U.S. Embassy officials cautioned the Kenyan government to restrain itself in the violence following the country's 2007 election.
The U.S. State Department's energy envoy urged Canada in 2009 to improve its "messaging" on a proposed oil-sands pipeline to the United States, including promoting "more positive news stories."
U.S. officials accused the leader of a pro-Cuban government peace group of threatening to pull U.S. medical students' scholarships if they met with the U.S. mission on the island in 2007.
Julian Assange's extradition appeal decision is deferred. After his hearing -- complete with another round of more-than-you-wanted-to-know details about Assange's sex life -- Swedish prosecutors blast the Assange legal team's "19th Century" view of sexual consent.
U.N. torture investigator Juan Mendez says the U.S. government is violating U.N. rules in refusing him access to Manning.
Blocking WikiLeaks donations prompts a competition complaint against MasterCard and Visa in Europe.
Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images
Members of Haiti's elite complained to the U.S. Embassy in 2005 about eroding security in the country.
A Taliban representative told U.S. officials in 1996 that the Taliban had shut down "Arab" training camps in Afghanistan, and had no idea where Osama bin Laden was. A U.S. embassy official met with a Taliban representative the following year to discuss the Afghan drug trade and the group's sheltering of bin Laden.
A 1999 State Department meeting with future Afghan President Hamid Karzai, identified here as the "son of an important Afghan tribal leader."
The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad sizing up the Taliban's Mullah Omar, circa 1997.
Beijing was unhappy about North Korean nuclear tests in 2006, but powerless to stop them.
The Japanese island of Okinawa, host to a longstanding U.S. military presence, is tilting toward China and away from the United States.
Bahrain's recent crackdown on its Shiite minority came out of Saudi Arabia's playbook.
Julian Assange is reportedly backing off of plans to publish his memoirs.
A medic in Britain's Royal Navy has been sentenced to seven months' detention for refusing to train on account of WikiLeaks-inspired moral objections.
An excellent telling of the sad saga of Pfc. Bradley Manning from New York. (The online friend whose chats with Manning provide much of the new information in the piece has also made their correspondence available for download.)
SAEED KHAN/AFP/Getty Images
Was the former Chinese finance minister caught in a Taiwanese honey trap?
A Cuban cardinal pushed to close a Cuban magazine critical of the Castro regime.
The journalists who could make a fortune off of WikiLeaks.
FP rounds up WikiLeaks' recent greatest hits.
A theatrical adaptation of the WikiLeaks saga (above) debuts in Australia.
WikiLeaks parodies MasterCard's "Priceless" ads:
TORSTEN BLACKWOOD/AFP/Getty Images
U.S. diplomats condemned the "appalling greed" of Moroccan King Mohammed VI's inner circle.
The George W. Bush administration supported Catholic clergy in Venezuela who protested against Hugo Chávez (and defied the pope in so doing).
A 2008 survey found that half of Cubans couldn't identify any of the major dissidents on the island that receive U.S. backing.
Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman was an influential player in Obama's China policy during his tenure as ambassador.
Gaming out the internal power dynamics of China's Politburo Standing Committee.
Julian Assange revamps his legal team.
GOP presidential hopeful and former Arizona Gov. Gary Johnson is pretty much the only Republican willing to defend WikiLeaks.
WikiLeaks thinks Bitcoin is too dodgy for donations.
Remember those cameras that Assange supporters claimed were being used to spy on him? They're actually there to monitor traffic.
THE BIG PICTURE
Has WikiLeaks ushered in an era of no government secrets?
Salvadorans are not into the idea of other people investigating Salvadorans.
U.S. officials in 2006 were concerned about the security of Saudi Arabia's oil infrastructure.
The granddaddy of WikiLeaks is officially released at last.
THE BIG PICTURE
Trying to make sense of the LulzSec hackers' motives.
How WikiLeaks begat the Sarah Palin email frenzy.
CARL COURT/AFP/Getty Images, Tom Pennington/Getty Images, Flickr user Andy Miah
More than 700 files on Guantánamo Bay detainees obtained by WikiLeaks are released. Extensive coverage is here, here, here, and here. The Huffington Post has the backstory on the release. Also check out FP's roundup of the coverage and roundtable discussion of the cables with Karen Greenberg, Robert Chesney, Morris Davis, and Matthew Alexander.
Someone should tell the U.S. Department of Defense that World Net Daily is a somewhat less-than-credible source of information.
The Guantánamo file on former detainee and Al Jazeera cameraman Sami al-Hajj suggests just how suspicious the U.S. government was of the network.
Did the Ecuadorian government manipulate the country's bond market?
U.S. diplomats worry about Muammar al-Qaddafi's relationship with Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega.
Embassy officials don't think much of Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli.
The U.S. government apparently considers Pakistan's intelligence agency a terrorist (or at least terrorist-supporting) organization.
The arrest of Hmong guerrilla leader Vang Pao did wonders for the U.S.-Laos relationship.
WikiLeaks received nearly $2 million in donations last year.
Most people in 24 countries surveyed by Ipsos don't think Julian Assange is a criminal (though a lot of Americans disagree).
London's Telegraph newspaper is in hot water for publishing the name of a 15-year-old rape victim contained in the Guantánamo papers.
WikiLeaks' document cache is now pretty solidly out of the organization's control.
THE BIG PICTURE
What the Guantánamo documents tell us about mission creep in the War on Terror.
The Guantánamo papers aren't likely to change much of anything for the detainees themselves.
The New York Times owes WikiLeaks big time.
Virginie Montet/AFP/Getty Images
U.S. diplomats' relationship with Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi's government wasn't always so cold.
Is Chinese demand for ivory killing Kenyan elephants?
An Israeli settlement leader tells U.S. officials he's willing to move, for a price.
Bahrain's king is proud of intelligence ties to Israel, wants his government to drop references to the "Zionist enemy."
Israel and Egypt locked horns over smuggling on the Gaza strip.
Israel suspects that Turkey is helping Iran skirt international sanctions.
What the WikiLeaks cables tell us about the United States' relationship with embattled Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Ecuador kicks out U.S. Ambassador Heather Hodges (above) over a WikiLeaks cable.
