US cuts access to files after leak embarrassment

Nov 30, 2010 By MATTHEW LEE , Associated Press
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs pauses during his daily news briefing at the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Nov., 30, 2010. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

(AP) -- The State Department severed its computer files from the government's classified network, officials said Tuesday, as U.S. and world leaders tried to clean up from the embarrassing leak that spilled America's sensitive documents onto screens around the globe.

By temporarily pulling the plug, the U.S. significantly reduced the number of government employees who can read important diplomatic messages. It was an extraordinary hunkering down, prompted by the disclosure of hundreds of thousands of those messages this week by WikiLeaks, the self-styled whistleblower organization.

The documents revealed that the U.S. is still confounded about North Korea's nuclear military ambitions, that Iran is believed to have received advanced missiles capable of targeting Western Europe and - perhaps most damaging to the U.S. - that the State Department asked its diplomats to collect DNA samples and other personal information about foreign leaders.

While the founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, taunted the U.S. from afar on Tuesday, lawyers from across the government were investigating whether it could prosecute him for espionage, a senior defense official said. The official, not authorized to comment publicly, spoke only on condition of anonymity.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley sought to reassure the world that U.S. diplomats were not spies, even as he sidestepped questions about why they were asked to provide DNA samples, iris scans, credit card numbers, fingerprints and other deeply personal information about leaders at the United Nations and in foreign capitals.

Diplomats in the Paraguayan capital of Asuncion, for instance, were asked in a secret March 2008 cable to provide "biometric data, to include fingerprints, facial images, iris scans, and DNA" for numerous prominent politicians. They were also asked to send "identities information" on terrorist suspects, including "fingerprints, arrest photos, DNA and iris scans."

In Burundi, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo the requests included information about political, military and intelligence leaders.

"Data should include e-mail addresses, telephone and fax numbers, fingerprints, facial images, DNA, and iris scans," the cable said.

Every year, the intelligence community asks the State Department for help collecting routine information such as biographical data and other "open source" data. DNA, fingerprint and other information was included in the request because, in some countries, foreigners must provide that information to the U.S. before entering an embassy or military base, a U.S. official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters.

The possibility that American diplomats pressed for more than "open source" information has drawn criticism at the U.N. and in other diplomatic circles over whether U.S. information-gathering blurred the line between diplomacy and espionage.

"What worries me is the mixing of diplomatic tasks with downright espionage. You cross a border ... if diplomats are encouraged to gather personal information about some people," U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said.

Crowley said a few diplomatic cables don't change the role of U.S. diplomats.

"Our diplomats are diplomats. Our diplomats are not intelligence assets," he repeatedly told reporters. "They can collect information. If they collect information that is useful, we share it across the government."

World leaders, meanwhile, were fielding questions about candid U.S. assessments of their countries.

In Kenya, the government was outraged by a leaked cable, published by the German magazine Der Spiegel, in which Kenya is described as a "swamp of flourishing corruption." Kenya's government spokesman called the cable "totally malicious" and said the State Department called to apologize.

In Brazil, officials declined to answer questions about U.S. cables that characterized the South American country as privately cooperative in the war against terrorism, even as it publicly denies terrorist threats domestically.

WikiLeaks has not said how it obtained the documents, but the government's prime suspect is an Army Pfc., Bradley Manning, who is being held in a maximum-security military brig on charges of leaking other classified documents to WikiLeaks. Authorities believe Manning defeated Pentagon security systems simply by bringing a homemade music CD to work, erasing the music, and downloading troves of government secrets onto it.

While world leaders nearly universally condemned the leak, the U.S. and Assange traded barbs from afar. In an online interview with Time magazine from an undisclosed location, Assange called on Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to resign because of the cables asking diplomats to gather intelligence. "She should resign, if it can be shown that she was responsible for ordering U.S. diplomatic figures to engage in espionage in the United Nations, in violation of the international covenants to which the U.S. has signed up," he said.

Crowley, at the State Department, showed disdain for Assange.

"I believe he has been described as an anarchist," he said. "His actions seem to substantiate that."

Defense Secretary Robert Gates played down the fallout from the leaks, calling them embarrassing and awkward but saying they would not significantly complicate U.S. foreign policy.

"The fact is governments deal with the United States because it's in their interest, not because they like us, not because they trust us and not because they think we can keep secrets," Gates said Monday.

Crowley would not say how long the State Department would keep its files off the classified network.

"We have made some adjustments, and that has narrowed, for the time being, those who have access to State Department cables across the government," he said.

