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

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  1. “Except one cable from 1966, most are newer than 2004”

    So… are all newer than 2004 except one from 1966, or just “most”?

    1. That’s where I immediately jumped to the comments to see if anybody else was confused. I see shit like this all the time.

  2. I assume the 1966 one is the lower boundary, with 90% or so from 2004 up, and the rest between 1966 and 2004. Again, just my assumption.

  3. As time goes on, I am becoming less and less sympathetic to WikiLeaks. At this point it just seems to be leaking these documents for the sake of leaking them. My god, the State Department thinks that Ahmedinejad is a bad man? Who knew? It seems like Mr. Assange is more interested in keeping in the public eye than doing anything of any real importance.

  4. #wikileaks is pulling a bit under 1% of total twitter traffic, which has it trending on pretty much every site that tracks such things. On twitter itself? Conspicuously absent.

  5. “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.”

    That’s only the opinion of 2 germans !
    I’m german, and I would think Westerwelle should withdraw, Merkel too!

  6. I would be pleased if this was a bluff to point out how terrified the US government is of this kind of stuff getting out. Their response has raised some red flags for me.

  7. Curious as to the source(s) of the DOS… Anonymous or /b/ have no stake in this, the legions of spam zombies could care less… Can at least some the IPs be traced? What precedent is there, in a legal sense, for government authorities to use distributed computing attacks domestically (I think, where are the wikileaks servers located?) I would think that might fall under the Ægis of law intended to prevent the use of military force against American citizens on US soil… If our government is behind the DOS, then they will probably be in more trouble for that than a few embarrassing comments about Sarkozy’s hot wife or comparing Iran’s obviously deranged leader to Hitler, or whatever the leaks contain. I mean, from what I hear so far about the leaks, most political message boards contain far less diplomatic chatter.

    1. Curious as to the source(s) of the DOS

      You’re assuming there is a DDoS. They could have easily turned off their servers to make it appear that they were under attack to help sensationalize the story further.

      If the past leaks are anything to go by, we’ll spend more time talking about the leak than the (rather dull) content and forget about the whole thing in two weeks.

      Der Spiegel is already out and the worst they found is that we Ahmadinejad Hitler? Ooo. That’s going to cause an international incident. *yawn*

      1. Rather than a series of world-changing revelations, I expect that the controversies will be mostly localized, with secondary effects on state-state relations. Domestic press will examine those cables relating to their home countries, to varying embarrassing effects. Some American diplomats might be reassigned, foreign diplomats may be recalled. If a government is shown to secretly negotiate deals or compromises with the Americans that their constituents will not accept, perhaps that government will be subject to a recall and/or resignations. Trade relations between states might be affected. Etc.

      2. Lol, I hear how many of you are talking about the Hitler comparison, and yawning – But its funny how you miss out mentioning the UN spying attempts, or the attempt by “diplomats” to get credit cards, phone numbers, frequent flier numbers, and some really demeaning and crude description of other political leaders.

        Selective omissions?

    2. The source of the DOS attack is quite easy to find, because he was boasting with it the whole day. It’s a known and (for his profession) much too publicity-seeking hacker, that takes it on himself to defend the “good” (meaning US government) against the “evil” (islamists and now wikileaks).

  8. I would be pleased if this was a bluff to point out how terrified the US government is of this kind of stuff getting out. Their response has raised some red flags for me.

    As someone who researches diplomatic archives, I can say with confidence that the cables will basically prove to be often embarrassing, in the same way that most people wouldn’t want their friends to know everything said about them. The leak *will* damage US diplomatic efforts, including possibly harming ongoing US-Russian negotiations, but you’re not going to find anything that will uncover deeply-buried US secrets. Some overly-honest career State folks are going to find themselves reassigned to Washington, though.

    It does sound like none of the cables were pulled off INRISS, which *would* have (dangerously) exposed all-source global intel, so in essence you’re going to read a lot of fairly anodyne diplo traffic — local news, who’s up, who’s down, how private discussions with various ministers went, and so on — as well as frank talk about how the US is trying to juggle competing priorities in different regions.

    Quite frankly, as interesting as I will find the cables, I also wish that they had never fallen into the hands of WikiLeaks. There’s very little public-interest payoff in this info-dump for a lot of exposure of American diplomatic positions. Obviously, Assange doesn’t give a damn (even though the primary beneficiaries of this leak will be rather less-liberal regional rivals such as Iran and China), but this isn’t a banner day for the sunshine folks.

  9. Wikileaks servers are definitely not in the US. As for the leaks themselves, I hope Assagne at least has the common decency to protect the sources that the US diplomats talk to in countries like Russia or China. Those people really do stand a good chance of being brutally murdered.

    Also, China was behind the hacking attacks on Google several months ago. Surprise surprise…

  10. The only potentially interesting thing here is the presence of cables marked “secret”, since I assume they won’t be covered by FOI requests. For everything else, all I’d need to do is make a FOI application to see, say, US (or indeed UK) diplomatic cables mentioning the Iranian prime minister in 2004 – or am I missing something?

    1. A FOIA request might get you the cable, but with all the interesting bits redacted. Just because you file a FOIA request doesn’t mean you’ll get anything the government doesn’t want to release.

  11. Assange is already under indictment on a morals charge, no? I wonder how much longer before he has an “accident.”

  12. CNN agrees with Anon above:

    ‘Hacktivist for good’ claims WikiLeaks takedown
    http://www.cnn.com/2010/US/11/29/wikileaks.hacker/index.html

    A computer hacker who calls himself the Jester claimed responsibility for the cyber attack which took down the WikiLeaks site Sunday, shortly before it started posting hundreds of thousands of classified U.S. diplomatic cables.

    The Jester, who describes himself as a “hacktivist for good,” said he took the controversial site down “for attempting to endanger the lives of our troops, ‘other assets’ & foreign relations.”

    (click the link to read more)

  13. You think those foreign countries don’t know these? oh, they know. What does U.S. worry about is what do U.S. citizens think after reading these.

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