The Pentagon won't let anyone -- including U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich and investigators from the United Nations and Amnesty International -- meet with Pfc. Bradley Manning in private. The British government is also raising concerns over Manning's treatment.
Julian Assange has another court date.
The U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee proposes new penalties for leakers.
The feds won't leave friend of WikiLeaks Jacob Applebaum alone.
Karl Rove is copping WikiLeaks' style.
Qaddafi's Ukrainian nurse tells all.
Pentagon contractor (and Anonymous nemesis) HBGary's ambitious scheme to catch the next WikiLeaker.
RODRIGO BUENDIA/AFP/Getty Images
WikiLeaks has claimed another WikiLoser: U.S. Ambassador Heather Hodges, who was kicked out of Ecuador today over a cable detailing alleged corruption in President Rafael Correa's government. "It is unfortunate that the published documents on WikiLeaks have made it impossible to continue collaborating with the current ambassador to Quito, but we hope to work with a new ambassador," Ecuador's Washington embassy said in a statement today, according to the Associated Press.
The offending cable, which was signed by Hodges (above, with Correa in happier times) in July 2009 and published on Monday by the Spanish newspaper El Pais, concerns Jaime Hurtado, the former commanding general of Ecuador's National Police. "The Embassy has multiple reports that indicate [Hurtado] used his positions to extort bribes, facilitate human trafficking, misappropriate public funds, obstruct investigations and prosecutions of corrupt colleagues, and engage in other corrupt acts for personal enrichment," Hodges wrote.
Hodges is the third U.S. ambassador to be forced out of an embassy post by an inconvenient cable; Carlos Pascual resigned from the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City last month, and Gene Cretz was called back from Tripoli in January (though he's back in action now that the U.S. government is somewhat less concerned about Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi's feelings). Of course, it's also worth noting that Correa -- like his regional allies -- drops U.S. diplomats like they're going out of style.
RODRIGO BUENDIA/AFP/Getty Images
Has Hugo Chávez been selling missiles to Muammar al-Qaddafi?
The Kenyan government wanted to arrest a prominent opposition leader in 2007.
The Colombian military maintains a 100-man counter-guerrilla force inside Venezuela.
Colombia has been using U.S. drones to fight the FARC for five years.
A staffer in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's Congress Party shows U.S. embassy aides chests full of cash being used to buy votes.
India faces a "growing Naxalite menace."
U.S. diplomats viewed Mohamed ElBaradei as "part of the problem" in the Middle East in 2009.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has a "hunger for absolute power and for the material benefits of power".
U.S. Ambassador Carlos Pascual steps down over WikiLeaks-fueled flap with Mexican President Felipe Calderón.
Damning corruption allegations in the WikiLeaks cables have India's Manmohan Singh on the ropes.
Protesters demonstrating over Pfc. Bradley Manning's treatment are arrested at Quantico.
An art group in Russia's Ural region is building a monument to Julian Assange.
Is Michael Bay basing the villains in the next Transformers movie on Julian Assange?
THE BIG PICTURE
FP tallies the biggest losers so far in the Cablegate saga.
More on the role of WikiLeaks in the Arab revolutions.
Bradley Manning's long road to WikiLeaks.
Julian Assange, houseguest: a reenactment.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
As you've probably heard, U.S. Ambassador Carlos Pascual stepped down from his post in Mexico City over the weekend following his WikiLeaks-based falling out with Mexican President Felipe Calderón. In noting his departure, we thought it would be worth looking back over the arc of the U.S. State Department's slow-rolling PR catastrophe -- now rounding out its fourth month -- and tallying the casualties. The results are here.
The WikiLeaks unfortunates are a pretty varied group -- the expected array of diplomatic officials and WikiLeaks associates, plus a few politicians, a CEO, a university administrator, and a dictator -- and it's hard to draw much of a trend line through the circumstances of their respective scandals. The first and last of them were both genuine scandals: A German party official passing documents to American embassy officials, the prime minister of India's party allegedly buying votes with chests full of rupees.
But what strikes me as most noteworthy is how un-noteworthy most of the cables that got a lot of these people in trouble really were. U.S. ambassadors were pulled from their posts for noting that Mexico's drug war was going badly and that Muammar al-Qaddafi was rather eccentric. The fact that Tunisia's Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali was a fantastically corrupt ruler was not exactly news to anyone in Tunisia. Europe's still-incomplete satellite system really is a boondoggle. There have been a few bombshells in the WikiLeaks cables -- some of them literal -- but these weren't them. They were significant only because they confirmed that the U.S. government knew what everyone else knew.
LUIS ACOSTA/AFP/Getty Images
Sierra Leonean military officials blew $1.9 million in British aid money on big-screen TVs and hunting rifles.
U.S. officials helped in a corruption case against Tanzanian banking executives.
Kenyan officials told U.S. diplomats that an investigation into the country's 2007-2008 election violence would risk provoking civil war.
Nigerian politician Joseph Ibori wanted to create a "trust fund" with his stolen wealth.
The owner of Japan's currently imperiled Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant falsified inspection records for the facility.
U.S. diplomats say British defense contractor BAE bribed a Saudi prince to secure a fighter jet deal.
U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley
is fired quits after
calling the Defense Department's treatment of alleged WikiLeaks source Pfc.
Bradley Manning "ridiculous
and counterproductive and stupid."
The Pentagon says its own security weaknesses enabled the leaking of the WikiLeaks documents.
Mexican President Filipe Calderón is "barely on speaking terms" with the U.S. ambassador to Mexico over WikiLeaks disclosures.
A federal judge rules that Twitter must hand over its records in WikiLeaks case.
Gawker goes inside Anonymous's war room.
Jihadist cleric Anwar al-Awlaki praises WikiLeaks.
The top lawmaker on the U.S. House of Representatives' intelligence committee says WikiLeaks have been "devastating" to diplomacy.
THE BIG PICTURE
Julian Assange: WikiLeaks sparked the Arab revolt.
How the WikiLeaks documents helped reporters covering Japan's nuclear woes.
WikiLeaks suffers the most damaging leak of them all: pictures of Julian Assange dancing.
Qaddafi worried about a U.S. military presence in Africa.
