Saturday, December 04, 2010
Image by Getty Images via @daylifeWikiLeaks Archive - Karzai and Gilani Dismiss Cables’ Impact - NYTimes.com
By ALISSA J. RUBIN and CARLOTTA GALL
KABUL, Afghanistan — The Afghan president and the Pakistani prime minister dismissed the WikiLeaks revelations about their respective countries as alternately false, unreliable and the work of “junior officers” in a joint news conference here on Saturday.
However, a senior Afghan minister later took a more aggrieved tone, suggesting that the leaked cables had irreparably damaged relations between the American ambassador, Karl W. Eikenberry, and members of the Afghan government. The minister, Omar Zakhilwal, also said that remarks attributed to him by Mr. Eikenberry in one of the cables, disparaging President Hamid Karzai, were false.
Until Saturday, the Afghan government had said little about the contents of the cables, thousands of confidential State Department memos that were made public in the past week by the Web site WikiLeaks and a number of newspapers. The Afghan president’s spokesman had said only that most of the major points had been previously disclosed and that Afghanistan and the United States had a strategic relationship.
Answering questions from the Afghan, Pakistani and international media at the news conference on Saturday, Mr. Karzai and the Pakistani prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, appeared to be at once trying to diminish the significance of the cables by throwing doubt on their authenticity while at the same time taking them seriously enough to deny some of their contents.
When Mr. Gilani was asked about a cable that said his government lacked the ability to control its own military and intelligence services, he said, “I would request you not to trust WikiLeaks.”
“These are just the views of junior officers,” he said. “They are not authentic. We should not even take them seriously.”
Mr. Karzai seemed at times statesmanlike and above the fray and at others frustrated, but overall he seemed more inclined to put the revelations behind him.
In response to questions, Mr. Karzai said that he understood that of course his ministers spoke about him, but that he was sure the way the cables characterized their remarks was not correct. “Take the example of Mr. Zakhilwal,” he said. “I am sure they are not true.”
Mr. Zakhilwal, the finance minister, was reported to have called Mr. Karzai “an extremely weak man,” comments he denied in his own news conference later on Saturday.
Mr. Karzai also said that people might say things casually in private that might not reflect their more considered and accurate positions. “People say things to other people not necessarily to be a part that they want to take home, and I understand some of the ministers may have been talking about me and some of them have done, I know, and other ministers in future may do the same,” he said, speaking in English. He added pointedly, “But we will not have a WikiLeaks to reveal that.”
He scorned the accuracy of another cable, about former Vice President Ahmed Zia Massoud’s taking $52 million in cash out of the country, saying that it was absurd to think that a vice president could arrive in another country with 30 suitcases full of cash. Furthermore, he said, the United States government had never spoken to him about it.
“The American government has been talking to us every day about corruption, every day they give us examples, every day they bring a case of $5,000, how come no report was given of this?” he said.
He continued: “We don’t know what to do with this whole thing: do we believe it or not believe it? I would go towards not believing it, that is better for Afghanistan.”
In his own news conference, Mr. Zakhilwal denied having uttered the remarks about Mr. Karzai as reported in a diplomatic cable sent by Mr. Eikenberry on Feb. 26, and suggested that the views were the ambassador’s.
“I have never, ever used this word ‘weak’ to describe the president, never, ever,” he said. “I have not said any kind of words like this regarding anyone.”
He said the accusations had destroyed any trust between him and the ambassador and would affect the ambassador’s effectiveness. “It has certainly hurt relations not only between me and him, but between some ministers and the ambassador, and it will certainly not be business as usual,” Mr. Zakhilwal said.
“The ambassador has used my name to support his views of the president,” he said. Asked if he was calling for the ambassador to resign, the minister replied, “It is up to the ambassador.”
Relations between Mr. Karzai and the American ambassador have been uneasy since the leaking of a secret diplomatic cable in November 2009 in which the ambassador said Mr. Karzai was “not a reliable partner” for the United States.
Senate Rejects Obama’s Plan on Extending Tax Cuts - NYTimes.com
WASHINGTON — The Senate on Saturday rejected President Obama’s proposal to extend the Bush-era tax breaks for all but the wealthiest taxpayers, a triumph for Republicans who have long called for continuing the income tax cuts for everyone.
The Senate’s verdict set the stage for a possible deal in the coming days to extend the reduced tax rates even on high incomes temporarily, perhaps for up to two years. But with Senate Democrats and the White House badly splintered, and some lawmakers increasingly angry at the idea of sustaining President George W. Bush’s economic policies, the prospects of a compromise remain uncertain.
If Congress does not act, the tax rates expire for everyone on Dec. 31, meaning an increase across the board. The rate in the lowest bracket would rise to 15 percent from 10 percent and in the highest bracket to 39.6 percent from 35 percent.
The administration and Congressional leaders have been discussing a plan that would temporarily extend the income tax rates, and also include a one-year extension of jobless aid for the long-term unemployed, which has started to run out.
White House officials said they were pressing to continue other tax breaks for middle- and lower-income Americans included in the 2009 stimulus plan, which Republicans said they were considering. Many other taxes, including the estate tax, the alternative minimum tax, and taxes on capital gains, interest and dividends are also part of the talks.
Mr. Obama’s preferred plan fell seven votes short of the 60 it needed to advance under Senate rules. The vote was 53 to 36, on a bill adopted by the House on Thursday, that would end the Bush-era cuts on income above $250,000 a year for couples and $200,000 a year for individuals — a step Mr. Obama had hoped to take at the start of this year, but abandoned for fear of worsening the most severe recession since the Great Depression.
GOP Blocks Compromise On Bush Tax Cuts : NPR
Senate Republicans blocked legislation Saturday to let upper-income tax cuts expire on Jan. 1, a showdown scripted by Democrats eager to showcase GOP lawmakers as defenders of millionaires.
"Do we want to extend those tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires at a time of huge deficits. I would argue vociferously we shouldn't," said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., shortly before the votes.
Republicans countered that no taxes should be raised at a time the economy is recovering from a recession. "It is the most astounding theory I have ever seen, raise taxes to create jobs," said Sen. John Thune of South Dakota.
Both measures would have extended expiring cuts for the middle class.
Ironically, the votes were widely seen as a prelude to a possible agreement next week between the White House and congressional leaders on legislation that would avert tax increases at all income levels, as Republicans want.
Any agreement is also expected to extend jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed, a Democratic priority, and possibly renew tax breaks the White House wants for college students, companies that hire the unemployed and lower- and middle-class wage earners.
