WikiLeaks Airs Classified CIA Memo, But Real Message Is No Secret
WikiLeaks dug into its trove of unpublished leaks Wednesday to release a six-month-old classified CIA memo about foreign perception of the United States, underscoring that the secret-spilling website won’t be cowed by Pentagon threats, nor derailed by the Swedish legal problem now circling its leader.
The memo, classified Secret, asks, “What if Foreigners See the United States as an ‘Exporter of Terrorism?’” Dated February 2, 2010, it was produced by the CIA’s “Red Cell,” a brainstorming team established in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks to provide an “alternative viewpoint” in the intelligence community.
The release is the second CIA Red Cell document published by WikiLeaks. In March, the site published another Secret memo analyzing possible PR strategies to shore up public support in Europe for the war in Afghanistan.
The new leak is less impactful. It notes several occasions on which Americans have joined up with, or provided financial aid to, extremist groups abroad, and asks how American foreign relations would suffer if the United States started being viewed as a terror-exporting state.
“These sorts of analytic products — clearly identified as coming from the Agency’s ‘Red Cell’ — are designed simply to provoke thought and present different points of view,” CIA spokesman George Little said in a statement Wednesday.
The document’s meta message, though, is not likely to be lost on the U.S. government. The release is the first classified U.S. document published by WikiLeaks since the Pentagon formally demanded Aug. 5 that WikiLeaks delete its entire cache of classified material, which could also include 260,000 State Department diplomatic cables, and a log of events from the Iraq war containing 500,000 documents. Both were purportedly leaked by now-imprisoned Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning.
The Pentagon’s demand — repeated in a letter to a WikiLeaks lawyer last week — came after WikiLeaks published a detailed and mostly classified log of 77,000 events in the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan. Some of those records contain the names of Afghan informants, who now face potentially deadly reprisal from the Taliban.
WikiLeaks withheld an additional 15,000 documents from its website until it could remove information that could put more Afghans in jeopardy.
At a press conference in Stockholm on Wednesday, Assange said WikiLeaks has so far gone through 8,000 of those remaining documents. (Three newspapers, including The New York Times, already received an unedited copy of the entire Afghan logs from WikiLeaks last month.)
Also on Wednesday, prosecutors in Sweden announced they are pressing ahead with an investigation into Assange’s conduct with a woman he reportedly encountered in his ongoing visit to that country. Assange is suspected of the crime of “molestation” — a broad offense under Swedish law that can include reckless conduct or unwelcome physical contact with another adult. The offense is the Swedish equivalent of a misdemeanor, carrying the potential for a fine and up to a year in jail.
A more serious allegation involving a different woman led to the issuance of an arrest warrant against Asssange last Friday, but it was dropped just hours later, after prosecutors reviewed the facts and determined they didn’t constitute a crime.
Assange has denied any wrongdoing, and hinted that both complaints are the result of a U.S. plot against WikiLeaks — leading some supporters of the group to publicly investigate the two women and their families.
- Mississippi Lawyer Drawn Into WikiLeaks Intrigue
- Cyberwar Against Wikileaks? Good Luck With That
- WikiLeaks Suspect’s YouTube Videos Raised ‘Red Flag’ in 2008
- WikiLeaks Releases Stunning Afghan War Logs — Is Iraq Next?
- Suspected WikiLeaks Source Described Crisis of Conscience Leading to Leaks
- U.S. Intelligence Analyst Arrested in WikiLeaks Video ProbeTags: Wikileaks