British Foreign Secretary William Hague said the disclosure disregarded the safety of millions of people.
US says WikiLeaks release gives Al Qaeda a hit list
Cables expose worldwide sites considered vital
WASHINGTON — In a disclosure of some of the most sensitive information yet revealed by WikiLeaks, the website has put out a secret cable that lists sites worldwide that the US considers crucial to its national security.
US 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, satellite communication stations, mines, vaccine and antivenin factories, and suppliers of food and manufacturing materials.
The Pentagon declined to comment yesterday on the details of what it called stolen documents containing classified information. But a spokesman, Colonel David Lapan, called the disclosure damaging and said the 2009 cable 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 Qaeda,’’ 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.’’
The release came as WikiLeaks faced more pressure to end its release of secret US diplomatic cables, which started last week.
The Swiss postal system closed a bank account held by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange yesterday, leaving him with few options left for raising money. Meanwhile, WikiLeaks’ Swedish servers again came under suspected attack.
Assange’s lawyer 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.
In the 2009 diplomatic cable, marked secret, Clinton asked US 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.
Stephens, the lawyer for Assange, told reporters in London that the Metropolitan Police had called him to say they had received an arrest warrant from Sweden for Assange. Assange has been staying at an undisclosed location in Britain.
The 39-year-old Australian is accused of rape and sexual molestation in Sweden, and the case could lead to his extradition. He has denied the accusations, which Stephens has said stem from a “dispute over consensual but unprotected sex.’’ The lawyer has said the Swedish investigation has turned into a “political stunt.’’
US officials have been putting pressure on WikiLeaks and those who help it, and is investigating whether Assange can be prosecuted under espionage law.
In what Assange described as a last-ditch deterrent, WikiLeaks has warned that it has distributed a heavily encrypted version of some of its most important documents and that the information could be instantly made public if the staff were arrested.
For days, WikiLeaks has been hounded by governments, hackers, and companies that have forced it to move from one website to another. WikiLeaks is now relying on a Swedish host. But WikiLeaks’ Swedish servers were crippled after coming under suspected attack again yesterday.
It was not clear who was organizing the attacks, but WikiLeaks has blamed previous ones on intelligence forces in the United States and elsewhere.
The Swiss postal system’s financial arm, Postfinance, said it shut down the bank account set up by Assange to receive donations after the agency determined that he provided false information regarding his place of residence in opening the account. Assange’s lawyers said the account contained about $41,000, which Postfinance said would be returned.
Over the weekend, the online payment service PayPal cut off WikiLeaks and froze $80,000 of the organization’s money. The group is left with only a few options for raising money now — through a Swiss-Icelandic credit card processing center and accounts in Iceland and Germany.