The Senate took the two votes on bills that would have permitted tax cuts to remain in effect at most incomes.
A proposal to let tax rates rise on Jan. 1 on incomes over $200,000 for individuals and $250,000 for couples fell on a vote of 53-36, seven short of the 60 needed to advance.
An alternative advanced by Schumer and others but opposed by the White House would have let rates rise on incomes over $1 million. The vote was 53-37, also seven short of the 60 needed.
Schumer supplied the political context. "I'm going to be here for the next year, next two years, to remind my colleagues that they were willing to increase the deficit $300 billion to give tax breaks to people who have income over a million dollars," he said in a reference to the 2012 elections.
If Republicans were worried about the political impact of the day's events, they did not show it. Several noted that President Barack Obama had urged congressional leaders of both parties in a recent meeting to work together to prevent taxes from going up for the middle class.
But Democrats wanted a series of test votes first.
"All those people out there in the tea party that are angry about the economics of Washington, they really need to look at this," Sen. Claire McCaskill., D-Mo., said Friday as Democrats took turns pummeling Republicans.
"They need to pull back the curtain and realize that you've got a Republican Party that's not worried about the people in the tea party," said McCaskill, who will be on the ballot next year. "They're worried about people that can't decide which home to go to over the Christmas holidays."
Republicans dismissed the attacks as the last gasp of a Democratic Party that lost its majority in the House in midterm elections, surrendered several seats in the Senate and will be forced to share power beginning in January.
"All of this finger-pointing is doing nothing to create jobs," said Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. "It's a total waste of time."
Noting that unemployment had risen to 9.8 percent, he added: "Democrats are responding with a vote to slam job creators with a massive tax increase. Millions of out-of-work Americans don't want show-votes or finger-pointing contests. They want jobs."
In the weekly White House radio and Internet address, Vice President Joe Biden, skipped lightly over Obama's willingness to negotiate with the GOP on the Bush-era tax breaks.
"We've got to extend the tax cuts for the middle class that are set to expire at the end of the month," he said. "If we don't, millions of middle-class families will see a big bite out of their paychecks starting January 1. And that's the last thing we should let happen."
"And the second thing we've got to do is extend unemployment insurance for Americans who have lost their jobs in a tough economy," Biden said.
Delivering the Republican address, Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois, who was sworn into office this week, said voters in the midterm elections demonstrated their distaste for any tax increases.
"The current leaders of Congress should not move forward with plans that were just rejected by the American people," he said. "These leaders should not raise taxes and risk another recession. Instead, Congress should reduce spending and prevent another tax hike on American taxpayers."
Trade Deal Is Reached by U.S. and South Korea - NYTimes.com
By SEWELL CHAN
WASHINGTON — American negotiators have completed a free-trade agreement with South Korea that will eliminate most tariffs on exports and solidify one of the nation’s most significant alliances in Asia, the Obama administration said on Friday.
The agreement, which requires approval by the legislatures in both countries, is a first for the administration and would be the largest trade accord since the North American Free Trade Agreement took effect in 1994.
South Korea is America’s seventh-largest trading partner.
The deal comes three weeks after a negotiating team visiting South Korea failed to nail down the deal. The breakthrough, which occurred the same day the government announced an increase in the unemployment rate to 9.8 percent, will expand American exports of goods by at least $10 billion a year and “support tens of thousands of jobs,” the Obama administration predicted.
Trade has been a crucial test of the White House’s ability to find common ground with Republicans after the drubbing Democrats took in the midterm elections. Friday’s announcement got important backing on Capitol Hill, where the prospects for the agreement seem good.
“This is a big win for American employers and workers,” said Representative Dave Camp, a Michigan Republican who will become chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, which sets tariffs.
But Senator Max Baucus, the Montana Democrat who is chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said he was “deeply disappointed” that the deal did not further reduce barriers to American beef exports, which have been a particularly volatile issue in South Korea.
The deal is technically a supplement to an agreement negotiated by the Bush administration in 2007 but never finished. It was completed Friday morning, after three days of negotiations outside Washington that ended when both sides agreed in essence to give themselves more time to eliminate their tariffs on autos.
The United States will phase out its 2.5 percent tariff on imported Korean autos over five years. The 2007 version would have eliminated the tariff right away on 90 percent of Korean autos, with the remaining tariffs, on larger vehicles, phased out over three years.
Of the Detroit automakers, Ford was the most vociferous in opposing the 2007 agreement; Chrysler expressed reservations and General Motors, which owns Daewoo, the third-largest Korean automaker, stayed out of the fray. Hyundai-Kia is the No. 1 automaker in South Korea and Samsung is No. 2.
The transition period will allow the Americans to ensure that South Korea is holding up its end of the deal with regard to nontariff barriers.
“This development provides leverage to assure that Korea opens its market and provides time for our industry to root itself in the Korean marketplace,” said Representative Sander M. Levin, a Michigan Democrat and the current Ways and Means chairman, whose support is seen as crucial in swaying liberals in Congress.
The United States Chamber of Commerce, the business lobby that poured tens of millions of dollars into defeating Democrats in last month’s elections, offered rare praise Friday for Mr. Obama. “This agreement will create thousands of new jobs, advance our national goal of doubling exports in five years, and demonstrates that America is once again ready to lead on trade,” its president, Thomas J. Donohue, said in a statement.
“We will do everything in our power to round up the votes,” he added.
The Ford Motor Company, which had placed full-page newspaper ads noting that the United States exported fewer than 6,000 vehicles to South Korea last year compared with nearly 500,000 that it imported, threw its support behind the agreement.
“These new provisions provide Ford greater confidence that we will be able to better serve our Korean customers,” its chief executive, Alan R. Mulally, said.
The latest round of talks was scheduled before North Korea’s recent shelling of a South Korean island, an episode that drew the two countries together and added momentum on both sides to bolster the alliance between Washington and Seoul.
“Strengthening ties with our democratic ally South Korea will not only grow the American economy, but it will also serve as a strong counterweight to China’s growing influence and aggression in the region,” said Representative Peter Roskam, an Illinois Republican and co-chairman of a bipartisan group of lawmakers who have monitored the talks.
In June, Mr. Obama announced at a meeting of leaders of the Group of 20 economic powers that he would try to complete modifications to the agreement by November and then submit the deal to Congress. But that deadline passed three weeks ago, casting a pall over Mr. Obama’s attendance at the G-20 summit meeting in Seoul last month.
