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Declassified US cables released by WikiLeaks

April 09, 2013 10:57 IST

Unlike in the past, the latest tranche of secret United States diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks have not been leaked, but have been "legitimately obtained from a US government web site" and released in a user-friendly searchable format.

Nearly 1.7 million diplomatic cables from the period between 1973 and 1976 -- now being dubbed as ‘The Kissinger cable’ -- were declassified by the US State Department in 2006.

Since then, they have been posted at the website -- www.archive.org -- of the National Archives and Records Administration.

NARA is an independent US state agency charged with preserving and documenting government and historical records.

For instance, the most talked about cable -- 1975NEWDE14031_b, confidential --- which refers to Rajiv Gandhi, son of the then prime minister, late Indira Gandhi -- was declassified on July 6, 2006 and has been parked on the NARA website for years.

"It is basically repackaging of the documents" and putting them into a "nice searchable format," National Security Archive senior analyst William Burr said, adding that
WikiLeaks has done a significantly good job.

"The WikiLeaks press release also asserts that Kissinger authored many of the telegrams but that is an exaggeration because secretaries of state don't see many of the hundreds of thousands of telegrams that go out under their names," Burr added.

The National Security Archive -- which is part of the George Washington University -- in a press release issued on April 21, 2006 had said that NARA has put almost 320,000 classified cables o-line when it opened up State Department document databases from 1973 and 1974.

"This is significant news for researchers, because the text of declassified diplomatic cables is now retrievable on the NARA Web site," the press release had said.

After 2006, the rest of the documents were gradually posted over the next few years on the NARA website.

"The form in which these documents were held at NARA was as 1.7 million individual PDFs. To prepare these documents for integration into the PlusD collection, WikiLeaks obtained and reverse-engineered all 1.7 million PDFs," it said.

It also corrected many errors, for example harmonising the many different ways in which departments, capitals and people's names were spelt.

WikiLeaks PlusD stands for Public Library of US Diplomacy, which, the whistleblower website said, holds the world's largest searchable collection of "US confidential, or formerly confidential, diplomatic communications".

"The collection covers US involvements in and diplomatic or intelligence reporting on, every country on Earth. It is the single most significant body of geopolitical material ever published," WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said in the press release.

Lalit K Jha In Washington, DC
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