Clinton accuses WikiLeaks of ‘attack’ on the world

by Lachlan Carmichael Lachlan Carmichael Mon Nov 29, 2:44 pm ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Top US diplomat Hillary Clinton on Monday accused WikiLeaks of an “attack” on the world, as key American allies were left red-faced by embarrassing revelations in a vast trove of leaked memos.

In a lengthy statement, the US secretary of state was apologetic to US allies as she told reporters she “deeply regrets” the release of the more than 250,000 diplomatic cables, all apparently from the State Department.

“This disclosure is not just an attack on America’s foreign policy interests. It is an attack on the international community,” Clinton said, following talks in Washington with Turkey’s foreign minister.

“I want you to know that we are taking aggressive steps to hold responsible those who stole this information,” as well as taking steps to prevent future disclosures, she added.

The flood of leaked US diplomatic cables revealed secret details and indiscreet asides on some of the world’s most tense international crises.

Officials were quick to criticize the release of the documents — most of which date from between 2007 and February 2010 — and to stress the leaks would not harm relations.

The cables were given to journalists from five Western publications several weeks ago and are being released on the Internet in stages.

Highlights already include a call by Saudi King Abdullah for the US to “cut off the head” of the Iranian snake over its nuclear program and leaked memos about a Chinese government bid to hack into Google.

WikiLeaks creator Julian Assange described the mass of documentation as a “diplomatic history of the United States” covering “every major issue.”

Despite a cyber attack claimed by a private computer hacker that took down its main website Sunday, WikiLeaks started publishing 251,287 cables — 15,652 of which are classified “secret” — on http://cablegate.wikileaks.org.

US officials had raced to contain the diplomatic fallout by warning more than a dozen governments of the impending leaks, but Washington refused to negotiate with WikiLeaks, saying it had obtained the cables illegally.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose policies are the subject of many of the memos, dismissed them as “worthless” and “mischief” which would not affect Tehran’s relations with its Arab neighbors.

Afghanistan insisted its relations with the US would not be affected by cables portraying President Hamid Karzai as a paranoid conspiracy theorist and his brother as a corrupt drugs baron.

“We don’t see anything substantive in the document that will strain the relationship,” Karzai’s spokesman Waheed Omer told reporters, adding: “We’ll wait and see what else comes out before making further comment.”

Russia likewise tried to play down US diplomats’ reported assessment of the country as “a virtual mafia state” that is ruled by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and not President Dmitry Medvedev.

“There is nothing new or deserving a comment,” Kremlin spokeswoman Yulia Timakov was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies.

An unidentified Kremlin official also downplayed the leaks, telling a local paper that “our own diplomats are sometimes just as open in their own private messages to each other.”

Britain, which has repeatedly condemned the leaks, said it would continue to work closely with Washington despite the upcoming release of unflattering US memos about Prime Minister David Cameron.

Israel emerged as a surprising beneficiary, with senior officials saying that the leaks vindicated the Jewish state’s position as they exposed widespread Arab concern over Iran’s nuclear program.

“I don’t think Israel was harmed at all,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.

US Attorney General Eric Holder said there was an “ongoing criminal investigation” of the leaks and promised to pursue Assange, an Australian believed to be living in Europe, if he was found to have violated US law.

The US government has also ordered a sweeping review of information security across federal agencies.

The Guardian said all five papers had decided “neither to ‘dump’ the entire dataset into the public domain, nor to publish names that would endanger innocent individuals.”

US officials have not confirmed the source of the leaks, but suspicion has fallen on Bradley Manning, a former army intelligence analyst arrested after the release of a video showing air strikes that killed reporters in Iraq.

WikiLeaks argues that its first two document dumps — nearly 500,000 US military reports from 2004 to 2009 — shed light on abuses in Afghanistan and Iraq, and denies any individual has been harmed by its disclosures.

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