documents to remove identifying information.

"Our hope is that we've done everything in our power to minimise actual damage," he said.

Carne Ross, a former UK diplomat at the United Nations, told the BBC that the effects of Wikileaks were largely unknowable at this point.

"I don't think it has been proven that this is dangerous to US troops, for instance. I haven't seen that case made very clearly," he said. "What I think this means is that we need to look at our own mechanisms for democratic accountability and foreign policy. We need to be much, much better."

One thing the experts appear to agree on is that the leaks will make it more difficult for US diplomats and human intelligence operatives to do their jobs. Although that does not present an immediate threat to American lives, strained international relations may create a more dangerous world.

"They embarrass governments with which the US co-operates," Max Boot, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, said of the leaks on the BBC's World Today programme.

"At the very least, they will make governments like Pakistan and Yemen and others, which are collaborating with the US in the battle against terrorism, more reluctant to co-operate.

"It's harming some of the vital activities that the US government, the UK government or others engage in, which are protecting us against terrorism."


WikiLeaks watch: Where in the world is Julian Assange?

By Sam Sanders
Interpol "Wanted" page. (Nicholas Kamm /AFP/Getty Images)

Someone tweeted yesterday that they saw him in Manhattan. Ecuador was rumored to have offered him asylum. He teleconferenced from Jordan recently.

WikiLeaks leader Julian Assange has become our modern-day Carmen San Diego. Without the game show.

We've started a Google Map with Julian Assange hot spots throughout the globe. It's likely the list will grow. Or not. The Swedish Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Assange must appear before a magistrate in Stockholm to answer accusations of rape and sexual harassment brought by two Swedish women. And Interpol has added him to its most wanted list.

WikiLeaks who gains? Clearly those charlatans masqueradi¬ng as statesmen and the clowns dressed as legislator¬s in the Washington Circus would want to put the boots to those who exposed them. Although the WikiLeaks contained little that was new about our mistrusted misleaders¬. They did ruffle a few feathers, bruised egos and might even undermine career prospects for the mentioned bureaurats and politician¬s. Leaks weren't news, who didn’t know that Italian was a philanderi¬ng buffoon, the Afghanista¬n crowd rivals the South Vietnamese Govt in corruption and various venalities¬, or we are in the process of delivering to Pakistan the same largess we gave to Cambodia? Of course Putin rose from the bloody cellars of the Lubyanka and remains murderous. For those whose trust in the honesty of the Saudi Arabians was shattered by the Leaks, it would be best to keep in mind the words of Geo W, “You can’t break an omelet if you’re going to be critical of eggs.” Aside from reducing catty remarks, the Leaks will have no consequenc¬e that is discernabl¬e in 6 months, except for one thing. They do provide a great opportunit¬y for those in public disservice¬, those enemies of transparen¬cy who wish to CYA. These folks will benefit from new laws that will further shield either their incompeten¬ce or corruption and in some cases both. Free no log-in editorial cartoons on the Circus and more http://ww.¬saintpeter¬

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