The United States trade representative, Ron Kirk, and his Korean counterpart, Kim Jong-hoon, met Tuesday in Columbia, Md., for a two-day round of talks that extended into Thursday.
After a final meeting on Friday morning, both sides finally said an agreement was close. “It’s time now for the leaders to review this progress before we move forward,” Mr. Kirk said as the Korean negotiators returned home to brief their president, Lee Myung-bak.
In the agreement, both sides are getting more time to remove their auto tariffs.
South Korea will immediately cut its tariff on American autos to 4 percent from 8 percent, with the remainder ending over five years. Under the 2007 deal, the tariff was to end immediately.
The new agreement, the administration said, also contains other significant terms related to the auto industry:
¶It exempts 25,000 American-made vehicles a year from each manufacturer, from costly South Korean safety regulations that critics said were intended solely to discriminate against imports.
¶It gives American automakers that now have only a toehold in South Korea more leeway to comply with regulations on greenhouse gas emissions and fuel economy as they expand their market share.
¶It gives the United States more time to phase out a 25 percent tariff on trucks and requires Korea to more quickly reduce its tariff on electric cars.
¶It includes a safeguard, specific to the auto industry, that would allow tariffs to be reimposed if there were a sudden, unanticipated surge in South Korean auto imports as a consequence of the agreement.
In focusing so much on autos, the Obama administration did not press as hard as Mr. Baucus, and other lawmakers from agricultural states, would have liked on access to American beef.
South Korea banned American beef imports in 2003 after an outbreak of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad-cow disease, in Washington State.
Shortly after taking office in 2008, the South Korean president moved to open the country’s market to American beef, but he was confronted with major antigovernment protests and riots that threatened to bring down his government. South Korea continues to limit American imports to beef from cattle under 30 months old, a restriction that Mr. Baucus and other American officials consider unreasonable because no mad-cow disease in humans has been attributed to American beef.
The beef issue is still volatile for the South Koreans — it prompted a walkout during last month’s talks — but the economic impact of the 30-month limit is slight since consumers tend to prefer cuts from younger cattle.
Mr. Baucus’s office said he would oppose the agreement unless his concerns were addressed. Other Democrats were skeptical of the deal.
The leader of a group of lawmakers who want protections against jobs moving abroad, Representative Michael Michaud, a Maine Democrat, said, “The deal reached today, while beneficial to the auto industry, falls far short of that goal.”
The Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, called the South Korea deal “a positive development” but urged progress on trade deals with Colombia and Panama negotiated by the Bush administration that have languished in Congress.
Friday, December 03, 2010
Image via WikipediaS. Korea Vows To Bomb The North If Attacked Again : NPR
South Korea's next defense chief threatened Friday that jets would bomb the North if it stages another attack like last week's deadly shelling as he outlined a tough new military policy toward the rival neighbor.
President Lee Myung-bak's government is suffering intense criticism that its response to North Korea's Nov. 23 barrage on a South Korean island was weak, and over the stunning revelation that the South's spy chief dismissed information in August indicating the North might attack the front-line island of Yeonpyeong.
Lee's nominee, Kim Kwan-jin, told a parliamentary confirmation hearing that further North Korean aggression will result in airstrikes. He said South Korea will use all its combat capabilities to retaliate.
"In case the enemy attacks our territory and people again, we will thoroughly retaliate to ensure that the enemy cannot provoke again," Kim said. The hearing is a formality as South Korea's National Assembly does not have the power to reject Lee's appointment.
Kim said it will be difficult for North Korea to conduct a full-scale war because of its weak economy and concerns over a plan to transfer power from ailing leader Kim Jong Il to his young, untested son, Kim Jong Un.
Despite the bold declarations, questions have been raised about Lee's readiness — and even willingness — to stand up to the North. The president has been criticized for leading a military whose response to the attack was seen as too slow and too weak. The North fired 170 rounds, compared with 80 returned by South Korea.
Satellite photos showed only about 10 South Korean rounds landed near North Korea's army barracks along the west coast, according to the office of lawmaker Kwon Young-se, who said he saw the images provided Thursday by the National Intelligence Service.
Despite the pressure, Lee must balance calls for a harsh response with the knowledge that Seoul — a city of more than 10 million people and the economic heart of the country — lies only 30 miles from the Koreas' heavily militarized border and within easy range of North Korean artillery.
South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported Friday that North Korea has recently improved its ability to hit the capital: North Korea now has 5,200 rockets, about 100 more than it used to, the agency said, citing an unidentified South Korean military source. The South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff said it could not confirm the report because it involves military intelligence.
Kim and other senior South Korean officials have warned the North will likely strike again. Kim said Friday that North Korea's leadership and military are South Korea's "main enemy."
China, which is North Korea's only major ally, has pressed for an emergency meeting of the six nations that previously negotiated over the North's nuclear program: the two Koreas, China, Russia, Japan and the United States.
North Korea walked away from those disarmament-for-aid talks in April 2009 but has said it now wants to restart them. Washington, Tokyo and Seoul are wary of talking with the North, and their top diplomats planned to meet in Washington on Monday to plot a strategy on dealing with the country.
Although it won't be part of that meeting, China said Thursday it would keep a "close watch" on the talks and sounded upbeat about what they could achieve.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said in a statement that she also hoped the three countries would consider China's proposal for the emergency consultations. Earlier Thursday, Jiang said that Russia had expressed interest. South Korea, Japan and the U.S. have reacted coolly to the suggestion.
Meanwhile, President Lee said he believes there are signs of change in North Korea, citing the presence of private markets and a growing number of defections to South Korea.
"What should be noted is the change of the North Korean people rather than the change of its leaders," Lee said in comments on the presidential website.
Image by jonathanhstrauss via FlickrCheney May Face Charges in Halliburton Probe in Nigeria
Nigerian authorities investigating a bribery scandal involving the multi-national company Halliburton may file charges against the firm's onetime chief executive, former Vice President Dick Cheney, Agence France-Presse reports.
But it's highly unlikely Cheney will travel to the African country anytime soon -- and officials in Lagos cannot compel his appearance. The anti-corruption case has been percolating for some time and Nigerian elections come around in April, so there could be a political element at play, the Washington Post reports.
The case concerns bribery accusations related a Halliburton engineering subsidiary, KBR, and the construction of a liquefied natural gas plant. Before he was elected vice president in 2000, Cheney headed Halliburton a giant oil services firm.
