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  • WikiLeaks disclosures are criminal: White House

    Published on November 30, 2010

    The White House on Tuesday termed as criminal the stealth and dissemination of classified information by WikiLeaks but insisted that the disclosures would not impact America’s ability to conduct its foreign policy.

    White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said US President Barack Obama had been briefed on the issue and did not rule out when asked if the Obama Administration is considering taking legal action against WikiLeaks itself.

    “The stealing of classified information and its dissemination is a crime,” Gibbs told reporters at his daily news conference.

    “It is obvious, though, that serious controls and oversight have to be in place in order to balance, the need to know and the need to share.”

    He said the Department of Defense has made it much more difficult for somebody to get access to and to copy and move both this type and this volume of information, disabling the ability to, for instance, plug in a thumb drive or a CD and copy vast amounts of information, limiting the access to certain documents based rank, greater oversight.

    “That does not, however, change the fact that we have a series of problems that have to be addressed on the world stage, and that without — it is hard to imagine progress on those issues without American leadership moving those forward,” he said.

    “I do not believe that the release of these documents impacts our ability to conduct a foreign policy that moves our interests forward and addresses both regional and global concerns about the issues that threaten this world,” he said.

    He said there is an ongoing criminal investigation about the stealing of and the dissemination of sensitive and classified information.

    “I think obviously it was a very serious crime, first and foremost. I don’t think anybody would stand here and tell you this isn’t a concern about security. This is a concern that… some of these information could contain names of people that are working with our government to help on issues like human rights, on issues of democracy in places where those aren’t so easy to work on,” Gibbs said.

    But, he said the US cannot afford to let it greatly impact its ability to pursue a foreign policy that is in its interest.

    Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also blasted the release of confidential US cables by WikiLeaks, terming it as an attack not only on US but on the international community as a whole, though she expressed confidence that America’s international partnerships will withstand the jolt.

    Clinton said there was nothing laudable in the act that had put the lives of people in danger and sabotaged peaceful relations, as she promised “aggressive steps” to go after those responsible.

    “Let’s be clear. This disclosure is not just an attack on America’s foreign policy interests. It is an attack on the international community, the alliances and partnerships, the conversations and negotiations that safeguard global security and advance economic prosperity,” she said in her first statement on the issue.

    “United States strongly condemns the illegal disclosure of classified information. It puts people’s lives in danger, threatens our national security, and undermines our efforts to work with other countries to solve shared problems,” she said.

    She, however, said she was confident that the partnerships that the Obama administration has worked so hard to build will withstand this challenge.

    “The president and I have made these partnerships a priority, and we are proud of the progress that they have helped achieve, and they will remain at the center of our efforts,” she said.

    Clinton said the US is taking aggressive steps to hold responsible those who stole this information.

    “I have directed that specific actions be taken at the State Department in addition to new security safeguards at the Department of Defense and elsewhere to protect State Department information so that this kind of breach cannot and does not ever happen again,” she said.

    She said besides relations between governments, other concerns sparked off by the disclosures are about safety of human rights workers, independent observers and journalists whose references are contained in the documents.

    “US diplomats meet with local human rights workers, journalists, religious leaders and others outside of government who offer their own candid insight. These conversations also depend on trust and confidence,” she noted.

    “Whatever are the motives in disseminating these documents, it is clear that releasing them poses real risk to real people, and often to the very people who have dedicated their own lives to protecting others,” Clinton said.