WikiLeaks unveils embassy documents
November 28, 2010
Norwegian media were reporting Sunday night that among the tens of thousands of diplomatic documents revealed by WikiLeaks, more than 700 were sent from the US Embassy in Oslo. Their topics ranged from terrorism threats to nuclear disarmament.
WikiLeaks moved forward with what the US State Department had been dreading on Sunday, publicizing as many as 250,000 documents written by diplomats in the US foreign service who are stationed all over the world. The New York Times, The Guardian, Der Spiegel, Le Monde and El Pais all carried coverage of the document leakage Sunday night, which the Guardian (external link) claimed would set off a global diplomatic crisis.
The documents to which WikiLeaks gained access offer candid descriptions of heads of state, political systems and military operations, for example, that were never intended to be publicized. As such, the documents can be highly embarrassing for the US diplomats, who have made critical and often sarcastic comments about both American allies and foes alike.
Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Dimitri Medvedev, for example, were referred to as “Batman and Robin” in one document from the US Embassy in Moscow, while others contained critical descriptions of French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, with the latter being called “feckless, vain and ineffective as a modern European leader.”
Leaks from Norway underrepresented
Norway’s TV2 reported that a total of 763 documents originated from the US Embassy in Oslo, only a tiny percentage of the total and thus leaving Norway relatively underrepresented.
TV2′s initial review of the documents it examined from WikiLeaks revealed that the American diplomats wrote from Oslo about disarmament, the petroleum industry, nuclear weapons and terrorism.
Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported that many of the documents sent from Oslo involved Afghanistan and military operations. US President Barack Obama’s visit to Oslo last year was also a frequent topic in the leaked documents.
Newspaper Aftenposten reported that the 763 documents marked “Embassy Oslo” were sent from the embassy to Washington from 1966 until 2010, with the last one dated February 26 this year.
Follows on heels of surveillance scandal
The British newspaper The Guardian reported that in one document, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates claimed that the United Nations hindered its own top envoy in Afghanistan, Norwegian diplomat Kai Eide, from doing his job. Gates said the UN limited Eide’s resources and had an aversion to cooperation with military forces, even though Eide told Aftenposten he thought he had support from US Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
The US Embassy in Oslo has recently been the subject of a surveillance scandal, after TV2 revealed the embassy had engaged in civilian surveillance for the past 10 years. An investigation is underway to determine the legality of the US surveillance program in Norway, which has upset local politicians, bureaucrats and civilians alike because of privacy concerns. It remained unclear whether any of the WikiLeaks documents were related to the surveillance.
The US has condemned WikiLeaks’ release and media publication of the documents’ contents, worrying that the leaks can put lives in danger and damage US relations with its allies. Others are calling release of the documents a “worldwide diplomatic crisis,” that puts the US in an awkward and embarrassing position.