Cheney is suffering from serious heart problems these days and, as the Post observes, he's not planning a cruise up the Niger Delta anytime soon.
- Dick Cheney to be charged in Nigeria corruption case (guardian.co.uk)
- Officials: Charges possible in Nigeria probe of Halliburton (cnn.com)
China's U.N. influence rising, West should be careful: institute - 1440 WNFL
YDNEY (Reuters) - China's engagement with the United Nations is on the rise as its economic power grows, but the West should be cautious with calls for it to act as a responsible world leader, as Beijing's goals may not be the same as the West's, said a new report on Friday.
Beijing is wielding greater influence at the United Nations, especially in the Security Council, but its pluralist foreign policy means its remains defensive, continues to protect pariah states Iran and North Korea, and defines its interests narrowly.
"China is sending higher-caliber diplomats to New York and providing increasingly robust support to U.N. peacekeeping operations," said author Michael Fullilove, Director Global Issues at the Lowy Institute for International Policy in Sydney.
"China is increasingly willing to take the lead on issues and behave more like a normal great power," said Fullilove, but adds: "On the Security Council, China's new confidence sits along strains of caution and defensiveness."
The report said the world climate talks in Copenhagen in 2009 reflected China's desire to balance its self-interests with its aspirations as a world player.
China, which accounts for 24 percent of global CO2 emissions, opposed a commitment for rich nations to cut emissions by 80 percent by 2050 from 1990 levels and for Copenhagen to be a stage toward a legally binding treaty.
"The Chinese leadership remains overwhelmingly focused on domestic issues. One Chinese interviewee told the author: 'Beijing is not psychologically ready to be an active global player," wrote Fullilove.
But China's foreign policy is changing, even toward its historic support for pariah states.
"Concerned at the fragility of some of the regimes it supports and conscious of its international reputation, China has begun to condition its support in some cases," said Fullilove.
China is being pushed by Washington to bring North Korea to heel after last week's artillery attack on the South, but Beijing refuses to blame Pyongyang for the shelling which destroyed dozens of houses and killed four people, or for the sinking of a South Korean naval vessel in March.
Beijing's frustration with Pyongyang has resulted in a reported public debate in Beijing, with traditionalist favoring support and strategists arguing growing economic ties with South Korea warrants support for Seoul, said the report.
"Beijing needs to strike a new balance between its traditional economic and security concerns and the broader imperatives it must now satisfy, including stable great-power relations, non-proliferation and the development of international prestige," said Fullilove.
"On the other hand, the West needs to be careful what it wishes for. Washington and Canberra want Beijing to be more responsible and active, but they don't like it when Beijing is more assertive. China's version of stepping up is not necessarily the same as the West's."
- U.N. push for North Korea condemnation falters: envoys (reuters.com)
- Factbox: Ties binding China and North Korea - Reuters (news.google.com)
- Editorial: China, the Enabler (nytimes.com)
U.S. Adds 39,000 Jobs in November - Rate Rises to 9.8% - NYTimes.com
n a significant setback to the recovery and market expectations, the United States economy added just 39,000 jobs in November, and the unemployment rate rose to 9.8 percent, the Department of Labor reported Friday.
Included in the latest report were revisions from previous months. The agency now says that the economy added 172,000 jobs in October, instead of the 151,000 jobs previously reported.
November’s numbers were far less than the 150,000 jobs forecast . More than 15 million people remain out of work, and 6.3 million of them have been unemployed for six months or longer.
Private companies, which have been hiring since the beginning of the year, added 50,000 jobs in November. Government jobs dropped by 11,000.
November’s jobs report came during a week when the economy received a smattering of other improving news in the last few days: weekly initial unemployment claims have been trending lower, pending home sales in October topped forecasts and November retail sales jumped by one of their highest increases in years.
- Private Hiring Pickup Forecast for November (abcnews.go.com)
Thursday, December 02, 2010
House Votes to Censure Rangel in Ethics Case - NYTimes.com
WASHINGTON — With his gaze steady and his hands clasped in front of him, Representative Charles B. Rangel stood silently on the floor of House of Representatives on Thursday afternoon as the House speaker read a formal resolution of censure rebuking him for an assortment of ethics violations that brought discredit to Congress.
Despite impassioned last-minute pleas for mercy from Mr. Rangel and a half-dozen of his colleagues, the House voted 333-79 for censure, the sternest punishment it can administer short of expulsion.
Moments after the vote, Mr. Rangel rose from his seat, walked to the well of the House, between the members and the speaker’s podium, where he stood alone as the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, seeming at times uncomfortable, read the one-paragraph resolution censuring him for 11 violations of Congressional ethics rules.
Mr. Rangel asked for a minute to address his colleagues after the censure was read. “I know in my heart I am not going to be judged by this Congress,” he said. “I’ll be judged by my life in its entirety.”
The somber parliamentary rite was as rare as is it is humbling: Just 22 members of the House had been censured before Mr. Rangel, the most recent in 1983, when two members were rebuked for having improper sexual contact with Congressional pages.
The censure marks a staggering fall for Mr. Rangel, 80, a Democrat who has represented Harlem for half of his life, and had risen to become one of the most prominent and well-liked members of Congress.
As a veteran of both the Korean War and the civil rights movement, Mr. Rangel was a feisty advocate of a muscular version of liberalism — fighting to preserve the social safety net with the same zeal he used to oppose military action. When Democrats seized control of the House in 2006, he earned the title of his career- chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means committee, which writes tax policy and had broad influence over spending.
That prominence was short lived.
In July 2008, he was rocked by news reports that he had accepted several rent-stabilized apartments from a Manhattan real estate magnate at prices far below market. True to his brash nature Mr. Rangel fought the charges with brio, asking for the ethics committee to investigate even as he denied any wrongdoing.
In the months that followed, however, a succession of other revelations about his financial dealings raised new ethics questions, including his failure to pay taxes on a beach house in the Dominican Republic or to report hundreds of thousands of dollars in assets on his financial disclosure forms.
Mr. Rangel’s fund-raising for a City College school being built in his honor also became part of the ethics inquiry because he used congressional stationary and postage to request donations and asked for contribution s from companies and executives with business before Mr. Rangel’s committee. In one case, Mr. Rangel’s committee helped preserve a tax loophole worth hundreds of millions of dollars for an oil drilling company that pledged $1 million.
Mr. Rangel indignantly denied using his office to benefit donors or enrich himself, acknowledging only that he and his staff had made inadvertent book keeping errors. But under heavy pressure he gave up his cherished chairmanship of the Ways and Means Committee.
