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Watching the WikiLeaks release of diplomatic messages

At Open Channel we're following the continuing release of the first of 251,287 diplomatic messages by WikiLeaks, the whistleblowing website, timed in concert with several news organizations that had early access to the documents so they could begin reporting.

Latest updates are at the top.

Editors at The New York Times are answering questions about the choices they made.

The Guardian tweaks Sarah Palin for turning the WikiLeaks release into a business opportunity: " At last Sarah Palin speaks on the Wikileaks revelations – well, she tweets on the subject. And being Sarah Palin, it's mainly about her: 'Inexplicable: I recently won in court to stop my book America by Heart from being leaked, but US Govt can't stop Wikileaks' treasonous act?'

The Guardian opines: "Well, one is under the jurisdiction of the United States' government and laws, and one isn't. Apart from that, inexplicable. But top marks for using this unlikely subject to plug your own book."

The Guardian also reports on a U.S. ambassador who was shocked by comments by Prince Andrew.

Israel waits
From LA Times: Israel, waiting for the WikiLeaks shoe to drop, still cleaning up past messes

An apology to Pakistan?
The U.S. ambassador writes a column about the disclosures. "I cannot vouch for the authenticity of any one of these documents," wrote Cameron Munter. "But I can say that the United States deeply regrets the disclosure of any information that was intended to be confidential. And we condemn it. Diplomats must engage in frank discussions with their colleagues, and they must be assured that these discussions will remain private."

One man's solution
A talk show host in Nashville offers this suggestion:"The wikileaks guy isn't hiding in a cave in Pakistan. Can't we find him and kill him!?!?!?!?" (Spotted by Phil Williams.)

A mystery solved
The Guardian's editor tells Yahoo's The Cutline that it gave a copy of the WikiLeaks documents to The New York Times. As noted below, The Times received the documents from a source that insisted on timing that coincided with publication by the other news organizations.

Gaddafi's fear of flying, even with his 'voluptuous blonde'
From the Washington Post: WikiLeaks cables reveal personal details on world leaders

Also from the Post: With better sharing of data comes danger

LA Times roundup is here: Iran 'must be stopped': Arab leaders pushed U.S. to attack, WikiLeaks disclosures show

But it's still early...
McClatchy Newspapers and Miami Herald: No evidence that WikiLeaks releases have hurt anyone 

 


 More from the Guardian

 

A historian's dream, a diplomat's nightmare
Guardian journalists and others discuss the release, its context and the highlights so far.

Diplomats are not spies, State spokesman says
(via NYTimes): P.J. Crowley, spokesman for the U.S. State Department, reacts on his Twitter feed to the cables encouraging U.S. diplomats at the UN to collect personal information on UN officials: "Contrary to some #Wikileaks’ reporting, our diplomats are diplomats. They are not intelligence assets." And then, "Diplomats collect information that shapes our policies and actions. Diplomats for all nations do the same thing."

Newsweek analysis by Christopher Dickey: WikiLeaks will achieve the opposite of its goal of transparency. He says diplomats will now be afraid to write anything candid, turning diplomacy into public relations. (It's worth noting that WikiLeaks' stated goal is transparency. What it's actual goal is, will be judged by its actions.)

 Google allows a word-by-word search of the (relatively few) documents released so far, using its "site" command. Phrase it like this, without the quotation marks: site:cablegate.wikileaks.org clinton. Like this.

Wired's Kevin Poulsen, who reports on hacking, has a roundup of the day's events. He reminds us that the Army intelligence specialist accused of pilfering the documents, Bradley Manning, smuggled them out of a secure facility on a CD-RW labeled "Lady Gaga."

 AP posts a timeline of WikiLeaks and its leaks. 

Nightly News video:

The materials tear the cover off some U.S. secret operations and offer up embarrassing critiques of world leaders. NBC's Jim Miklaszewski reports.

What these documents tell us about the Arab world
Marc Lynch describes the Arab reaction and disclosures, at Foreign Policy. He muses on the effects of revealing what Arab leaders really say, behind closed doors, particularly about Iran.

