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White House fumes over 'reckless action' by WikiLeaks

Source: PTI
November 29, 2010 09:28 IST
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The White House on Sunday strongly condemned the release of secret United States' documents by WikiLeaks as a 'reckless and dangerous' act which risks the lives of thousands of diplomats and officials and endangers its relationship with friends and allies.

"These cables could compromise private discussions with foreign governments and opposition leaders, and when the substance of private conversations is printed on the front pages of newspapers across the world, it can deeply impact not only US foreign policy interests, but those of our allies and friends around the world," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said in a statement.

"To be clear, such disclosures put at risk our diplomats, intelligence professionals, and people around the world who come to the United States for assistance in promoting democracy and open government," he said.

Gibbs said these documents may also include named individuals who live and work under oppressive regimes and who are trying to create more open and free societies.

"(The US) President (Barack) Obama supports a responsible, accountable, and open government at home and around the world, but this reckless and dangerous action runs counter to that goal," he said.

By releasing stolen and classified documents, he said, Wikileaks has put at risk not only the cause of human rights but also the lives and work of these individuals. "We condemn in the strongest terms the unauthorised disclosure of classified documents and sensitive national security information," Gibbs said.

Noting that these cables detail private diplomatic discussions with foreign governments, Gibbs said field reporting to Washington by its very nature is candid and often has incomplete information, and in no case is it an expression of policy.

"Nor does it always shape final policy decisions," he clarified.

Earlier, the State Department refused to enter into any negotiations with Wikileaks and demanded the whistleblower website return all the classified documents.

"We will not engage in a negotiation regarding the further release or dissemination of illegally obtained US government classified materials," Harold Hongju Koh, legal adviser, the State Department said in a letter to Jennifer Robinson, attorney for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

The letter was in response to a communication from WikiLeaks a day earlier, in which it informed the US about its intention to publish classified government documents.

"Despite your stated desire to protect those lives, you have done the opposite and endangered the lives of countless individuals. You have undermined your stated objective by disseminating this material widely, without regard to the security and sanctity of the lives your actions endanger," Koh said in his letter.

He said if any of the materials that WikiLeaks intends to publish was provided by government officials or intermediaries without proper authorisation, they remained violation of US law.

"As long as WikiLeaks holds such material, the violation of the law is ongoing," the State Department letter said. The State Department said it will not engage in a negotiation regarding the further release or dissemination of illegally obtained US government classified materials.

Publication of documents of this nature at a minimum, the State Department said, would place at risk the lives of countless innocent individuals, from journalists to human rights activists and bloggers to soldiers to individuals providing information to further peace and security.

The publication of classified documents would also place at risk on-going military operations, including operations to stop terrorists, traffickers in human beings and illicit arms, violent criminal enterprises and other actors that threaten global security; it said.

In his letter, the State Department official said that its publication would also place at risk on-going cooperation between countries partners, allies and common stakeholders to confront common challenges from terrorism to pandemic diseases to nuclear proliferation that threaten global stability.

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