After dragging out the ethics investigation for two years with aggressive legal challenges, Mr. Rangel walked out of a public hearing on the matter last week, saying that he no loner could afford a lawyer. The ethics committee brushed aside his objections— saying that he had been advised to set up a defense fund to pay his legal fees. The panel ultimately found him guilty of 11 of 13 charges.
As the censure vote before the full house neared, Mr. Rangel mounted a lonely campaign to ask House members for the more lenient punishment of reprimand, which would have spared him the humiliation of having to personally appear in Congress as the resolution was read into the record.
His office released a list of 10 reasons that reprimand was a more suitable punishment, arguing that his misdeeds were not as serious as the violations that had merited censure in the past. Mr. Rangel also rallied his supporters, e-mailing 25,000 constituents and admirers and asking them to call the House and urge their representatives to show mercy.
Only a Democrats voted against the censure resolution, however, even after Mr. Rangel and his allies took to the floor urging them to reduce his penalty to a reprimand.
“ I brought it on my myself, but I still believe this body has to be guided by fairness,” Mr. Rangel said, repeatedly asserting that he had tried to enrich himself by his actions.
Several other members spoke on Mr. Rangel’s behalf, including one Republican, Representative Peter T. King of Long Island. Representative Bobby Scott, a Democrat from Virginia, who took part in the Ethics Committee’s investigation, also urged members to use restraint in meting out a punishment.
- Pelosi clashes with Rangel over pending censure (politico.com)
WikiLeaks Archive - Afghan Corruption Undercuts U.S. - NYTimes.com
This article is by Scott Shane, Mark Mazzetti and Dexter Filkins.
WASHINGTON — From hundreds of diplomatic cables, Afghanistan emerges as a looking-glass land where bribery, extortion and embezzlement are the norm and the honest man is a distinct outlier.
Describing the likely lineup of Afghanistan’s new cabinet last January, the American Embassy noted that the agriculture minister, Asif Rahimi, “appears to be the only minister that was confirmed about whom no allegations of bribery exist.”
One Afghan official helpfully explained to diplomats the “four stages” at which his colleagues skimmed money from American development projects: “When contractors bid on a project, at application for building permits, during construction, and at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.” In a seeming victory against corruption, Abdul Ahad Sahibi, the mayor of Kabul, received a four-year prison sentence last year for “massive embezzlement.” But a cable from the embassy told a very different story: Mr. Sahibi was a victim of “kangaroo court justice,” it said, in what appeared to be retribution for his attempt to halt a corrupt land-distribution scheme.
It is hardly news that predatory corruption, fueled by a booming illicit narcotics industry, is rampant at every level of Afghan society. Transparency International, an advocacy organization that tracks government corruption around the globe, ranks Afghanistan as the world’s third most corrupt country, behind Somalia and Myanmar.
But the collection of confidential diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks and made available to a number of publications, offers a fresh sense of its pervasive nature, its overwhelming scale, and the dispiriting challenge it poses to American officials who have made shoring up support for the Afghan government a cornerstone of America’s counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan.
The cables make it clear that American officials see the problem as beginning at the top. An August 2009 report from Kabul complains that President Hamid Karzai and his attorney general “allowed dangerous individuals to go free or re-enter the battlefield without ever facing an Afghan court.” The embassy was particularly concerned that Mr. Karzai pardoned five border police officers caught with 124 kilograms (about 273 pounds) of heroin and intervened in a drug case involving the son of a wealthy supporter.
The American dilemma is perhaps best summed up in an October 2009 cable sent by Ambassador Karl W. Eikenberry, written after he met with Ahmed Wali Karzai, the president’s half brother, the most powerful man in Kandahar and someone many American officials believe prospers from the drug trade.
“The meeting with AWK highlights one of our major challenges in Afghanistan: how to fight corruption and connect the people to their government, when the key government officials are themselves corrupt,” Ambassador Eikenberry wrote.
American officials seem to search in vain for an honest partner. A November 2009 cable described the acting governor of Khost Province, Tahir Khan Sabari, as “a refreshing change,” an effective and trustworthy leader. But Mr. Sabari told his American admirers that he did not have “the $200,000-300,000 for a bribe” necessary to secure the job permanently.
Ahmed Zia Massoud held the post of first vice president from 2004 to 2009; the brother of the famous Northern Alliance leader Ahmed Shah Massoud, he was discussed as a future presidential prospect. Last year, a cable reported, Mr. Massoud was caught by customs officials carrying $52 million in unexplained cash into the United Arab Emirates.
A diplomatic cable is not a criminal indictment, of course, and in an interview, Mr. Massoud denied taking any money out of Afghanistan. “It’s not true,” he said. “Fifty-two million dollars is a pile of money as big as this room.” Yet while his official salary was a few hundred dollars a month, Mr. Massoud lives in a waterfront house on Palm Jumeirah, a luxury Dubai community that is also home to other Afghan officials. When a reporter visited the dwelling earlier this year, a dark blue Rolls-Royce was parked out front.
The cables describe a country where everything is for sale. The Transportation Ministry collects $200 million a year in trucking fees, but only $30 million is turned over to the government, according to a 2009 account to diplomats by Wahidullah Shahrani, then the commerce minister. As a result, “individuals pay up to $250,000 for the post heading the office in Herat, for example, and end up owning beautiful mansions as well as making lucrative political donations,” said Mr. Shahrani, who also identified 14 of Afghanistan’s governors as “bad performers and/or corrupt.”
Then again, another cable reports “rumors” that Mr. Shahrani himself “was involved in a corrupt oil import deal.” He denied the rumors, saying that they were inventions by two rivals who were “among the most corrupt in Afghanistan,” the cable said.
- An Afghan Quandary: Fighting Corruption With Corrupt Officials (nytimes.com)
- WikiLeaks: Afghan vice-president 'landed in Dubai with $52m in cash' (guardian.co.uk)
- WikiLeaks cables reveal panic after Afghan presidential elections (guardian.co.uk)
The Schomburg Center's New Director, Khalil Gibran Muhammad, Talks Black Culture
The new director of the premier research center for African-American culture talks about his famous great-grandfather, coming of age at the time of the Rodney King beating and his plans for the Harlem library.
The torch of leadership has been passed at one of the world's leading research libraries for information on people of African descent, and the new torchbearer is a young scholar with a pedigree steeped in black history. Khalil Gibran Muhammad, 38, has been chosen as the next director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, a Harlem-based branch of the New York Public Library system, effective July 2011.
