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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"There's nothing in this cable that indicates a revised wish list for the third group – the global strategists," Dr. Daly says. "But it is profoundly embarrassing to the American government.... It doesn't take a genius to figure out that impeding ship traffic through the Suez Canal would make life difficult."Skip to next paragraph
There are likely some major omissions in this list, Daly notes, that make him believe that it is not a well-vetted list – more of a global "wish list" far too big for the US to police – and many targets would not have an immediate impact on the US.
"It's a list generated by gophers in various government departments and sent up the food chain and not sufficiently modified," he says. "It's not a good list in part because it's so big it would be impossible to defend them all. We can't be everywhere at once."
It also includes numerous ports and straits that would, indeed, be a problem for the US if they were blocked or compromised but are hardly unknown to terrorists, including the Strait of Hormuz and Straits of Malacca near Malaysia.
"None of the names on the list in the Gulf are news," says James Russell, a national security expert and professor at the Naval Postgraduate School. "There is a system wide effort to work with other countries to protect this infrastructure. Would it disrupt oil traffic to block the Strait of Hormuz? Very definitely. But if you're the terrorist, [the targets] are a lot easier to identify than they are to disrupt."
Malaysia, with the help of the US and other countries navies has "pretty much cleared out" the pirate problem that has plagued the Strait of Malacca, he notes.
"I can't see how it would be a blow to national security that we identified the Ras Tanura as a critical node in international energy," Dr. Russell adds. "All this cable shows is that our government is doing exactly what it is supposed to be doing – create an awareness of these important places. Out of this WikiLeak phenomenon, our government is seen to be doing in this case exactly what it’s supposed to be doing."
Other security experts agree that the release of the list is disturbing and certainly not helpful to US interests, but that unlike other WikiLeaks, for instance, the embarrassment level is far lower.
"It's a little different with this list than with diplomatic cable leaks that were private conversations that breach the trust," says Alistair Millar, director of the Center on Global Counterterrorism Cooperation. "In this case, this is largely information available to everyone if they really wanted to look."
But even if the information is not a revelation to a terrorist, it is not helpful to the US or other nations, Dr. Millar says.
"Helping organize and collate information for people who can't do it themselves isn't doing a good thing," he says. "If you're doing the homework for some of these homegrown terrorists it's not helpful – it's dangerous to our security."