WikiLeaks list of 'critical' sites: Is it a 'menu for terrorists'?
WikiLeaks releases a 'secret' US diplomatic cable on 'critical infrastructure' around the world. Was it an overlong 'raw list' of obvious key sites, or a menu for 'every extremist group in the world'?
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The real value to a terrorist, would be "if that list were prioritized, with specific vulnerabilities outlined," he says. "Absent that, I'd say this publication of a raw list, at least, is not any grand threat to the security of the nations involved or the United States."Skip to next paragraph
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Others could not disagree more.
"It's a menu for terrorists that is probably one of the most overtly destructive things WikiLeaks has done," says Anthony Cordesman, a national security analyst for the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. "This has given a global map – a menu, if not a recipe book – to every extremist group in the world. To me it would be amazing to see how WikiLeaks could rationalize this."
US officials condemned the release of the list.
Even if it is just a country listing, it is in essence a prioritization with political meaning valuable to terrorists, Dr. Cordesman argues. Once the US flags something officially, you are creating a target and helping with their planning, he says.
"You are providing instructions for people who don't intuitively develop it on their own," he says. "There's an incredible amount of data in the world today, but most people in the world don't know how to use it. Terrorists aren't economists, infrastructure experts, or planners. They tend to repeat past patterns. If this was a James Bond novel and we were talking about some brilliant terrorist scientist, that's one thing. But the reality is quite different."
Others who have seen the State Department cable say the list appears to be a compendium of important but perhaps not critical sites – some mines, for instance – whose absence would not be quickly felt in the US and elsewhere. There are also a number of omissions that make it appear that junior officials simply pulled names together without a terribly thorough vetting of their importance.
Terrorists break down into three groups: those wanting to inflict damage locally, those looking for regional targets, and those with a global strategic outlook, says John Daly, a non-resident Fellow at the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute of the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University.