"Will Arab leaders pay any significant political price for these positions, as they clearly feared?   Or will it turn out that in this era of authoritarian retrenchment they really can get away with whatever diplomatic heresies they like even if it outrages public opinion?  Will the publication of their private views lead them to become less forthcoming in their behavior in order to prove their bona fides -- i.e. less supportive of containing or attacking Iran, or less willing to deal with Israel? Or will a limited public response to revelations about their private positions lead them to become bolder in acting on their true feelings?" 

Setting the timing
A question: Why did the New York Times release the documents at the same time as the other news organizations, if it didn't get the documents from WikiLeaks?

The Times says it did not receive the documents from WikiLeaks, but from another source. And The Times says it has had the documents for several weeks? So why did it release them today, when other news organizations did? Why not, say, yesterday? The Times editor's note sheds only a little light on this, saying its source set the timing: "The documents — some 250,000 individual cables, the daily traffic between the State Department and more than 270 American diplomatic outposts around the world — were made available to The Times by a source who insisted on anonymity. They were originally obtained by WikiLeaks, an organization devoted to exposing official secrets, allegedly from a disenchanted, low-level Army intelligence analyst who exploited a security loophole. ... Except for the timing of publication, the material was provided without conditions."

So it appears that the Times is making the point that it didn't get the documents from WikiLeaks, but acknowledging that whoever gave the documents to the Times set the timing, which happens to be the same timing that WikiLeaks (or an intermediary) set for the other news organizations working under the embargo. It's curious: Has the Times decided that it would prefer (for legal reasons?) to receive the WikiLeaks data dumps through an intermediary? Or did WikiLeaks choose to use a third person to get the documents to The Times, and perhaps to the others? It will be interesting to read more about this in the editors' memoirs.

We asked the editor of the Times, Bill Keller, about this. Here's his reply, in full: "We agreed to coordinate timing with the other news organizations to avoid a stampede that would make for sloppy journalism and increase the risk of publishing something dangerous. Our agreement meant we had time to absorb the material and supply context. As you will see over the next week or so, this is careful journalism. It also allowed time for serious (and fruitful, in my view) discussions with the government about what to redact."

Yahoo's The Cutline blog says The Guardian fills in the missing piece: The British newspaper gave a set of the documents to The Times.

At Wired, Kevin Poulsen's take on all this: "The paper was among the outlets given embargoed access to earlier WikiLeaks disclosures, but fell out of favor with the organization when it profiled its leader, Julian Assange."

WikiLeaks says tomorrow it will invite other news organizations to "apply" for access to the cables under an embargo.

More from The Washington Post
"Secret cables reveal Iran has advanced missiles, is distrusted by U.S. allies in Persian Gulf." "The diplomatic memos disclose the extent to which many of the United States's allies in the Arab world repeatedly implored Washington to stop Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons."

WikiLeaks site is up
The WikiLeaks direct link for its cables site is finally working: http://cablegate.wikileaks.org/. Only a small portion of the cables have been posted, more than 200, with more expected. The documents posted so far have source names redacted, although anyone close to any of the governments could use these documents to quickly tell who is talking to (or working for) the U.S. embassy.

U.S. statement condemns release as "reprehensible."

Cable shows U.S. concern about the mental health of the president of Argentina.

From the Telegraph: Taliban courts prepare to punish any Afghan informers named in the diplomatic cables.

Times says its copy of the documents did not come directly from WikiLeaks (via Yahoo).

Senators in Washington: prosecute leakers.

What "inappropriate behavior" by a British royal will we be reading about?

William Kristol's advice for the U.S. on the WikiLeaks release, in the Weekly Standard: No apologies, no complaints, no explanations, no excuses.

On Twitter, users are reading about a hacker who claims responsibility for the denial-of-service attack against WikiLeaks.

From The Telegraph, a profile of Bradley Manning, suspected of stealing and distributing the diplomatic cables. So far he has been charged with distributing just one diplomatic cable.

Washington Post video: The founder of WikiLeaks answers questions from Post readers.

In Israel, the newspaper Haaretz explores a 2009 cable about Iranian nuclear ambitions: "A 2009 American government cable released Sunday by the WikiLeaks website quotes Defense Minister Ehud Barak as telling visiting American officials that a strike on Iran's nuclear facilities was viable until the end of 2010, but after that "any military solution would result in unacceptable collateral damage."

