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US ‘desperately’ trying to keep Wikileaks from publishing US communications about Arab states

By John Byrne
Friday, June 11, 2010 9:55 EDT
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Philip Shenon, a former New York Times reporter now writing for Tina Brown’s The Daily Beast, alleged late Thursday that the Pentagon is “desperately” searching for the founder of the whistleblower website Wikileaks, out of concern he is about to publish classified US State Department cables.

Curiously, the piece cites an American diplomat as saying their chief concern is the leak of communications “prepared by diplomats and State Department officials throughout the Middle East, regarding the workings of Arab governments and their leaders.”

The concern over US communications about Arab governments seems slightly surprising in lieu of the fact the cables also “contained information related to American diplomatic and intelligence efforts in the war zones in Afghanistan and Iraq,” which would, in theory, be of greater concern to Pentagon bosses running US war efforts.

Authorities are said to be seeking Wikilieaks founder Julian Assange, who allegedly came into possession of secret US cables after they were leaked by a 22-year-old Army intelligence officer. The Army specialist, Bradley Manning, was recently arrested and is being held in Kuwait.

Manning reportedly told authorities that he’d leaked reams of State Department communiques.

“Hillary Clinton and several thousand diplomats around the world are going to have a heart attack when they wake up one morning and find an entire repository of classified foreign policy is available,” the 22-year-old Army specialist wrote of the cables, according to a story published at Wired.com.

Wikileaks responded to Manning’s claim on Twitter, saying that reports that “we have been sent 260,000 classified U.S. embassy cables are, as far as we can tell, incorrect.”

Regardless, Shenon says that US government officials believe Assange is in possession of at least some secret State Department cables.

“It looks like they’re playing some sort of semantic games,” one US official purportedly told Shenon. “They may not have 260,000 cables, but they’ve probably got enough cables to make trouble.”

It’s unclear what US authorities could do to prevent the secretive Wikileaks founder from publishing classified US documents, since the website is based on servers in Sweden, a country that has traditionally looked favorably on whistleblower claims.

Shenon’s full story on the Pentagon’s hunt for Assange can be read here.

 
 
 
 
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