Bernie Madoff once discussed investment opportunities with Qaddafi.
Colombian President Alvaro Uribe OK'd "clandestine operations" against FARC rebels across the border in Venezuela.
U.S. Ambassador to Colombia (and later Afghanistan) William Wood was not aware of the top Colombian military leader's dodgy résumé.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce tried to take down Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega.
China used U.S. debt obligations to pressure the United States on arms sales to Taiwan.
For the first time since World War II, Japan is building a full-blown foreign intelligence agency.
U.S. diplomats pushed Norway to buy American-made fighter jets.
Britain blocked an arms sale to Swaziland over fears the weapons could end up in Iran.
Bahrain's crown prince is not a big fan of the whole democracy thing.
A British judge rules in favor of Julian Assange's extradition to Sweden.
George W. Bush doesn't like the idea of sharing a stage with Assange.
Gaddafi's "voluptuous nurse" has had enough of Libya.
WikiLeaks cable revelations are factoring in Peru's 2011 elections.
PayPal freezes the account of a group raising defense funds for Pfc. Bradley Manning.
More on HBGary, the cybersecurity firm that tried to take down WikiLeaks' supporters.
WikiLeaks now has a gift shop.
Anonymous makes "The Colbert Report" (slightly NSFW)
THE BIG PICTURE
U.S. diplomats in 2008 called the Libyan city where protests erupted this week "a locus of extremist activity" not really under the control of Muammar Qaddafi's government.
What U.S. diplomats have to say about Xi Jinping, China's next leader.
NATO on Russia's military: Meh.
Inside the United States' cozy relationship with Bahrain.
Bahrain's king told U.S. officials that his country's opposition was trained by Hezbollah.
The U.S. government's WikiLeaks probe makes its courtroom debut in the United States.
The preposterously complex hacking and counter-hacking saga engulfing WikiLeaks' online allies.
Australia wants to make sure Julian Assange is treated justly in Sweden.
Anonymous is now going after Iran.
THE BIG PICTURE
Free speech advocate and celebrity attorney Alan Dershowitz, now Julian Assange's lawyer, tells FP why WikiLeaks is "the Pentagon Papers case for the 21st Century."
WikiLeaks' Asia cables could be a whole lot worse.
JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images
Newly instated Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman has been a longtime favorite of Israel, according to new WikiLeaks cables released Monday. The cables reveal snippets from a strategic partnership that is often fraught with differences, but mostly sharing of similar concerns, among them Gaza, Iran, and terrorism. The revelations seem particularly notable in the context of ongoing turmoil in Egypt, where protestors are calling for Mubarak to step down. The United States is now backing Suleiman as a leader of a transition government -- something that, according to the recently released cables, should help quell Isreali anxiety.
In a cable dated August 29, 2008, David Hacham, a senior adviser to Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, told U.S. diplomats about Barak's visit to Egypt earlier that month, calling it a success. While Hacham said the Israelis were "shocked" by President Hosni Mubarak's "aged appearance and slurred speech," they had only nice things to say about Suleiman, then head of Egypt's foreign intelligence service. Israel and Suleiman were apparently quite close, a relationship built through the daily use of a hot line set up between the Israeli Ministry of Defense and Suleiman's office. And even as most of the world expected Mubarak's son, Gamal, to be his successor, the Israelis had different thoughts, according to the cable:
Hacham noted that the Israelis believe Soliman is likely to serve as at least an interim President if Mubarak dies or is incapacitated. (Note: We defer to Embassy Cairo for analysis of Egyptian succession scenarios, but there is no question that Israel is most comfortable with the prospect of Omar Soliman.)
With Egypt eager to position itself as a leader in the Middle East, Suleiman also apparently took a keen interest in the Israel-Palestinian negotiations, according to a different 2008 cable. He told a U.S. Congressional delegation that he was optimistic about the situation between Egypt's neighbors, but stressed his concern over "continuing Israeli criticism of Egyptian anti-smuggling efforts."
According to the cable, the timing for Israeli-Palestinian progress was right, in 2008, for four reasons:
First, the PA leadership is moderate and willing to negotiate. Second, Hamas is isolated and politically cut off in Gaza. Third, the Israelis are ready for peace; Soliman assessed that the GOI coalition is broad and strong, and larger than Rabin's coalition of the mid-nineties. Fourth, Arab states are ready to see an end to "the struggle."
Suleiman said that Egypt wanted to help the United States continue the peace process, recommending steps to continue progress:
First , both the Israelis and Palestinians must be pressed hard to sign an agreement, which the U.S. and international community could endorse, to be implemented at the proper time. Second, the U.S. should insist that "phase one" of the Roadmap should be completed before the end of 2008.
British diplomatic officials don't exactly mince words about Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari. From a WikiLeaked U.S. State Department cable sent from the London embassy several days before Zardari -- who had replaced his wife, Benazir Bhutto, on the ballot following her assassination the previous year -- won Pakistan's 2008 presidential election:
[British Foreign and Commonwealth Office] Pakistan Team Leader Laura Hickey told us September 3 that HMG [the British government] fully expects Pakistan People's Party (PPP) leader Asif Zardari to win Pakistan's presidency on September 6, but it is unlikely he will retain the position for long. In HMG estimation, Zardari has no popular support, is strongly disliked within his own party, is not trust-worthy, and is unable to deliver on the countless promises he has recently made to win support in his bid for the presidency. Absent popular support or military backing, Zardari will be unable to hold onto the presidency. HMG projects that he will encumber the top position for six to 12 months, and there will be elections before Zardari completes his term.
The cable goes on to note that "As far as [counterterrorism] and security cooperation are concerned, Zardari is not at odds with UK and U.S. interests. [The British government], however, finds it unlikely that he will be able to deliver because he is an ineffective leader who has 'no plans and no strategy.'"
Over the weekend, WikiLeaks decided to drop what (if memory serves) is its largest single release to date from its cache of U.S. State Department emails, almost all of them from the U.S. Embassy in London over the past few years. We'll be picking through the good bits here over the next few days, although at first glance they seem short on blockbusters, which may explain why they haven't commanded much attention in the media. (That, and the whole dumping-hundreds-of-cables-on-a-Friday-night thing.)
