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WikiLeaks: Leaked cables reveal the rough workings of diplomacy

WikiLeaks gave some 250,000 confidential and secret diplomatic cables to several news outlets, which published them Sunday. The leaks could prove embarrassing and potentially dangerous.

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As the information was being released, the White House called the publication of confidential diplomatic cables "reckless and dangerous,” warning that it could "deeply impact" US interests as well as those of allies and friends.

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"To be clear, such disclosures put at risk our diplomats, intelligence professionals, and people around the world who come to the United States for assistance in promoting democracy and open government," presidential press secretary Robert Gibbs said Sunday. "These documents also may include named individuals who in many cases live and work under oppressive regimes and who are trying to create more open and free societies."

"By releasing stolen and classified documents, WikiLeaks has put at risk not only the cause of human rights but also the lives and work of these individuals," Gibbs said. "We condemn in the strongest terms the unauthorized disclosure of classified documents and sensitive national security information."

Secretary Clinton tried to soften the blow

Late last week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tried to soften the potentially embarrassing impact of the leaks by contacting government officials in China, Germany, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Britain, France, and Afghanistan. Canada, Denmark, Norway, and Poland were also warned.

In a letter to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange Saturday, State Department legal adviser Harold Koh said the publication of secret diplomatic cables would "place at risk the lives of countless innocent individuals," ''place at risk on-going military operations," and "place at risk on-going cooperation between countries."

US officials have known for some time that WikiLeaks held the diplomatic cables. No one has been charged with passing them to the website, but suspicion focuses on US Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, an intelligence analyst arrested in June and charged regarding an earlier leak of some 400,000 documents related to the war in Iraq.

Most of the current batch of leaked diplomatic cables go back to 2007, including message traffic from both the Obama and Bush administrations.

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