Wikileaks' massive cable leak expected today: Wikileaks.org "under attack," Der Spiegel out early

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By various reports, today at 430pm ET is the expected go-live point for Wikileaks' latest coordinated "radical transparency" dump: some 250,000 US State Department diplomatic cables, with partnered coverage expected again, as with prior releases, in Der Spiegel, The New York Times, and the Guardian. This time, El Pais and Le Monde are part of the early access club, according to a Wikileaks tweet.

But a flurry of updates from Twitter users in Germany in recent hours (Symor Jenkins, sa7yr) point to scans of an embargoed copy of Der Spiegel's print coverage, placed on newsstands ahead of the deadline agreed upon by the news agencies and Wikileaks.

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An earlier web update (later taken down) from Der Spiegel stated that the leaked material included

* 251,287 cables and 8,000 diplomatic directives
* Except one cable from 1966, most are newer than 2004
* 9,005 documents are from the first two months of 2010

With "just over half of the cables are not subject to classification, 40.5 percent classified as "confidential" and only 6 percent or 15,652 dispatches as 'secret." The release purportedly contains 4,330 messages "which are not meant for foreigners."

It said the documents contained assessments of the political situation in the country, meeting protocols, background information about personal decisions and events - or personality profiles of individual politicians in host countries. Many assessments were written by diplomats in the hope that they do not get published in next 25 years, says Spiegel's posting adding the fact most of them were gossip and hearsay reports to the headquarters without much depth in their veracity.

[Scans: Link one, Link two.]

Gawker's on the story early today, following the German tweets about the early-bird print leak:

At least from the German point of view there are no earth-shattering revelations, just a lot of candid talk about German leaders. Angela Merkel is praised as "teflon," while German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle is repeatedly bashed. There is talk of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's "wild parties," (duh) and Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is likened to Hitler. The cables also show Obama has "no emotional relationship with Europe," focusing instead on Asian countries, according to Der Spiegel.

The State Department has been hard at work attempting to convince Julian Assange (who for all practical purposes *is* Wikileaks, at least for now) to refrain from publishing the documents—even up to a last-ditch personal plea, released by the agency today.

In recent weeks, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and staff have briefed foreign governments on the anticipated contents and impact of the leaks—Russia, Iraq, Turkey, Canada, Australia, and many others.

Meanwhile, Wikileaks (again, presumably Assange) now tweets "We are currently under a mass distributed denial of service attack," adding that "El Pais, Le Monde, Speigel, Guardian & NYT will publish many US embassy cables tonight, even if WikiLeaks goes down."

Interestingly, the same thing happened a month ago.

There is widespread speculation that the documents to be released in this batch are sourced from US Army private Bradley Manning, the intelligence analyst who was arrested in Iraq in June and charged with leaking classified US documents to Wikileaks. Manning has been held in a military detention facility in Quantico, Virginia for more than 160 days.

UPDATE: Cables are out. Here's links to our coverage:
Coverage of the leaked cables:

"9/11 of diplomacy" IDs Putin as Batman and Medvedev as Robin
Colonel Gadaffi uses Botox to maintain own youth, beauty
"Global diplomatic crisis" sparked. U.N. spied on; Saudis want Iran bombed
Korea unification plan; Illicit Pakistan nukes; U.S. warns Germany
Wikileaks.org "under attack"
Wikileaks under legal assault
US will press criminal charges against Manning