November 30, 2010 in Nation/World

Leaks called attack on U.S.

Soldier allegedly bragged of theft
Anne Gearan Associated Press
Reactions from around the world

Italy: Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi insists he only throws elegant, dignified soirees at his villas and not wild parties described by a Rome-based U.S. diplomat in a cable contained in the WikiLeaks trove.

Berlusconi said he didn’t care to read what the diplomat had to report, saying “I don’t look at what third-rate or fourth-rate officials say.”

According to the cable, the diplomat said of Berlusconi that “frequent late nights and penchant for partying hard mean he does not get sufficient rest.”

IRAN: Iran’s president says leaked cables recounting Arab calls for the U.S. to launch a strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities were intended to stir “mischief.”

According to the cables released Sunday, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia repeatedly urged the United States to attack Iran to destroy its nuclear program to stop Tehran from developing a nuclear weapon.

“We don’t give any value to these documents,” Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told a news conference Monday. “It’s without legal value. Iran and regional states are friends. Such acts of mischief have no impact on relations between nations.”

ISRAEL: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says newly leaked U.S. diplomatic memos about the Saudi king offer clear proof that the Arab world agrees with his country’s assessment that Iran is the chief danger to the Middle East.

“The greatest threat to world peace stems from the arming of the regime in Iran. More and more states, governments and leaders in the Middle East and in far reaches of the world understand this is a fundamental threat,” Netanyahu told a news conference Monday.

PAKISTAN: Pakistan is defending its decision to deny a U.S. request to remove fuel from one of its nuclear reactors, despite reported concerns that it could be diverted to make an illicit weapon.

Pakistan has always said it is confident its nuclear security is good enough to prevent this from happening – a stance supported publicly by the U.S. But the leaked cables reportedly reveal the U.S. has doubts and has clashed with Pakistan over the issue.

AUSTRALIA: Police were investigating whether any Australian law was broken by the leaking of confidential documents, Attorney-General Robert McClelland said Monday.

A range of options were under consideration by Australian government agencies in response to the latest disclosure of classified U.S. material, he said.

ECUADOR: If WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange needs a home, Ecuador’s deputy foreign minister says this Andean nation is happy to provide one.

Deputy Foreign Minister Kintto Lucas said in audio posted online by the EcuadorInmediato news site that “we are open to giving him residence in Ecuador, without any kind of trouble and without any kind of conditions.”

Associated Press

WASHINGTON – Striking back, the Obama administration branded the WikiLeaks release of more than a quarter-million sensitive files an attack on the United States on Monday and raised the prospect of criminal prosecutions in connection with the exposure. The Pentagon detailed new security safeguards, including restraints on small computer flash drives, to make it harder for any one person to copy and reveal so many secrets.

The young Army private suspected of stealing the diplomatic memos, many of them classified, and feeding them to WikiLeaks may have defeated Pentagon security systems using little more than a Lady Gaga CD and a portable computer memory stick.

The soldier, Bradley Manning, has not been charged in the latest release of internal U.S. government documents. But officials said he is the prime suspect partly because of his own description of how he pulled off a staggering heist of classified and restricted material.

“No one suspected a thing,” Manning told a confidant afterward, according to a log of his computer chat published by “I didn’t even have to hide anything.”

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton asserted Monday that WikiLeaks acted illegally in posting the material. She said the administration was taking “aggressive steps to hold responsible those who stole this information.”

Attorney General Eric Holder said the government was mounting a criminal investigation, and the Pentagon was tightening access to information, including restricting the use of computer storage devices such as CDs and flash drives.

“This is not saber-rattling,” Holder said. Anyone found to have broken American law “will be held responsible.”

Holder said the latest disclosure, involving classified and sensitive State Department documents, jeopardized the security of the nation, its diplomats, intelligence assets and relationships with foreign governments.

Clinton agreed.

“I want you to know that we are taking aggressive steps to hold responsible those who stole this information,” Clinton said. She spoke in between calls to foreign capitals to make amends for scathing and gossipy memos never meant for foreign eyes.

Manning is charged in military court with taking other classified material later published by the online clearinghouse WikiLeaks. It is not clear whether others such as WikiLeaks executives might be charged separately in civilian courts.

Clinton said the State Department was adding security protections to prevent another breach. The Pentagon, embarrassed by the apparent ease with which secret documents were passed to WikiLeaks, had detailed some of its new precautions Sunday.

Col. Dave Lapan, a Pentagon spokesman, said it was possible that many people could be held accountable if they were found to have ignored security protocols or somehow enabled the download without authorization.

In his Internet chat, Manning described the conditions as lax to the point that he could bring a homemade music CD to work with him, erase the music and replace it with secrets. He told the computer hacker who would turn him in that he lip-synched along with pop singer Lady Gaga’s hit “Telephone” while making off with “possibly the largest data spillage in American history.” published a partial log of Manning’s discussions with hacker R. Adrian Lamo in June.

“Weak servers, weak logging, weak physical security, weak counterintelligence, inattentive signal analysis,” Manning wrote. “A perfect storm.”

His motive, according to the chat logs: “I want people to see the truth … because without information, you cannot make informed decisions as a public.”

By his own admission, Manning was apparently able to pull material from outside the Pentagon, including documents he had little obvious reason to see. He was arrested shortly after those chats last spring. He was moved in July to the Quantico Marine Corps Base in Virginia to await trial on the earlier charges and could face up to 52 years in a military prison if convicted.

There are no new charges, and none are likely at least until after a panel evaluates Manning’s mental fitness early next year, said Lt. Col. Rob Manning, spokesman for the Military District of Washington. He is no relation to Bradley Manning.

Manning’s civilian lawyer, David E. Combs, declined comment.

Lapan, the Pentagon spokesman, said the WikiLeaks experience has encouraged discussion within the military about how better to strike a balance between sharing information with those who need it and protecting it from disclosure.

So far, he said, Pentagon officials are not reviewing who has access to data but focusing instead on installing technical safeguards.

Since summer, when WikiLeaks first published stolen war logs from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Defense Department has made it harder for one person acting alone to download material from a classified network and place it on an unclassified one.

Such transfers generally take two people now, what Pentagon officials call a “two-man carry.” Users also leave clearer electronic footprints by entering a computer “kiosk,” or central hub, en route to downloading the classified material.

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said the WikiLeaks case revealed vulnerable seams in the information-sharing systems used by multiple government agencies. Some of those joint systems were designed to answer another problem: the failure of government agencies to share what they knew before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

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