Locked out of the early release, the Washington Post provides perspective. From among all the stories in these documents, the Post seems to choose the most interesting: spying at the UN. "The documents suggest American diplomats were ordered to engage in low-level spying by obtaining personal information on foreign diplomats such as frequent flier and credit card numbers, presumably to better track their movements."

In a closing of the barn door after the horse has ridden away, the Pentagon has tightened rules on use of flash drives.

Talk back to the editors
Editors at The New York Times are inviting questions on the WikiLeaks release. See the bottom of this editor's note or send an e-mail. And Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger will be online Monday at 4 p.m. in London.

The Guardian is blogging about WikiLeaks here.

One more from Der Spiegel: WikiLeaks FAQ: What do the cables really tell us?

More from the Guardian UK):

The four New York Times articles:

The Times is following reaction on its Lede Blog.

And a selection of notable messages, via The Times.

More from Der Spiegel:

It's interesting to see the manpower tally at the bottom of a news article. Here's the New York Times contributor list for its lede article, a roster which few news organizations could match: Scott Shane reported from Washington, and Andrew W. Lehren from New York. Reporting was contributed by Jo Becker, C. J. Chivers and James Glanz from New York; Eric Lichtblau, Michael R. Gordon, David E. Sanger, Charlie Savage, Eric Schmitt and Ginger Thompson from Washington; and Jane Perlez from Islamabad, Pakistan.

The New York Times publishes letters between WikiLeaks and the U.S. government.

The White House issues a condemnation of the WikiLeaks disclosures: "We condemn in the strongest terms the unauthorized disclosure of classified documents and sensitive national security information. ... President Obama supports responsible, accountable, and open government at home and around the world, but this reckless and dangerous action runs counter to that goal,” the statement said. “By releasing stolen and classified documents, WikiLeaks has put at risk not only the cause of human rights but also the lives and work of these individuals."

The New York Times posts the first four articles of a series drawn from the new cables. A huge trove of State Department communiqués offer an extraordinary look at the inner workings, and sharp elbows, of diplomacy. The first article leads with disclosures on a standoff with Pakistan over nuclear fuel, gaming of an eventual collapse of the North Korean regime, bargaining with countries to take Guantanamo prisoners, suspicions of corruption in the Afghan government, and Chinese efforts to hack into computers in the U.S.

And Times editors post a note explaining their decision to publish, and to withhold many of the documents: "The Times believes that the documents serve an important public interest, illuminating the goals, successes, compromises and frustrations of American diplomacy in a way that other accounts cannot match. ... The Times has taken care to exclude, in its articles and in supplementary material, in print and online, information that would endanger confidential informants or compromise national security. The Times’s redactions were shared with other news organizations and communicated to WikiLeaks, in the hope that they would similarly edit the documents they planned to post online."

From other news organizations taht had advance access to the messages: The Guardian (UK), Der Spiegel (English language version of the German news magazine), Le Monde (French), and El País (Spanish).

A political meltdown
The summary by Der Spiegel: "Included are 243,270 diplomatic cables filed by US embassies to the State Department and 8,017 directives that the State Department sent to its diplomatic outposts around the world. In the coming days, the participating media will show in a series of investigative stories how America seeks to steer the world. The development is no less than a political meltdown for American foreign policy."

Our roundup story from NBC News sources is here.

Trying to pump up the volume, WikiLeaks begs the Web to use a hashtag #cablegate to discuss the release.

Pages from the German magazine Der Spiegel have been released early. Report by Jerusalem Post:'Ahmadinejad is Hitler; Sarkozy is a naked emperor.'

Cover of Der Spiegel is posted by Gawker among others.

WikiLeaks claims to be under a denial-of-service attack. As of 12:52 p.m. Eastern time, the WikiLeaks Web site is failing to load, or is timing out.

12:42 p.m. Eastern: New report from The New York Times, one of the news organizations expected to publish some of the documents.

Roundups here from Reuters and CNN.

WikiLeaks says information will be released this evening by El Pais, Le Monde, Der Spiegel, Guardian & New York Times

Gawker says tweets from Germany suggest the release will be a let-down, without explosive items.

Reuters: Italian foreign minister calls the release the 9/11 of diplomacy

Also see Michael Isikoff's report Friday on Open Channel: Harmful documents or hyperventilating?

What should we be investigating? Send documents and story ideas to NBC's Open Channel.

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