The Cable

State Department refuses to negotiate with WikiLeaks

The State Department wrote Saturday to the leaders of the self-described whistleblower website WikiLeaks, telling them the U.S. government won't negotiate ahead of the expected release of hundreds of thousands of sensitive documents.

The State Department's top legal advisor Harold Koh wrote Saturday to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and his attorney Jennifer Robinson in response to a letter WikiLeaks sent the same day to U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom Louis Susman. The State Department rejected WikiLeaks' request for the names of individuals who may be "at significant risk of harm" due to the release of the sensitive documents.

"Despite your stated desire to protect those lives, you have done the opposite and endangered the lives of countless individuals. You have undermined your stated objective by disseminating this material widely, without redaction, and without regard to the security and sanctity of the lives your actions endanger. We will not engage in a negotiation regarding the further release or dissemination of illegally obtained U.S. Government classified materials," Koh wrote.

He said that if WikiLeaks was genuinely interested in protecting those individuals, they should stop publishing secret materials, return them to the U.S. government, and erase them from their databases.

The State Department has learned through conversations with The New York Times, The Guardian and Der Spiegel that WikiLeaks has given them access to approximately 250,000 documents for publication. The release could come as early as Sunday.

The release would place lives at risk, according to the State Department, including the lives of "journalists to human rights activists and bloggers to soldiers to individuals providing information to further peace and security."

Full letter text after the jump:

Dear Ms. Robinson and Mr. Assange:

I am writing in response to your 26 November 2010 letter to U.S. Ambassador Louis B. Susman regarding your intention to again publish on your WikiLeaks site what you claim to be classified U.S. Government documents.

As you know, if any of the materials you intend to publish were provided by any government officials, or any intermediary without proper authorization, they were provided in violation of U.S. law and without regard for the grave consequences of this action. As long as WikiLeaks holds such material, the violation of the law is ongoing.

It is our understanding from conversations with representatives from The New York Times, The Guardian and Der Spiegel, that WikiLeaks also has provided approximately 250,000 documents to each of them for publication, furthering the illegal dissemination of classified documents.

Publication of documents of this nature at a minimum would:

* Place at risk the lives of countless innocent individuals -- from journalists to human rights activists and bloggers to soldiers to individuals providing information to further peace and security;

* Place at risk on-going military operations, including operations to stop terrorists, traffickers in human beings and illicit arms, violent criminal enterprises and other actors that threaten global security; and,

* Place at risk on-going cooperation between countries - partners, allies and common stakeholders -- to confront common challenges from terrorism to pandemic diseases to nuclear proliferation that threaten global stability.

In your letter, you say you want -- consistent with your goal of "maximum disclosure" -- information regarding individuals who may be "at significant risk of harm" because of your actions.

Despite your stated desire to protect those lives, you have done the opposite and endangered the lives of countless individuals. You have undermined your stated objective by disseminating this material widely, without redaction, and without regard to the security and sanctity of the lives your actions endanger. We will not engage in a negotiation regarding the further release or dissemination of illegally obtained U.S. Government classified materials. If you are genuinely interested in seeking to stop the damage from your actions, you should: 1) ensure WikiLeaks ceases publishing any and all such materials; 2) ensure WikiLeaks returns any and all classified U.S. Government material in its possession; and 3) remove and destroy all records of this material from WikiLeaks' databases.

Sincerely,

(The letter is signed by Harold Hongju Koh, legal adviser to the State Department)

AFP/Getty Images

The Cable

State Department braces for more WikiLeaks

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."