Muhammad's appointment was made by NYPL President Dr. Paul LeClerc, after the unanimous recommendation of a nine-member search committee co-chaired by library trustees Gordon J. Davis and Henry Louis Gates Jr. (who is also editor-in-chief of The Root). Muhammad succeeds Howard Dodson Jr., who will retire from the post after more than 25 years of leadership. Under Dodson's stewardship, the number of artifacts held by the library doubled to 10 million, and annual visitors tripled to 120,000.
A history professor at Indiana University specializing in the study of race relations and the impact of views held about black criminality, Muhammad received his Ph.D. in American history from Rutgers University in 2004, after a stint at Deloitte & Touche LLP. He spent two years as an Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at the Vera Institute of Justice, a nonprofit organization for criminal-justice reform in New York, before joining the faculty of Indiana University.
A Chicago native, he is the great-grandson of Elijah Muhammad, who led the Nation of Islam during the mid-20th century.
- Harlem's Schomburg Research Center Gets A New Director (theroot.com)
- ArtsBeat: New Director for Schomburg Center Named (artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com)
WikiLeaks website shut down by Amazon & Joe Lieberman - Computerworld Blogs
Senator Joe Lieberman calls on all WikiLeaks website hosters to knife Assange's baby. Amazon obliges, shuts it down, sending it back to Europe.
By Richi Jennings. December 2, 2010.
WikiLeaks website has been shut down temporarily, after Amazon censored it. Joe Lieberman apparently put pressure on Amazon to pull the site. But the cloud service provider isn't talking. In IT Blogwatch, bloggers accuse Amazon of being selective with its freedom of speech defenses.
Wednesday, December 01, 2010
Snipes ordered to Pa. prison for tax evasion | accessAtlanta
ORLANDO, Fla. — Actor Wesley Snipes was ordered Wednesday to voluntarily surrender at a federal prison in Pennsylvania next week to begin his three-year sentence for failing to pay taxes.
The U.S. Marshal's Office ordered Snipes to report by noon on Dec. 9 to the Federal Correctional Institution McKean in Lewis Run, Pa.
Snipes had tried unsuccessfully to remain free on bail while appealing his conviction to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The 48-year-old star of the "Blade" trilogy was convicted in 2008 on three misdemeanor counts of willful failure to file income tax returns in 1999, 2000, and 2001. He was acquitted of five other charges, including felony tax fraud and conspiracy.
His attorney, Daniel Meachum, didn't immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment.
The prison is a medium security facility with an adjacent satellite prison camp for minimum security offenders. Bureau of Prisons spokesman Ed Ross said agency policy prohibited him from saying which unit would house Snipes.
Following his conviction by a federal jury in Ocala, Fla., about 70 miles north of Orlando, Snipes appealed to the appellate court in Atlanta. But the appellate court upheld the conviction and sentence.
Last month, Snipes' attorneys argued at a hearing in Ocala that jurors should be interviewed about whether they had perjured themselves by stating during jury selection that they didn't have preconceived opinions about the case. Meachum said he had received e-mails from two former jurors who claimed other jurors thought Snipes was guilty even before the trial started.
Snipes' attorneys also argued a new trial should be granted because of testimony by Kenneth Starr, a former financial adviser to celebrities, who admitted during a plea hearing last September in New York to cheating wealthy and elderly clients out of tens of millions of dollars.
A judge rejected those arguments, writing that "the defendant Snipes had a fair trial; he has had a full, fair and thorough review of his conviction and sentence. ... The time has come for the judgment to be enforced."
- Wesley Snipes Ordered To Surrender For 3-Year Prison Sentence (huffingtonpost.com)
Image via WikipediaWikiLeaks Archive - Dim View of Russia and Putin - NYTimes.com
Early in 2009, as recession rippled around the world, the United States Embassy in Moscow sent to Washington a cable summarizing whispers within Russia’s political class. Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin, the rumors said, often did not show up at his office.
The embassy titled the cable “Questioning Putin’s Work Ethic.”
“There are consistent reports that Putin resents or resists the workload he carries,” it said, citing Mr. Putin’s “fatigue,” “hands-off behavior” and “isolation” to the point that he was “working from home.”
The cable, approved by the American ambassador, John R. Beyrle, assessed the Kremlin rumors not as indicators of Mr. Putin’s weakness, but of the limits of his position in a period of falling commodity prices and tightening credit. Russia’s most powerful man sat atop Russia’s spoils. The recession left him with less to dole out, eroding “some of his Teflon persona.”
“His disengagement reflects,” the cable concluded, “his recognition that a sharp reduction in resources limits his ability to find workable compromises among the Kremlin elite.” Officially, the United States has sought since last year what President Obama and his Russian counterpart, Dmitri A. Medvedev, have called a “reset” in relations.
But scores of secret American cables from recent years, obtained by WikiLeaks and made available to several news organizations, show that beneath the public efforts at warmer ties, the United States harbors a dim view of the post-Soviet Kremlin and its leadership, and little hope that Russia will become more democratic or reliable.
The cables portray Mr. Putin as enjoying supremacy over all other Russian public figures, yet undermined by the very nature of the post-Soviet country he helped build.
Even a man with his formidable will and intellect is shown beholden to intractable larger forces, including an inefficient economy and an unmanageable bureaucracy that often ignores his edicts.
In language candid and bald, the cables reveal an assessment of Mr. Putin’s Russia as highly centralized, occasionally brutal and all but irretrievably cynical and corrupt. The Kremlin, by this description, lies at the center of a constellation of official and quasi-official rackets.
Throughout the internal correspondence between the American Embassy and Washington, the American diplomats in Moscow painted a Russia in which public stewardship was barely tended to and history was distorted. The Kremlin displays scant ability or inclination to reform what one cable characterized as a “modern brand of authoritarianism” accepted with resignation by the ruled.
Moreover, the cables reveal the limits of American influence within Russia and an evident dearth of diplomatic sources. The internal correspondence repeatedly reflected the analyses of an embassy whose staff was narrowly contained and had almost no access to Mr. Putin’s inner circle.
In reporting to Washington, diplomats often summarized impressions from meetings not with Russian officials, but with Western colleagues or business executives. The impressions of a largely well-known cadre of Russian journalists, opposition politicians and research institute regulars rounded out many cables, with insights resembling what was published in liberal Russian newspapers and on Web sites.