The London cables mostly concern foreign policy issues where Britain's interests are closely aligned with the United States', the war in Afghanistan among them; the effort to thread the needle between the British government's commitment to the war and waning support for it among the British public is a common theme. One cable offers a lengthy account of then British Foreign Secretary David Miliband's November 2008 meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Kabul, in which Karzai tells Miliband (in the cable's paraphrase) that "it would be difficult or impossible to hold a credible Presidential election" the following year in Afghanistan, ticking off five particularly problematic provinces. (On that much, he was right.)
Karzai also expresses optimism about the United States' new president-elect, Barack Obama, but in his conversation with Miliband you can see the seeds of the estrangement between the Afghan and American presidents that would characterize the years that followed. There's the issue of American-employed private contractors, who Karzai would order out of his country in August 2010:
Afghanistan wanted to end the way in which the Americans sub-contracted major parts of their aid program to "doubtful contractors." He was also concerned that many of the private security companies were little more than "criminal organizations." The same applied to some of the transport companies used by the U.S.; it had become apparent to Karzai that the transport companies were responsible for much of the insecurity on the highways, in order to extract higher fees and insurance payments from the Americans.
Karzai also tells Miliband that he's leery about the United States dispatching more soldiers to his country:
Karzai emphasized that more U.S. troops were not the answer. He hoped the Americans would consult the Afghan Government before sending more troops. Karzai said that the U.S. had failed to send the troops for which Karzai had asked in 2002, but now it might be too late.
Miliband brings up the inevitable question of how all of this ends, and according to the cable suggests that "reconciliation" -- presumably with the Taliban -- "subject to strict conditions, would obviously be part of that."
Karzai agreed, saying that he had consulted "the whole Afghan people," and they were all in favor of reconciliation. They wanted to "bring over the good guys, while excluding the bad guys." Karzai realizes that the U.S., Russia and Iran had doubts about reconciliation, but this was something that the Afghan people wanted, and which he was bound to press ahead.
The Libyan frogman who couldn't swim.
The FBI pursues a team of alleged Qatari would-be 9/11 conspirators in the United States.
The rift between Washington and Beijing is deeper than either government would like you to think.
The United States' secret space arms race with China.
A Croatian man tries to get back at his ex-girlfriend by telling U.S. embassy officials that she's hanging out with Osama bin Laden.
Making an oil and gas deal in Russia is really complicated.
Newly appointed Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman is close to Mubarak and foreign intelligence agencies, but not Mubarak's son. And a lot of people seem to think Mubarak's new deputy prime minister is a bureaucratic dinosaur.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki accuses Syria and Iran of arming Iraqi militants.
Yemeni strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh wants his money.
U.S. diplomats doubt reforms are on the way in Jordan.
Did WikiLeaks hack into New York Times reporters' email accounts?
WikiLeaks' release process has become so complicated that even the papers involved don't know what's a scoop anymore.
Amnesty International wants Britain to pressure the U.S. government over the treatment of Pfc. Bradley Manning.
THE BIG PICTURE
George W. Bush administration Assistant Attorney General Jack Goldsmith thinks Assange will be prosecuted in the United States.
New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller and Guardian Editor in Chief Alan Rusbridger talk WikiLeaks.
Forty-two percent of Americans have no idea what WikiLeaks is.
KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images
The U.S. government has justifiably taken a lot of heat for its relative silence regarding -- and occasional complicity in -- the human rights abuses committed by Hosni Mubarak's regime in Egypt. But it's worth highlighting an exception in a recently WikiLeaked November 2008 cable from the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, signed by Amb. Margaret Scobey, in which American diplomats did the right thing -- while Silicon Valley played it safe.
The cable concerns an Egyptian blogger whose name is redacted in the document, but who CNET thinks is most likely Wael Abbas, a celebrated dissident journalist whose efforts to distribute videos of human rights abuses by Egyptian authorities have in one case led to convictions of the perpetrators (and who, incidentally, was arrested on Friday in Cairo, though according to his Twitter feed he's since been released):
Prominent Egyptian blogger XXXXXXXXXXXXX, contacted us November 17 to report that YouTube removed from his website two videos exposing police abuses -- one of Sinai bedouin allegedly shot by police and thrown in a garbage dump during the past week's violence (ref A), and the other of a woman being tortured in a police station. XXXXXXXXXXXXX told us that YouTube is also preventing XXXXXXXXXXXX from posting new videos, and asked us for assistance in urging YouTube to re-post his removed videos and reinstate his access to uploading new material. XXXXXXXXXXXXX said XXXXXXXXXXXXXX has tried to contact Google, but has not received a response.
The cable notes that the same thing happened to the blogger the previous year -- which again suggests that the blogger in question is Abbas, who had his YouTube access restored in December 2007 after getting kicked off for posting videos of Egyptian police brutality. At the time, YouTube explained in a statement that the company's general policy banned videos depicting graphic violence, but that "Having reviewed the case, we have restored the account of Egyptian blogger Wael Abbas -- and if he chooses to upload the video again with sufficient context so that users can understand his important message we will of course leave it on the site."
While the incident was widely reported at the time, there was no mention of any involvement of the State Department in YouTube's decision. But the 2008 cable notes:
In December 2007, DRL [State's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor] and Embassy Cairo worked to convince Google [which owns YouTube] to restore XXXXXXXXXXXXX' YouTube access after a similar incident. We believe that a similar Department intervention with Google representatives could help in restoring XXXXXXXXXXXXX' access again. XXXXXXXXXXXXis an influential blogger and human rights activist, and we want to do everything we can to assist him in exposing police abuse.
A YouTube spokeswoman wouldn't confirm or deny the cable's account of the two incidents, saying in an emailed statement that "In order to protect the privacy of our users, we do not comment on actions taken on individual videos or accounts."
KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images
It's been a while since WikiLeaked checked in on Ali Abdullah Saleh, Yemen's newly embattled president and a reliably interesting character in the WikiLeaks oeuvre. Most of what we've seen from Saleh in the leaked U.S. State Department cables has followed a pattern in which U.S. diplomats try to coax more counterterrorism cooperation out of the veteran strongman, while Saleh -- whose government received $155 million in military aid from the United States in 2010, twice the previous year's amount -- tries to finagle more cash and materiel out of the Americans. A newly released December 2004 State Department cable recounting a meeting between Saleh and U.S. Ambassador Thomas C. Krajeski (pictured above with Saleh in a 2007 photo) is no exception.
The meeting takes place a little more than a month after U.S. President George W. Bush's reelection; Saleh badly wants to meet with Bush in Washington to congratulate him personally, he tells Krajeski, and also talk about "important new developments in the region 'that can only be discussed face to face,'" according to the cable. Krajeski hems and haws a bit about this, at which point, the cable notes, "True to form, Saleh launched into a list of what he believes the U.S. owes him. 'Where is the money for the Army, and what about my spare (F-5) parts?' Saleh demanded." (The cable notes, a little acidly, that there have been reported problems with getting the Yemeni Ministry of Defense "to follow through with the necessary paperwork on parts and equipment in order to spend the 17 million USD in Yemen's [foreign military financing] account.")
Pointing out that any meetings with senior U.S. officials would quickly turn to the subject of Yemen's huge grey market in SA/LW [small arms/light weapons], Ambassador told Saleh that Yemen needs to gain control over the huge flow of these weapons in and through the country. Washington is very concerned about this issue and ready to help the ROYG tackle it, added Ambassador. "I will do it!" Saleh exclaimed, insisting that he was insisting that he was already "cracking down" on the SA/LWs market.
The conversation soon turns, inevitably, to counterterrorism, in which Saleh has been a longstanding if not unproblematic partner to the United States. Pressed on the subject of Hadi Dulqum, an arms dealer with alleged links to Al Qaeda, the cable reports that "Saleh stuck to his line that Hadi Dulqum is just a 'simple arms dealer:'"
The Saudis want Dulqum, said the President, "they are crazy for him. What do you expect?" he asked, "if we arrest every arms dealer in the country, we will have hundreds of them in prison." The USG [U.S. government] agrees with the Saudis, said Ambassador, adding that Dulqum's connections with AQ are too extensive for him to be simply another Yemeni arms dealer.
Months later, Saleh does manage to swing a White House invite, prompting a June 2005 cable from the Sanaa embassy titled PRIORITIES FOR WASHINGTON VISIT: SALEH NEEDS TO BE PART OF THE SOLUTION. The cable characterizes relations with Saleh's government as "frustrating and difficult," noting that "Saleh has indicated to top advisors in the past that he believes he can pull the wool over the eyes of the [U.S. government.]" On the political front, "Saleh touts Yemen as a leader in regional reform and has committed to democratization," the cable says. "Domestically, however, he has run-out of reforms he can implement at no political cost to himself."
The cable proposes "a public show of support via a greater role in public fora such as the G-8" as a possible inducement to greater democratization, but it seems that half a decade later, the upheavals in Tunisia and Egypt may have done the job more effectively.
KHALED FAZAA/AFP/Getty Images
As WikiLeaks' media partners (official and otherwise) have multiplied, it's gotten harder to follow what are and aren't new revelations in the U.S. State Department cables; even some of the media outlets seem confused. Take Britain's Daily Telegraph, which has a big headline today detailing a scoop from an ostensibly new batch of cables detailing the British government's behind-the-scenes discussions of the release of Pan Am Flight 103 bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi. The Telegraph flags an October 2008 cable in which a British Foreign Office minister advises the Libyan government on how to request the compassionate release of Megrahi, who had recently been diagnosed with inoperable cancer.
Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak thought George W. Bush was "naive, controlled by subordinates, and completely unprepared for dealing with post-Saddam Iraq."
Inside the U.S. military's $1.3 billion-a-year relationship with Egypt.
When Hillary met Hosni.
The Egyptian military's Plan B in the event of a regime change.
The U.S. military hasn't turned up any evidence of collaboration between Assange and Pfc. Bradley Manning.
Manning's supervisors warned the U.S. Army not to deploy him to Iraq.
Der Spiegel's tick-tock on the lead-up to Cablegate. (Assange: "We have to survive this leak.")
When American newspapers aren't bashing Julian Assange, they're imitating him.
WikiLeaks: the next generation.
Assange wants more media partners.
THE BIG PICTURE
Reading WikiLeaks as literature.
Is Manning Capt. James Yee all over again?
Is Algeria next?
Why the Palestine Papers aren't the next WikiLeaks.
WikiLeaks has done more for Arab democracy than decades of U.S. diplomacy.
CARL DE SOUZA/AFP/Getty Images
U.S. officials worried about the return to Haiti of Jean-Claude "Baby-Doc" Duvalier back in 2006. (Duvalier returned to the country this week.)
Guatemalan President Álvaro Colom doesn't think Rigoberta Menchú exists.
BP's top Russia executive has his doubts about the survival of the company's partnership with Russian oil firm Rosneft.
Turkey allowed the United States to use one of its airbases for rendition flights.
Condoleezza Rice wanted U.S. diplomats in the Middle East to gather intelligence on Israeli communications technology and Palestinian leaders.
American diplomats were ambivalent about deposed Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, and alarmed by the growing opposition to him.
U.S. diplomats in Turkey fretted about a military backlash after the arrest of several officers in an alleged coup plot last year.
Julian Assange is planning to release details on 2,000 offshore bank accounts, which he says contain evidence of serious tax evasion and money laundering. Swiss authorities are now mulling filing related charges against his source, former Swiss Banker Rudolf Elmer, who was already found guilty on Wednesday of breaking other banking secrecy laws.
Alleged Assange source Pfc. Bradley Manning is placed on suicide watch; his lawyer says he's being mistreated at the Marine Corps jail.
The State Department has made a big deal about the havoc caused by WikiLeaks, but privately officials tell congressional staffers the leaks were "embarrassing but not damaging."
Assange still has a lot of supporters in his home country of Australia.
The Pentagon wants U.S. military personnel to get rid of any WikiLeaks files they might have on their computers.
Russian WikiLeaks knockoff RuLeaks posts pictures of Vladimir Putin's Black Sea estate.
