WikiLeaks released the first batch of about 250,000 U.S. diplomatic cables Sunday, exposing sensitive official information (FT) about U.S. affairs with the rest of the world and U.S. assessments of foreign leaders. The cables released after a previous batch of 400,000 documents in October about the Iraq war and 75,000 in July on the Afghan war -- indicate that Iran has obtained nineteen BM-25 missiles from North Korea with a range sufficient to hit western Europe, and they document Arab calls for a military attack on Tehran. They also recount U.S. efforts since 2007 to remove weapons-grade uranium from a Pakistani research reactor that the United States fears would be used as a bomb. The documents also suggest U.S. diplomats were ordered to engage in low-level spying (WashPost) by obtaining foreign diplomats' personal information, such as frequent-flier and credit card numbers. The documents could embarrass the Obama administration and undermine its diplomacy. In cables drafted by U.S. diplomats, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is described as an "alpha-dog," Afghan President Hamid Karzai is "driven by paranoia," and German Chancellor Angela Merkel allegedly "avoids risk and is rarely creative." White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs expressed concern (Bloomberg) in a statement that, "these cables could compromise private discussions with foreign governments and opposition leaders." The Pentagon said yesterday it will take action to prevent future illegal releases of classified information, including removing the ability of classified computers to download information onto removable disks.
The Economist questions whether the WikiLeaks' revelations will lead to a sustained increase in circulation for the five newspapers given privileged access to the material: the New York Times in the United States, the Guardian in Britain, Le Monde in France, El Pais in Spain and Der Spiegel in Germany.
On the Daily Beast, Peter Beinart says the WikiLeaks documents "sabotage American foreign policy without adding much, if anything, to the public debate."