Thanks to independent Australian journalist and hacker Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, the curtain has been pulled back on hundreds of thousands of American diplomatic documents and cables, otherwise kept secret from the public.
Published via WikiLeaks, top-secret information dealing with the international relations of the United States has been put on the Internet for the entire world to download and read.
The cables concern a large range of diplomatic topics, from American blueprints of setting up a unified Korea if North Korea were to collapse, to lists of certain sites around the world that if attacked would have a “critical impact” on the national security of the United States.
According to some of the published documents, American diplomats have participated in talks with South Korean officials regarding how the two countries would handle a North Korean collapse The North has recently suffered from severe economic troubles and, with its leader Kim Jong-Il in bad health, could face an increased risk of instability with his death.
South Korean officials have even developed a plan of economic incentives to appease China, North Korea’s most powerful ally.
A list of sites sensitive to the national security of the United States was also released via WikiLeaks.
Britain’s foreign secretary, William Hague, told BBC radio the publication of the list created a “great concern, of course, about disclosing a list of targets that could be of use to terrorists or saboteurs.”
The list, compiled by the Department of Homeland Security in 2008, labeled these sites as “critical foreign dependencies.” These range from hydroelectric dams in Canada and Mexico, vaccine manufacturers in Denmark, and mines in Africa.
Mark Stephens, Assange’s lawyer, insisted to the BBC that WikiLeaks was not putting those sites at risk by releasing these documents.
Some cables are not total surprises, but are mere confirmations of suspected knowledge. One of the most significant cables to be released regards Iran’s acquisition of a small arsenal of long-range missiles from North Korea. Speculation surrounding the subject has been circulating since a 2006 report that North Korea may have sold Iran Russian R-27 missiles.
According to The New York Times, “many arms control experts concluded that isolated components made their way to Iran, but there has been little support for the idea that complete missiles […] had been secretly shipped.”
According to the leaked cable, released Feb. 24, the missiles, modified by North Korea, are capable of carrying nuclear warheads.
The estimated 19 missiles obtained from North Korea by Tehran can reach most of the capital cities of western Europe. Although Iran has not obtained a nuclear device capable of being attached to the missiles, the weapons remain an important step in their efforts to obtain a nuclear arsenal.
In a press release, the White House strongly condemned WikiLeaks for leaking classified documents and sensitive national security information.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the State Department have begun to notify foreign officials of the publications that are expected to surface in the near future.
The press release went on to say that the cables may “deeply impact not only U.S. foreign policy interests, but those of our allies and friends around the world.”