The State Department is expecting the self-described whistleblower website WikiLeaks to release tens of thousands of internal documents this weekend, spokesman P.J. Crowley said on Wednesday.
"We are very mindful of the announcement that WikiLeaks made earlier this week, that there is a release of documents pending at some point in the future. If the past is prologue, that would mean that certain news organizations may well already be in possession of specific documents," Crowley told reporters. "So we continue to work through, as we have throughout this process, evaluating both the material that we think was previously leaked from government sources to WikiLeaks, and we continue to make clear that this is harmful to our national security. It does put lives at risk. It does put national interests at risk."
There was a great deal of consternation around the State Department on Wednesday, as various bureaus tried to gauge the potential damage of the leaks to their programs or relationships with foreign governments.
State Department officials have been reaching out to embassies and consulates around the world and those posts have been contacting host governments to notify them that the release of documents could be imminent. State officials are also talking with Capitol Hill offices to let them know what to prepare for.
So what's in the classified cables? Some of them likely involve discussions between State Department officials and foreign government officials or private citizens. Some contain analysis of other governments' political decision making. Some are the official record of day-to-day diplomatic activity around the world.
"Inherent in this day-to-day action is trust that we can convey our perspective to other governments in confidence and that they can convey their perspective on events to us," Crowley said. "And when this confidence is betrayed and ends up on the front pages of newspapers or lead stories on television and radio it has an impact."
"These revelations are harmful to the United States and our interests. They are going to create tension in our relationships between our diplomats and our friends around the world," he added.
The Pentagon is also involved in preparing for the latest document dump. Assistant Secretary of Defense for Legislative Affairs Elizabeth King (formerly with Sen. Jack Reed's office) sent a letter to the House and Senate Armed Services committee warning that "several hundred thousand" classified State Department cables could be released as soon as Nov. 26, Bloomberg reported.
The documents "touch on an enormous range of very sensitive foreign policy issues," and "the release could negatively impact U.S. foreign relations," King wrote. She also wrote that advanced access had been granted to the New York Times, the U.K.'s Guardian and Der Spiegel of Germany, as Wikileaks has done with previous disclosures.
Wikileaks hasn't said when it will release the documents, but said on its official Twitter account on Wednesday, "The Pentagon is hyperventilating again over fears of being held to account."
John Hudson reports on national security and foreign policy from the Pentagon to Foggy Bottom, the White House to Embassy Row, for The Cable.