WikiLeaks to target Mexico, narcotics
WikiLeaks, a whistleblowing online site, obtained 2,836 U.S. documents related to Mexico and 8,324 documents related to narcotics -- both areas of great interest to the border region.
However, the public will have to wait to learn what most of those cables contain because WikiLeaks does not plan to release all 251,287 of its leaked documents at once.
The site is coordinating the release of documents, mostly U.S. diplomatic cables, with selected major U.S. and international media partners. As of Monday, only 272 cables had been released.
The first leaked documents about drugs alleges that a relative of a high-level Afghanistan official was suspected of having links with drug lords who are involved in the opium trade, and the U.S. government ignored the information to avoid disrupting its relations with the Afghan government.
Another cable that mentions narcotics alleges that Brazil's federal police, acting on U.S. tips, arrested suspected terrorists but charged them with drug-related crimes to deflect attention from counterterrorist operations.
The Brazilian government has denied this, according to WikiLeaks.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a news conference Monday in Washington that she would not comment on the contents of the leaked documents.
"There have been examples in history in which official conduct has been made public in the name of exposing wrongdoing or misconduct," Clinton said. "This is not one of those cases. In contrast, what
being put on display in this cache of documents is the fact that American diplomats are doing the work we expect them to do. They are helping identify and prevent conflicts before they start.
"The work of our diplomats doesn't just benefit Americans, but also billions of others around the globe. In addition to endangering particular individuals, disclosures like these tear at the fabric of the proper function of responsible government."
Several experts believe the leaked documents will not necessarily endanger anyone.
Bill Weaver, a UTEP professor and former adviser to the National Security Whistleblowers Coalition, and Keith Yearman, a College of DuPage professor in Glen Ellyn, Ill., said the documents released so far are not too different from what the public can obtain through the Freedom of Information Act.
The main difference is that while many of the WikiLeaks documents are recent, it often takes decades for the U.S. government to declassify and disclose its diplomatic cables.
"The issue is over whether WikiLeaks is a responsible whistleblowing outfit is a legitimate concern," said Weaver, a former intelligence analyst. "But, the documents are not particularly sensitive or anything that jeopardizes sources or methods. For example, they don't come from the National Security Agency.
"It is also well known that the government tends to overclassify documents. The main value of the documents will be for academics and historians."
Most of the disclosures -- candid comments by diplomats about heads of office in other countries -- have been of an embarrassing nature.
Yearman, whose research areas include Latin America and Africa, brought students to the border for field research before the drug violence erupted.
"The amount of material that has come out is staggering," Yearman said. "Typically, the State Department releases very few documents and they are highly censored. To have something very current represents a gold mine for researchers. You get to see the political mindset and behind-the-scenes strategies of governments."
Yearman said he disagrees with critics who condemned publishing the leaked documents.
WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange was a featured panelist for the Logan Symposium on Investigative Journalism in April at the University of California at Berkeley. He explains the process for the recent releases at http://cablegate.wikileaks.org/
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