A woman scrolls through documents on the WikiLeaks website next to an image of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in Schwerin, Germany on Nov. 30.  (AFP/DPA/File/Jens Buttner)


MANILA — A total of 1,796 of the more than 250,000 diplomatic cables sent by U.S. embassies around the globe between 1966 and February this year — and made available online by WikiLeaks — came from Manila.

Online whistle-blower WikiLeaks, an organization devoted to revealing secret documents, has drawn condemnation from the U.S. Government for its revelations.

“The cables, which date from 1966 up until the end of February this year, contain confidential communications between 274 embassies in countries throughout the world and the State Department in Washington, D.C. Fifteen thousand six hundred fifty-two of the cables are classified Secret,” abs-cbnnews said, quoting WikiLeaks as stating in its website.

The American mission in Manila is the 44th among the 274 embassies and consulates around the world and the fourth in Southeast Asia with the biggest number of cables that had leaked.

The Guardian newspaper in the United Kingdom said that all but two of the total sent by the U.S. Embassy in Manila were sent between January 2005 and February 2010.

The two remaining leaked cables were dated Nov. 21, 2001 and July 19, 1994.

The diplomatic cables have also been sent to other global publications.

U.S. Embassy spokesperson Rebecca Thompson said “any unauthorized disclosure of classified information by WikiLeaks has harmful implications for the lives of identified individuals that are jeopardized, but also for global engagement among and between nations.”

“Given its potential impact, we condemn such unauthorized disclosures and are taking every step to prevent future security breaches,” Thompson said in a text message.

The Jakarta Globe report said the U.S. Embassy in Indonesia has the biggest number of cables sent from Southeast Asia.

From Indonesia, the U.S. Embassy sent 3,059 cables while the U.S. consulate in Surabaya sent 167.

Most of the cables tackled human rights, security, refugees and labor.

The U.S. Embassies in Bangkok sent 2941; Rangoon, 1854; Kuala Lumpur, 994; Phnom Penh, 777; Singapore, 704; Dili, 390; Bandar Seri Begawan, 256.

The Guardian newspaper reported that cables from Manila were classified as follows: 982 “unclassified” cables; 749 “classified” and 65 “secret.”

When asked if U.S. Ambassador Harry K. Thomas Jr. had briefed Manila in advance of the release by WikiLeaks, Thomas said there would be more information from the embassy.

The embassy also released a White House statement that Washington had anticipated the release of the cables detailing private diplomatic discussions with foreign governments.

Authenticity questioned

Meanwhile, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the authenticity of the leaked State Department documents should be verified first.

“We need first to ascertain the authenticity of these papers. We understand that Philippine-related materials are not among those which have been uploaded to their website at this time,” said DFA spokesperson J. Eduardo Malaya in a text message to the Philippine Star.

“Nonetheless, the unauthorized disclosure of sensitive diplomatic reports is very disturbing,” he added.

A senior diplomat, who asked not to be named, said unauthorized disclosure of U.S. Embassy reports and communications would probably serve no useful purpose in the long run, other than to delight those who wish to embarrass the U.S. Government and the foreign personalities named in the reports.

“On the other hand, it may merely prejudice the safety of well-intentioned people who have worked with the Americans for the benefit of both countries. Confidentiality is vital in the give-and-take among countries. Political leaders will rarely compromise if such is to be done in the full glare of media,” the diplomat said.

The diplomat said that “national interest being at times immutable and its pursuit paramount, government leaders and diplomats will continue to do what they have to do.”

In condemning the leak, White House also said field reporting to Washington may be candid and often carries incomplete information.

It said diplomatic cables do not necessarily express U.S. policy, nor shape policy decisions.

“President Barack Obama supports responsible, accountable and open government at home and around the world, but this reckless and dangerous action runs counter to that goal,” Washington said.

“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.”

The WikiLeaks’ website said “the cables show the extent of U.S. spying on its allies and the UN; turning a blind eye to corruption and human-rights abuse in ‘client states,’ backroom deals with supposedly neutral countries; lobbying for U.S. corporations; and the measures U.S. diplomats take to advance those who have access to them.”

The complete files will be released in stages over the next few months, according to WikiLeaks.

Probe sought

Meanwhile, militant group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) has called on the Aquino Administration to conduct an official probe on the WikiLeaks disclosure.

“It is no secret that the U.S. Embassy in Manila is actually a post for U.S. intelligence gathering and U.S. intervention in Philippine affairs. The WikiLeaks files may help us better understand how the U.S. exerts its influence on our country in light of several domestic controversies over the past nine years,” said Bayan secretary-general Renato Reyes in a statement.

“The Philippine Government should at the very least be alarmed if it is shown that the U.S. Government is actively spying on us, undermining our sovereignty and interfering in our internal affairs,” he said.

“Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s dealings with the U.S. Government should also be looked into,” he added.

Bayan said the release of the files comes at a crucial moment for Philippines-U.S. relations when the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) is being reviewed by Malacañang.

The cache includes the controversial orders of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and files that deal with U.S. counterterrorism efforts, human rights, the economy and external political affairs.

“Maybe through these files, we can better understand the U.S. positions on the VFA and the U.S. troops in Mindanao,” Reyes said.

“We would also like to know why the U.S. has solidly supported the Arroyo government despite massive calls for her ouster. It would also be interesting to know what really went on during the visits of U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, U.S. Central Intelligence Agency Director Leon Panneta and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, all of whom visited during 2009,” Reyes said.

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