French lawyers are using WikiLeaks cables to argue for the acquittal of five Guantánamo detainees.
Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt says that Assange's extradition is a judicial matter, and that his government won't be involved in the decision.
An investigative firm alleges WikiLeaks skims documents off of file-sharing networks.
Zimbabwe's attorney general is considering pursuing treason charges against more government officials based on WikiLeaks cables.
WikiLeaks volunteer Jacob Applebaum is detained at an airport again.
A German CEO is out of a job after calling Europe's multi-billion-dollar Galileo satellite system (on which his company was working) a "stupid idea" in a WikiLeaked cable. (If you're keeping track, this is officially the first time WikiLeaks has caused trouble in space.)
THE BIG PICTURE
WikiLeaks was supposed to have extensive safeguards for its whistleblowers -- so why are so many of them ending up in jail?
What the WikiLeaks cables tell us about Iran's nuclear ambitions.
The Tunisian uprising wasn't a WikiLeaks revolution, but it does help us understand how technology can and can't help spread democracy.
At last, someone thought to ask Miss America what she thinks about WikiLeaks.
CARL DE SOUZA/AFP/Getty Images
Two weeks after a leaked cable cost a U.S. ambassador his job, another diplomat has found his life suddenly complicated by WikiLeaks -- this time in the Netherlands. Yesterday WikiLeaks published a September 2009 cable from the U.S. embassy in the Hague detailing U.S. Ambassador to NATO Ivo Daalder's efforts to keep the Dutch from bailing on the war in Afghanistan after 2010. Among Daalder's interlocutors is a Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs official named Pieter de Gooijer, who at one point in the conversation suggests a means by which Daalder could secure the further support of the Netherlands in the war effort:
De Gooijer encouraged Daalder to ask [U.S. Treasury] Secretary [Timothy] Geithner to tell [Dutch] Finance Minister [Wouter] Bos that the Netherlands would not have a seat in G20 discussions but for its contributions in Afghanistan. Bos is head of the Labor party and key to the Dutch cabinet's decision on Afghanistan.
Whatever efforts were ultimately made to persuade Bos failed; the Dutch cabinet collapsed last February over the issue of Afghanistan deployment, when the contingent of Labor ministers -- who remained staunchly opposed to keeping troops in the country -- resigned. Dutch troops pulled out of Afghanistan in August.
The new revelation doesn't look all that great for de Gooijer, who last week was named the Netherlands' ambassador to the European Union. Since the cable was published, his appointment has been blocked by Frans Timmermans, a Labor member of Parliament, on the grounds that de Gooijer can't be trusted. The Dutch government has recently proposed sending Dutch troops back to Afghanistan for an Afghan police training mission, but 70 percent of the respondents in a poll taken this month were opposed to the idea, as is Timmermans's party.
WikiLeaks also claimed its first private-sector casualty today, in the form of Berry Smutny, the CEO of the German space technology company OHB System AG. Smutny was fired after appearing in a WikiLeaks cable calling Galileo, a 4.5 billion-euros-and-counting European satellite navigation system on which OHB System is a contractor, a "stupid idea."
DESHAKALYAN CHOWDHURY/AFP/Getty Images
Has Cablegate claimed its first State Department scalp? McClatchy's Warren P. Strobel reports:
In what appears to be the first diplomatic casualty from the latest WikiLeaks revelations, the U.S. ambassador to Libya has returned to Washington and is likely to leave his post, U.S. officials said Tuesday.
Ambassador Gene Cretz (above), who had held the post since 2008, signed a handful of cables about the health and personal eccentricities of Muammar al-Gaddafi which were among the first and most high-profile State Department documents published by WikiLeaks. The most notorious among them (which was high-profile enough to make it into a Saturday Night Live skit) noted that Qaddafi "relies heavily" on a Ukrainian nurse, "who has been described as a ‘voluptuous blonde.'"
Strobel reports that even if Cretz's recall was not entirely WikiLeaks related, the scandal apparently had a lot to do with it:
A senior State Department official said that the WikiLeaks revelations were not the only reason for Cretz's return, noting the frustrations of U.S.-Libyan ties.
"It's a complicated relationship, and WikiLeaks just added to that complication," said the official, who requested anonymity because no announcement has been made on Cretz's status.
Cretz was the first U.S. ambassador dispatched to Libya since his predecessor was withdrawn in 1972, three years after Gaddafi took power in a coup. Where Cretz is headed next hasn't been announced.
Cables from the U.S. Embassy in the Zimbabwean capital of Harare account for just 13 of the nearly 2,000 State Department documents that WikiLeaks has posted so far, but President Robert Mugabe's government has gotten a lot of mileage out of them -- in fact, he's probably made more enterprising use of the slow-rolling scandal than any other world leader. When an independent Zimbabwean newspaper reported on a cable alleging that members of Mugabe's circle -- including his wife, Grace Mugabe -- had profited extensively from the country's black -market diamond trade, the first lady sued the paper for $15 million (a move that has prompted reprisals from hackers). When WikiLeaks published a year-old cable detailing a meeting between Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and U.S. officials, Mugabe -- who had grudgingly acceded to a power-sharing arrangement with his old nemesis -- jumped at the opportunity.
Last week, Johannes Tomana, Zimbabwe's attorney general, announced that he would consider charging Tsvangirai with high treason over the contents of the cable, in which Tsvangirai suggests the possibility of working with U.S. and other foreign officials on the international sanctions regime imposed on Mugabe's government -- penalties that Tsvangirai publicly opposed but privately insisted "be kept in place," according to the cable. High treason carries the death penalty in Zimbabwe, and a number of writers -- Christopher Albon in the Atlantic, James Kirchick in the Wall Street Journal, and James Richardson in today's Guardian, among others -- have pre-emptively placed Tsvangirai's blood on Julian Assange's hands. Richardson's piece is a particularly good summary of the events thus far and builds to a withering conclusion:
And so, where Mugabe's strong-arming, torture and assassination attempts have failed to eliminate the leading figure of Zimbabwe's democratic opposition, WikiLeaks may yet succeed. Twenty years of sacrifice and suffering by Tsvangirai all for naught, as WikiLeaks risks "collateral murder" in the name of transparency.
