Tuesday, 30 November 2010

NEW YORK TIMES: Secret Chronicles

November 30, 2010

THE leaked cables, a huge sampling of the daily traffic between the US State Department and 270 embassies and consulates, amount to a secret chronicle of US relations with the world in an age of war and terrorism.

The 251,287 cables, first acquired by WikiLeaks, were provided to The New York Times, The Guardian, Le Monde, Der Spiegel and El Pais.

Many are unclassified, and none are marked top secret, but some 11,000 are classified secret, 9000 are labelled ''noforn'' - shorthand for material considered too delicate to be shared with any foreign government - and 4000 are both secret and noforn.

Advertisement: Story continues below Other revelations include:

■ A dangerous standoff with Pakistan over nuclear fuel: Since 2007, the US has mounted a so far unsuccessful highly secret effort to remove from a Pakistani research reactor highly enriched uranium that US officials fear could be diverted for use in an illicit nuclear device.

■ Gaming out an eventual collapse of North Korea: US and South Korean officials have discussed the prospects for a unified Korea, should the North's economic troubles and political transition lead the state to implode.

■ Bargaining to empty the Guantanamo Bay prison: When US diplomats pressed other countries to resettle detainees, they became reluctant players in a State Department version of Let's Make a Deal. Slovenia was told to take a prisoner if it wanted to meet with President Obama, while Kiribati was offered incentives worth millions of dollars to take in Chinese Muslim detainees.

■ Suspicions of corruption in the Afghan government: When Afghanistan's vice-president visited the United Arab Emirates last year, authorities working with US drug enforcement officers discovered he was carrying $US52 million. With wry understatement, a cable from the US Embassy in Kabul called the money ''a significant amount'' that Ahmed Zia Massoud ''was ultimately allowed to keep without revealing the money's origin or destination''. (Mr Massoud denies taking any money out of Afghanistan.)

■ A global computer hacking effort: China's Politburo directed the intrusion into Google's computer systems in that country, a Chinese contact told the US embassy in Beijing in January. It was part of a co-ordinated campaign of computer sabotage carried out by government operatives, private security experts and internet outlaws recruited by the Chinese government.

■ Mixed records against terrorism: Saudi donors remain the chief financiers of Sunni militant groups such as al-Qaeda; and the tiny Persian Gulf state of Qatar, a host to the US military, was the ''worst in the region'' in counterterrorism efforts.

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