An Army intel analyst charged with leaking classified materials also downloaded sensitive diplomatic cables. Are America's foreign policy secrets about to go online? Philip Shenon reports.
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.
Diplomatic and law-enforcement officials tell The Daily Beast their alarm stems from the arrest of a 22-year-old Army intelligence analyst based in Iraq who has reportedly admitted that he downloaded 260,000 diplomatic cables from government computer networks and was prepared to make them public.
"If he really had access to these cables, we've got a terrible situation on our hands," said an American diplomat.
Specialist Bradley Manning of Potomac, Maryland, who is now under arrest in Kuwait, is also accused of having leakedto Wikileaks, a secretive Internet site based in Swedenan explosive video of an American helicopter attack in Baghdad in 2007 that left 12 people dead, including two employees of the news agency Reuters. The website released the video in April.
"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.
Wikileaks, a website based in Sweden, that promotes itself as a global champion of whistleblowers, did not reply to emails from The Daily Beast.