Before more political carnage is wrought and more blood spilled -- in Africa and elsewhere, with special concern for those US-sympathising Afghans fingered in its last war document dump -- WikiLeaks ought to leave international relations to those who understand it -- at least to those who understand the value of a life.
It's certainly true that Assange has been maddeningly unwilling to examine the implications of his actions -- or, alternately, convinced that he can have it both ways, remaking the business of geopolitics while claiming no casualties. But I'm somewhat more persuaded by Albon's measured take from last week. After noting that a Tsvangirai conviction based on the cable alone is unlikely, he writes:
It's difficult to see this as anything but a major setback for democracy in Zimbabwe. Even if Tsvangirai is not charged with treason, the opponents to democratic reforms have won a significant victory. First, popular support for Tsvangirai and the MDC will suffer due to Mugabe's inevitable smear campaign, including the attorney general's "investigation." Second, the Prime Minister might be forced to take positions in opposition to the international community to avoid accusation of being a foreign collaborator. Third, Zimbabwe's fragile coalition government could collapse completely. Whatever happens, democratic reforms in Zimbabwe are far less likely now than before the leak.
As Robert Rotberg wrote here last week, WikiLeaks may have provided Mugabe with a useful pretext for dispatching Tsvangirai from his government, but it's an open question whether he needed one. In reward for his decade-plus of political efforts, Tsvangirai has been variously arrested, beaten, tortured, thrown from a 10th-floor window, and involved in a suspicious collision with a truck that claimed his wife's life. WikiLeaks is useful to Mugabe, but it's hardly necessary.
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Another day, another cable about alleged central-African multi-million-dollar embezzlement -- this time in Gabon.
The Obama administration dispatches a Florida senator to urge Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon not to pursue a torture case against Bush administration officials.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency quietly evolves into an international intelligence agency.
How a Brazilian who once kidnapped a U.S. ambassador managed to get into the United States.
McDonald's tries to muck up a free trade agreement in El Salvador.
The Jamaican government warned U.S. officials that extraditing a local drug lord would lead to trouble.
Britain trains a "government death squad" in Bangladesh.
Did Britain try to cheat Mauritius out of an island chain?
Inside Russia's awful prisons.
Shell thinks that Ireland could become a booming offshore gas supplier -- or not.
More U.S. complaints about Egypt's lackluster military.
Behind the scenes of an assassination in Dubai.
Julian Assange claims (dubiously) to have the names of CIA moles in Arab governments.
The FBI pays back "Operation Payback" over PayPal attack.
77 percent of Americans disapprove of WikiLeaks' cable release.
Did WikiLeaks dash Zimbabwe's hopes for democracy?
Hackers claim to have brought down Zimbabwean government websites in retaliation for a WikiLeaks-related lawsuit against a Harare newspaper.
THE BIG PICTURE
Daniel Ellsberg lawyer Floyd Abrams says Assange is no Daniel Ellsberg.
Carl Court/AFP/Getty Images
The New York Times has taken a quality-over-quantity approach to the WikiLeaks cables so far, favoring occasional big-picture reports over the Guardian et al.'s zone-flooding approach. Most recent is an excellent piece by Ginger Thompson and Scott Shane on the picture the cables paint of the Drug Enforcement Agency's transformation "into a global intelligence organization with a reach that extends far beyond narcotics, and an eavesdropping operation so expansive it has to fend off foreign politicians who want to use it against their political enemies." The whole piece is worth a read.
Among the source cables, the documents from the U.S. embassy in Conakry, Guinea -- which caught the attention of the DEA as it emerged as cocaine trafficking hub -- are notable for their (occasionally ironic) narration of the country's drug-smuggling troubles. Best is a perceptive and elegantly written May 2008 cable, signed by Ambassador Phillip Carter III, recounting a meeting with Prime Minister Lansana Kouyate, whose relationship with President Lansana Conté (who died seven months later) was strained by, among other things, the fact that Conté's son Ousmane was suspected of being the country's preeminent drug kingpin:
[Kouyate] told the Ambassador that he then went to the First Lady, Henriette Conte, about Ousmane's complicity. Henriette reportedly described Ousmane as totally out of control, and directed the PM to take the matter up directly with the president. When Kouyate raised the incident, President Conte reportedly asked why his son would do such a thing. Kouyate told the president that it was a way for his son to get rich quickly and that it reflected poor character. Kouyate said that he reminded Conte that he had raised concerns about Ousmane years ago with the President but that nothing had been done. Kouyate then revealed a confidence from Conte to the Ambassador, mentioning that the President has had no contact or any communication with his son in over two years.
The elder Conté fired Kouyate two weeks later. As for the ailing strongman -- who would die in December 2008 of an unspecified illness believed to be diabetes -- the last we see of him in the cable is this arresting King Lear moment:
As the [prime minister] was leaving, the Ambassador asked him about Conte's health. Kouyate, slowly shaking his head said that "the president's health is up and down but he is not doing well." He admitted that "it is difficult to deal with that man", revealing that he is never sure what he is thinking. The Ambassador stated that he has been hearing much criticism of the president and that he is not well regarded in the countryside. Kouyate said that one does not need to leave Conakry to hear the same thing. He said that at a opening ceremony for a new stadium at the small university in Sonfonia, the crowds jeered every time Conte's name was mentioned. According to Kouyate, he had to admonish the crowds to be respectful, particularly given that the stadium is named after President Conte. "It was incredible" he said, shaking his head again with forlorn look on his face.
On Thursday, Julian Assange told reporters that WikiLeaks would be releasing State Department cables concerning the assassination of Hamas operative Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai in January, and he has made good on the promise with a couple of short dispatches from the U.S. embassy in Abu Dhabi. They don't offer any more insight into the still-unsolved killing, but they do paint a picture of the diplomatic conundrum the incident posed for the United Emirates and the United States.