The cables sketched life almost 20 years after the Soviet Union’s disintegration, a period, as the cables noted, when Mr. Medvedev, the prime minister’s understudy, is the lesser part of a strange “tandemocracy” and “plays Robin to Putin’s Batman.” All the while, another cable noted, “Stalin’s ghost haunts the Metro.”
- WikiLeaks cables: Roman Abramovich denies links with Vladimir Putin (guardian.co.uk)
- Wikileaks: Vladimir Putin warns USA to stay out of Russian internal affairs (telegraph.co.uk)
U.S. Won’t End Drilling Ban in Eastern Gulf - NYTimes.com
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is rescinding its decision to expand offshore oil exploration into the eastern Gulf of Mexico and along the Atlantic coast because of weaknesses in federal regulation revealed by the BP oil spill, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced on Wednesday.
Mr. Salazar said that drilling would remain under a moratorium for those areas for at least seven years, until stronger safety and environmental standards were in place.
Drilling will continue in the central and western Gulf of Mexico, although under a set of new safeguards put in place after the deadly BP explosion and oil spill in April. Future gulf leases will be subject to further environmental and safety studies, he said.
Shell’s pending lease in the Arctic Ocean off the Alaska coast will be honored, but drilling will be allowed only after a new environmental review is completed and additional spill response requirements are met. That probably will push the oil company’s plans back by a year or more, officials said. Other potential drilling sites in the Arctic will be studied before any leasing decisions are made, Mr. Salazar said.
“As a result of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill we learned a number of lessons,” the interior secretary said Wednesday afternoon in a briefing for reporters, “most importantly that we need to proceed with caution and focus on creating a more stringent regulatory regime.”
The decision essentially reverses the controversial drilling plan announced in March, which would have begun environmental studies and exploration activity in previously untouched swaths of the gulf and along the East Coast from Florida to Delaware.
That plan, unveiled just three weeks before the BP accident, was part of a political effort to encourage more domestic oil production in exchange for Congressional action to limit the carbon dioxide emissions that are contributing to global warming.
The eastern gulf and the Atlantic Seaboard had been off-limits to oil companies for years because of Congressional opposition, although lawmakers in some Atlantic coast states have been pushing for offshore oil activity to reduce foreign imports and to generate tax and royalty revenue
The Obama administration’s package fell apart as a result of the oil spill and the Senate’s refusal to take up comprehensive legislation on energy and climate change.
The administration imposed a moratorium in May on all deepwater offshore drilling while the new safety procedures were drawn up. Mr. Salazar lifted the ban in October, and oil companies have been seeking new permits to resume exploration in the gulf.
- Flip-flop - Offshore drilling plans reversed (politico.com)
Monday, November 29, 2010
Sunday, November 28, 2010
BBC News - Wikileaks release of embassy cables reveals US concerns
Whistle-blowing website Wikileaks begun releasing extracts from secret messages sent by US embassies which give an insight into current global concerns.
They include reports of some Arab leaders - including Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah - urging the US to attack Iran and end its nuclear weapons programme.
Other concerns include the security of Pakistani nuclear material that could be used to make an atomic weapon.
The widespread use of computer hacking by China's government is also reported.
The US government condemned the release of the documents, which number in the hundreds of thousands, saying they put the lives of diplomats and others at risk.
The founder of Wikileaks, Julian Assange, countered by saying the US authorities were afraid of being held to account.
The leaked US embassy cables, published on the Wikileaks site and at length in newspapers including the New York Times and the UK's Guardian, also reportedly include accounts of:
Iran attempting to adapt North Korean rockets for use as long-range missiles
Corruption within the Afghan government, with concerns heightened when a senior official was found to be carrying more than $50m in cash on a foreign trip
Bargaining to empty the Guantanamo Bay prison camp - including Slovenian diplomats being told to take in a freed prisoner if they wanted to secure a meeting with President Barack Obama
Germany being warned in 2007 not to enforce arrest warrants for US Central Intelligence Agency officers involved in an operation in which an innocent German citizen with the same name as a suspected militant was abducted and held in Afghanistan
US officials being instructed to spy on the UN's leadership by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
The very close relationship between Russian PM Vladimir Putin and his Italian counterpart Silvio Berlusconi
Alleged links between the Russian government and organised crime
Yemen's president talking to then US Mid-East commander General David Petraeus about attacks on Yemeni al-Qaeda bases and saying: "We'll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours"
Faltering US attempts to prevent Syria from supplying arms to Hezbollah in Lebanon
The leaked embassy cables are both contemporary and historical, and include a 1989 note from a US diplomat in Panama City musing about the options open to Panamanian leader Manuel Noriega and referring to him as "a master of survival" - the author apparently had no idea that US forces would invade a week later and arrest Noriega.
In a statement, the White House said: "Such disclosures put at risk our diplomats, intelligence professionals, and people around the world who come to the United States for assistance in promoting democracy and open government.
"President Obama supports responsible, accountable, and open government at home and around the world, but this reckless and dangerous action runs counter to that goal."
Earlier, Wikileaks said it had come under attack from a computer-hacking operation.
"We are currently under a mass distributed denial of service attack," it reported on its Twitter feed.
No-one has been charged with passing the diplomatic files to the website but suspicion has fallen on US Army private Bradley Manning, an intelligence analyst arrested in Iraq in June and charged over an earlier leak of classified US documents to Mr Assange's organisation.
Wikileaks argues that the site's previous releases shed light on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
US embassy cables leak sparks global diplomacy crisis | World news | guardian.co.uk
• More than 250,000 dispatches reveal US foreign strategies
• Diplomats ordered to spy on allies as well as enemies
• Hillary Clinton leads frantic 'damage limitation'
guardian.co.uk, Sunday 28 November 2010 17.50 GMT
The release of more than 250,000 US embassy cables reveals previously secret information on American intelligence gathering, and political and military strategy. Photograph: Rex Features
The United States was catapulted into a worldwide diplomatic crisis today, with the leaking to the Guardian and other international media of more than 250,000 classified cables from its embassies, many sent as recently as February this year.
At the start of a series of daily extracts from the US embassy cables - many of which are designated "secret" – the Guardian can disclose that Arab leaders are privately urging an air strike on Iran and that US officials have been instructed to spy on the UN's leadership.
These two revelations alone would be likely to reverberate around the world. But the secret dispatches which were obtained by WikiLeaks, the whistlebowers' website, also reveal Washington's evaluation of many other highly sensitive international issues.
