WASHINGTON – In a disclosure of some of the most sensitive information yet revealed by WikiLeaks, the website has put out a secret cable listing sites worldwide that the U.S. considers critical to its national security. U.S. officials said the leak amounts to giving a hit list to terrorists.
Among the locations cited in the diplomatic cable from Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton are undersea communications lines, mines, antivenin factories and suppliers of food and manufacturing materials.
The Pentagon declined to comment Monday on the details of what it called "stolen" documents containing classified information. But a spokesman, Col. David Lapan, called the disclosure "damaging" and said it gives valuable information to adversaries.
The State Department echoed the Pentagon's statement. "Releasing such information amounts to giving a targeting list to groups like al-Qaida," agency spokesman P.J. Crowley said. British Foreign Secretary William Hague condemned the disclosure, telling the BBC it was a "reprehensible" act committed "without regard to wider concerns of security, the security of millions of people."
WikiLeaks released the 2009 Clinton cable on Sunday.
In the message, marked "secret," Clinton asked U.S. diplomatic posts to help update a list of sites around the world "which, if destroyed, disrupted or exploited, would likely have an immediate and deleterious effect on the United States."
The list was considered so confidential that the contributors were advised to come up with the information on their own: Posts are "not being asked to consult with host governments in respect to this request," Clinton wrote.
Attached to Clinton's message was a rundown of sites included in the 2008 "Critical Foreign Dependencies Initiative" list. Some of the sites, such as border crossings, hydroelectric dams and shipping lanes, could hardly be considered secret.
But other locations, such as mines, manufacturers of components used in weapons systems, and vaccine and antivenin sources, probably were not widely known. The Associated Press has decided against publishing their names due to the sensitive nature of the information.
The release came as WikiLeaks faced more pressure to end its release of secret U.S. diplomatic cables, which started last week.
The BBC was the first to report on the U.S. cable detailing the secret sites, and linked its story to the full cable on the WikiLeaks site. The BBC did not respond to questions about its decision to do so.
WikiLeaks had been working with a select group of international media, but has been offering its cable revelations to new media partners in recent days.
The Swiss postal system on Monday shut a bank account held by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, leaving him and his website with few options left for raising money. Meanwhile, WikiLeaks' Swedish servers again came under suspected attack.
Assange's attorney has been in contact with British police to discuss the Swedish arrest warrant for Assange on rape and sexual molestation charges. His British-based lawyer, Mark Stephens, said he was arranging for Assange to meet police so he could be questioned. Assange has denied the allegations.
Also Monday, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder again condemned the leaks and said the espionage act is just one of the laws the U.S. could use to prosecute those involved in the WikiLeaks releases.
Holder declined to say which other laws might come into play. Possibilities include charges such as the theft of government property or receipt of stolen government property.