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User comments : 14

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TabulaMentis
1.5 / 5 (4) Nov 30, 2010
It is about time the US government restrict access of sensitive information from weirdo government employees. And I mean weirdos!
jimbo92107
4 / 5 (3) Nov 30, 2010
Oh darn, this is going to make it harder to do secret stuff. Better get paranoid!
trekgeek1
4.7 / 5 (3) Nov 30, 2010
This is puzzling. I realize that some leaks can be damaging, but as a U.S. citizen, I would appreciate my government hijacking some prime time T.V. slots and having an open forum where they share the fact that they are confused by North Korea. I think having televised discussions about this would help to spread information to the less informed of our denizens.
Walfy
3.5 / 5 (2) Dec 01, 2010
These leaks clear the air, don't they? We're all on this planet together, all peoples of the world should act in everybody's self interest, not just the interest of the corporations, which is normally done. When the bad apples act up, smack them down. But good will towards all men.
hylozoic
4.7 / 5 (3) Dec 01, 2010
Ahh, the free and equal exchange of information. In the name of science, leak more!
DickWilhelm
5 / 5 (1) Dec 01, 2010
Is it possible that Bradly Manning didn't leak the Cable Gate docs?

I really think all this is a sign that a significant portion of the US pop is quite pissed with their government in some form or another. Then there is the crowd that call Assange a terrorist or a suspected rapist; its character assassination from every angle... the timing on the rape allegation is particularly suspect.

Also downloaded the "insurance" torrent in case the overlords decide to do their internet presence.
TabulaMentis
1 / 5 (3) Dec 01, 2010
@hylozoic

Ahh, the free and equal exchange of information. In the name of science, leak more!

You sound like a dishonest person. Maybe you should be the one who steals everything from the intellectuals before they can capitalize on their hard work. What a devil you are.
Sepp
3.7 / 5 (3) Dec 01, 2010
This article brings to mind a quote I came across today:

"The more secretive or unjust an organization is, the more leaks induce fear and paranoia in its leadership and planning coterie. This must result in minimization of efficient internal communications mechanisms (an increase in cognitive “secrecy tax”) and consequent system-wide cognitive decline resulting in decreased ability to hold onto power as the environment demands adaption. Hence in a world where leaking is easy, secretive or unjust systems are nonlinearly hit relative to open, just systems. Since unjust systems, by their nature induce opponents, and in many places barely have the upper hand, mass leaking leaves them exquisitely vulnerable to those who seek to replace them with more open forms of governance." – Julian Assange.

found here:

http://blog.p2pfo...10/12/01
TabulaMentis
1 / 5 (1) Dec 01, 2010
@Sepp

People in general are all for the unjust getting busted, but not at the expense of the honest, hard working individual or even corporations trying to make an honest living. Julian Assange's viewpoint is lopsided and badly distorted.

David Brooks has an interesting article out today December 01, 2010 titled: WikiLeaks and the Diplomatic Enterprise. The article can be found at the following link:

http://www.post-g...-109.stm
Sepp
not rated yet Dec 01, 2010
This article brings to mind a quote I came across today:

"The more secretive or unjust an organization is, the more leaks induce fear and paranoia in its leadership and planning coterie. This must result in minimization of efficient internal communications mechanisms (an increase in cognitive “secrecy tax”) and consequent system-wide cognitive decline resulting in decreased ability to hold onto power as the environment demands adaption. Hence in a world where leaking is easy, secretive or unjust systems are nonlinearly hit relative to open, just systems. Since unjust systems, by their nature induce opponents, and in many places barely have the upper hand, mass leaking leaves them exquisitely vulnerable to those who seek to replace them with more open forms of governance." – Julian Assange.

found here:

http://blog.p2pfo...10/12/01
TabulaMentis
1 / 5 (1) Dec 01, 2010
@Sepp

People in general are all for the unjust getting busted, but not at the expense of the honest, hard working individual or even corporations trying to make an honest living. Julian Assange's viewpoint is lopsided and badly distorted.

David Brooks has an interesting article out today December 01, 2010 titled: WikiLeaks and the Diplomatic Enterprise. The article can be found at the following link:

http://www.post-g...-109.stm
Truth
not rated yet Dec 01, 2010
Could it be possible that the U.S. and WikiLeaks have actually conspired together to put out damaging information against other countries, while letting out a few "embarrassing" tidbits about itself, just to draw off suspicion? North Korea, China, Russia, and others who are not necessarily our close friends, have gotten even worse press out of these so-called "leaks." It may all be a well thought out campaign for launching strategic barbs at selected targets.
maxcypher
5 / 5 (1) Dec 04, 2010
I have heard others say that the WikiLeaks releases have put innocents in harm's way, but I have yet to see one example. On the other hand, I have seen many shady, manipulative, lying evil-doers have their dirty laundry aired for all to see. I love seeing all the liars scramble to save face. I hope these leaks help the unscrupulous get exactly what they deserve.
dsl5000
5 / 5 (1) Dec 06, 2010
Its the American way :) even the Simpsons satirized the American way. Out of sight, out of mind. Or the quote by Homer: "If you can't beat them join them."

It's like speeding on the highway...everyone knows the speed limit, but choose to go 15 mph over. And when enough people do it, the cops won't do anything.

I'm shocked that people are shocked by these news...some people really have lollipops and rainbows in their head lol.

Ultimately, it is frustrating that laws are meant to be followed but are broken and dismissed by law enforcers and law makers.