These include a major shift in relations between China and North Korea, Pakistan's growing instability and details of clandestine US efforts to combat al-Qaida in Yemen.
Among scores of other disclosures that are likely to cause uproar, the cables detail:
• Grave fears in Washington and London over the security of Pakistan's nuclear weapons programme
• Alleged links between the Russian government and organised crime.
• Devastating criticism of the UK's military operations in Afghanistan.
• Claims of inappropriate behaviour by a member of the British royal family.
The US has particularly intimate dealings with Britain, and some of the dispatches from the London embassy in Grosvenor Square will make uncomfortable reading in Whitehall and Westminster. They range from serious political criticisms of David Cameron to requests for specific intelligence about individual MPs.
The cache of cables contains specific allegations of corruption and against foreign leaders, as well as harsh criticism by US embassy staff of their host governments, from tiny islands in the Caribbean to China and Russia.
The material includes a reference to Vladimir Putin as an "alpha-dog", Hamid Karzai as being "driven by paranoia" and Angela Merkel allegedly "avoids risk and is rarely creative". There is also a comparison between Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Adolf Hitler.
The cables name countries involved in financing terror groups, and describe a near "environmental disaster" last year over a rogue shipment of enriched uranium. They disclose technical details of secret US-Russian nuclear missile negotiations in Geneva, and include a profile of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, who they say is accompanied everywhere by a "voluptuous blonde" Ukrainian nurse.
The cables cover secretary of state Hillary Clinton's activities under the Obama administration, as well as thousands of files from the George Bush presidency. Clinton personally led frantic damage limitation this weekend as Washington prepared foreign governments for the revelations. She contacted leaders in Germany, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf, France and Afghanistan.
US ambassadors in other capitals were instructed to brief their hosts in advance of the release of unflattering pen-portraits or nakedly frank accounts of transactions with the US which they had thought would be kept quiet. Washington now faces a difficult task in convincing contacts around the world that any future conversations will remain confidential.
"We are all bracing for what may be coming and condemn WikiLeaks for the release of classified material," state department spokesman PJ Crowley said. "It will place lives and interests at risk. It is irresponsible."
The state department's legal adviser has written to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and his London lawyer, warning that the cables were obtained illegally and that publication would place at risk "the lives of countless innocent individuals … ongoing military operations … and cooperation between countries".
The electronic archive of embassy dispatches from around the world was allegedly downloaded by a US soldier earlier this year and passed to WikiLeaks. Assange made them available to the Guardian and four other newspapers: the New York Times, Der Spiegel in Germany, Le Monde in France and El País in Spain. All five plan to publish extracts from the most significant cables, but have decided neither to "dump" the entire dataset into the public domain, nor to publish names that would endanger innocent individuals. WikiLeaks says that, contrary to the state department's fears, it also initially intends to post only limited cable extracts, and to redact identities.
The cables published today reveal how the US uses its embassies as part of a global espionage network, with diplomats tasked to obtain not just information from the people they meet, but personal details, such as frequent flyer numbers, credit card details and even DNA material.
Classified "human intelligence directives" issued in the name of Hillary Clinton or her predecessor, Condoleeza Rice, instruct officials to gather information on military installations, weapons markings, vehicle details of political leaders as well as iris scans, fingerprints and DNA.
The most controversial target was the leadership of the United Nations. That directive requested the specification of telecoms and IT systems used by top UN officials and their staff and details of "private VIP networks used for official communication, to include upgrades, security measures, passwords, personal encryption keys".
When the Guardian put this allegation to Crowley, the state department spokesman said: "Let me assure you: our diplomats are just that, diplomats. They do not engage in intelligence activities. They represent our country around the world, maintain open and transparent contact with other governments as well as public and private figures, and report home. That's what diplomats have done for hundreds of years."
The dispatches also shed light on older diplomatic issues. One cable, for example, reveals, that Nelson Mandela was "furious" when a top adviser stopped him meeting Margaret Thatcher shortly after his release from prison to explain why the ANC objected to her policy of "constructive engagement" with the apartheid regime. "We understand Mandela was keen for a Thatcher meeting but that [appointments secretary Zwelakhe] Sisulu argued successfully against it," according to the cable. It continues: "Mandela has on several occasions expressed his eagerness for an early meeting with Thatcher to express the ANC's objections to her policy. We were consequently surprised when the meeting didn't materialise on his mid-April visit to London and suspected that ANC hardliners had nixed Mandela's plans."
The US embassy cables are marked "Sipdis" – secret internet protocol distribution. They were compiled as part of a programme under which selected dispatches, considered moderately secret but suitable for sharing with other agencies, would be automatically loaded on to secure embassy websites, and linked with the military's Siprnet internet system.
They are classified at various levels up to "SECRET NOFORN" [no foreigners]. More than 11,000 are marked secret, while around 9,000 of the cables are marked noforn. The embassies which sent most cables were Ankara, Baghdad, Amman, Kuwait and Tokyo.
More than 3 million US government personnel and soldiers, many extremely junior, are cleared to have potential access to this material, even though the cables contain the identities of foreign informants, often sensitive contacts in dictatorial regimes. Some are marked "protect" or "strictly protect".
Last spring, 22-year-old intelligence analyst Bradley Manning was charged with leaking many of these cables, along with a gun-camera video of an Apache helicopter crew mistakenly killing two Reuters news agency employees in Baghdad in 2007, which was subsequently posted by WikiLeaks. Manning is facing a court martial.
In July and October WikiLeaks also published thousands of leaked military reports from Afghanistan and Iraq. These were made available for analysis beforehand to the Guardian, along with Der Spiegel and the New York Times.
A former hacker, Adrian Lamo, who reported Manning to the US authorities, said the soldier had told him in chat messages that the cables revealed "how the first world exploits the third, in detail".
He also said, according to Lamo, that Clinton "and several thousand diplomats around the world are going to have a heart attack when they wake up one morning and find an entire repository of classified foreign policy is available in searchable format to the public … everywhere there's a US post … there's a diplomatic scandal that will be revealed".
Asked why such sensitive material was posted on a network accessible to thousands of government employees, the state department spokesman told the Guardian: "The 9/11 attacks and their aftermath revealed gaps in intra-governmental information sharing. Since the attacks of 9/11, the US government has taken significant steps to facilitate information sharing. These efforts were focused on giving diplomatic, military, law enforcement and intelligence specialists quicker and easier access to more data to more effectively do their jobs."
He added: "We have been taking aggressive action in recent weeks and months to enhance the security of our systems and to prevent the leak of information."