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WikiLeaks leaves names of United States Diplomatic sources in cables

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Tue, Sept 6. 2011

In a shift of tactics that has alarmed American officials, the antisecrecy organization WikiLeaks has published on the Web nearly 134,000 leaked diplomatic cables in recent days,{{more}} more than six times the total disclosed publicly since the posting of the leaked State Department documents began last November.

A sampling of the documents showed that the newly published cables included the names of some people who had spoken confidentially to American diplomats and whose identities were marked in the cables with the warning “strictly protect.”

State Department officials and human rights activists have been concerned that such diplomatic sources, including activists, journalists and academics in authoritarian countries, could face reprisals, including dismissal from their jobs, prosecution or violence.

Since late 2010, The New York Times and several other news organizations have had access to more than 250,000 State Department cables, originally obtained by WikiLeaks, citing them in news articles and publishing a relatively small number of cables deemed newsworthy. But The Times and other publications that had access to the documents removed the names of people judged vulnerable to retaliation.

WikiLeaks published some cables on its own Web site, but until the latest release, the group had also provided versions of the cables that had been edited to protect low-level diplomatic sources.

A State Department spokesman, Michael A. Hammer, said the department would not comment on the authenticity of the documents released. He said the United States “strongly condemns any illegal disclosure of classified information.”

Last year, WikiLeaks was sharply criticized by human rights activists for disclosing the names of Afghan citizens who had provided information on the Taliban to the American military. It was far more cautious in subsequent releases, using software to strip proper names out of Iraq war documents and publishing versions of the cables after they had been edited by The New York Times and other publications.

The publication of cables began slowly last year, with only 2,500 made public by year’s end, often with redactions. As of last week, the total had reached about 20,000.

But the State Department has always acted on the assumption that all quarter-million cables might become public. A department task force worked with American embassies to review all the leaked cables, quietly warning people named in the cables that they might be in jeopardy. Some especially vulnerable people were given help to move, usually outside their home countries.

Steven Aftergood, an expert on government secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists, said he had reviewed several dozen cables from the new batch – all among those classified “secret” by the State Department – and found only one redaction. He said the volume of the new release made it unlikely that all the information that might endanger diplomatic sources had been removed.

“If these cables have not been carefully reviewed, it’s likely to be problematic for any number of people named in the cables,” Aftergood said. (Excerpted from an August 29, 2011 article by Scott Shane in The New York Times) .

(Editor’s note – The cables published over the past few weeks include many from the United States Embassy in Bridgetown, some of which mention the names of private citizens from St. Vincent and the Grenadines).

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