Mabhouh, a Hamas military commander who had orchestrated the
kidnapping and killing of two Israeli soldiers and was suspected of smuggling arms into the Gaza Strip, died in his room at the Al
Bustan Rotana hotel in Dubai on Jan. 19, after being injected with the muscle
relaxant succinylcholine and then suffocated. Although Israel
has denied it won't confirm or deny it, the
list of people who don't believe that Mossad agents did the job is vanishingly
short. The hit squad had deftly
plotted and executed the assassination, using encrypted cell phones and passports
from half a dozen countries, and quickly scattered themselves from Hong Kong to
Paris once their work was done. Their one mistake, however, was a big one:
failing to account for the hotel's CCTV cameras, which caught
their faces on tape.
The story was first reported 10 days later by Reuters, and as it happened, U.S. Ambassador Richard Olson was at a social event with UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed when it broke, according to one of the two embassy cables, signed by Olson. An unnamed UAE media advisor, Olson reports in the Jan. 31 cable, "after making a few calls reported back that the UAE's public posture was being discussed between Dubai Ruler Mohammed bin Rashid and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed. The two options discussed were to say nothing at all, or to reveal more or less the full extent of the UAE's investigations."
The UAE was no friend of Hamas -- the emirate's discontent with Hamas patron Iran is a recurring theme in the WikiLeaks corpus -- but its government was, of course, not exactly eager to be seen as enabling an Israeli incursion on the sovereignty of an Arab state, either. The cable describes the UAE officials' reasoning, and decision:
Saying nothing would have been perceived as protecting the Israelis and in the end, the UAE chose to tell all. The statement was carefully drafted not to point any fingers, but the reference in the document (see below) to a gang with western passports will be read locally as referring to the Mossad.
American officials had their own decision to make about where their loyalties were -- one documented in the second cable, signed by Olson deputy Doug Greene, several weeks later. Greene reports that UAE officials requested the embassy's help in acquiring account data for credit cards, issued by a bank in Iowa, that investigators had linked to suspects in the assassination. The request was apparently turned down, and as Haaretz reports, the State Department denied at the time that any requests had been made. "By not accepting the request," Haaretz's Yossi Melman writes, "the Obama administration harmed the Dubai investigation efforts and assisted Israel instead." The U.S. government did eventually assist in the investigation, however, identifying American companies that may have been used to finance the operation.
David Silverman/Getty Images
New Zealand has, less than shockingly, not been a major presence in the WikiLeaks saga so far. So congratulations are order for the U.S. embassy in Wellington, which made a strong showing in the Guardian yesterday with a tale of international espionage that somehow involves Mossad, Hamas, cerebral palsy, and mutton.
In 2004, New Zealand imposed diplomatic sanctions on Israel after two Mossad agents were found to have stolen the identity of a quadriplegic New Zealander in order to obtain a passport for a third Israeli spy.* "It is a sorry indictment of Israel that it has again taken such actions against a country with which it has friendly relations," New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark said at the time. Visas were restricted, embassies were closed, and Israeli President Moshe Katsav, who was planning to visit the country, was disinvited. Then Hamas got involved. The organization put out a press release applauding New Zealand's actions, saying it "highly appreciated the daring position" Clark had taken against the "Zionist security apparatuses."
Clark's government made a show of rejecting Hamas's overtures, but American embassy officials in Wellington were apparently unconvinced. A July 19, 2004 cable about the incident, signed by political and economic counselor Timothy Zuniga-Brown, floats the theory that New Zealand may have had ulterior motives in making a big deal about the Mossad affair:
Its overly strong reaction to Israel over this issue suggests the [government of New Zealand] sees this flap as an opportunity to bolster its credibility with the Arab community, and by doing so, perhaps, help NZ lamb and other products gain greater access to a larger and more lucrative market.
Would the Kiwis really fan the flames of an international incident to ingratiate their way into Arab stomachs? It's certainly true that the economy of New Zealand -- which famously has 9 sheep for every human -- is unusually lamb-dependent: The country's lamb-heavy international meat sales accounted for $5.19 billion last year, or 13 percent of all exports. And while Europe and the United States are still the world's biggest lamb importers, the Middle East is the most promising growth market -- neighboring Australia's lamb exports to the region grew 25 percent from 1990 to 2008. In any case, the New Zealand media have been strangely silent on the allegations so far.
SABAH ARAR/AFP/Getty Images
A story in the Guardian on Monday, reporting on another cable from the paper's WikiLeaks master cache, opens with a bang:
The United Nations' drugs czar told NATO that Afghan insurgents were withholding thousands of tonnes of heroin and treating their drugs like "savings accounts" to manipulate street prices in the west, according to a leaked US cable.
The cable is from May 2009, and details a briefing by Antonio Maria Costa, then the United Nations' top drug official, at NATO headquarters, on the occasion of the release of his office's 2009 Afghan opium survey. My first thought reading the Guardian piece was, Wow, the U.N. drug czar has no idea what he's talking about. Then I read the cable. It turns out this is what's actually in there:
Costa said that Afghanistan has 12,400 tons of opium stocks because it produces more than the world consumes. Costa believes the insurgency is withholding these stocks from the market and treating them like "savings accounts." He said the stocks pose a serious threat as it could be used to finance the insurgency. Costa encouraged intelligence organizations to keep focus on the storage and movement of Afghanistan's opium stocks.
Costa is talking about the price of unrefined opium within Afghanistan, not the price of the finished product in London or New York -- which means the Guardian is unfairly saddling Costa with its own rather large analytical error here. If you want the long explanation for why, read this very useful paper on the Afghan opium trade and counternarcotics strategy, released by New York University's Center for International Cooperation in June, written by drug policy experts Jonathan Caulkins, Mark Kleiman, and Jonathan Kulick. If you want the short answer, read this bit of it:
[T]he price of raw opium, and even refined heroin ready for export from Afghanistan, contributes only modestly to the retail prices facing heroin users in drug-importing countries -- the effect of falling opium prices in Afghanistan would be tiny in remote markets such as western Europe, larger but still quite modest in nearer markets, and substantial only within Afghanistan itself. Effects in the United States, if any, would be even smaller than those in western Europe, since the U.S. heroin market is currently supplied primarily from Colombia and Mexico.
Rising prices are similarly insignificantly affected by price fluctuations inside Afghanistan -- which is why supply-side-only counternarcotics strategies, in Afghanistan or anywhere else, tend to work poorly.
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