US to Wikileaks: Release will 'endanger countless lives'

Obama administration warns of threat to counter-terrorism operations; Israel on high alert as US briefs int'l community.

By JPOST.COM STAFF, AP,
November 28, 2010 11:12
2 minute read.
US President Barack Obama gives a media briefing a

Obama stern 311. (photo credit: Associated Press)

 
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The Obama administration on Sunday told whistle-blower WikiLeaks that its expected imminent release of classified State Department cables will put "countless" lives at risk, threaten global counter-terrorism operations and jeopardize US relations with its allies.

In a highly unusual step reflecting the administration's grave concerns about the ramifications of the move, the State Department released a letter from its top lawyer to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and his attorney telling them that publication of the documents would be illegal and demanding that they stop it.

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It also said the US government would not cooperate with WikiLeaks in trying to scrub the cables of information that might put sources and methods of intelligence gathering and diplomatic reporting at risk.

The letter from State Department legal adviser Harold Koh was released as US diplomats around the world are scrambling to warn foreign governments about what might be in the secret documents that are believed to contain highly sensitive assessments about world leaders, their policies and America's attempts to lobby them.

In the letter, Koh said the publication of some 250,000 secret diplomatic cables by WikiLeaks, which is expected on Sunday, will "place at risk the lives of countless innocent individuals," ''place at risk on-going military operations," and "place at risk on-going cooperation between countries."

"They were provided in violation of US law and without regard for the grave consequences of this action," he said. Koh said WikiLeaks should not publish the documents, return them to the US government and destroy any copies it may have in its possession or in computer databases.

Israel, along with various US allies around the world, was on high alert Sunday morning, after being  briefed by American diplomats about the expected release of classified files.

An Israeli government source said that already last Wednesday the US had informed Israel that it could be mentioned in the anticipated WikiLeaks release of the classified US cables and documents.



“They did not want us to hear about it from the media. We appreciated the phone call and we thanked them for giving us the heads up,” the official said.

Another Israeli official added that the American Embassy in Tel Aviv had been calling Israelis named in the documents in order to warn them in advance. The list includes officials in the Foreign Ministry, as well as aides to prime ministers, this official said.

Tovah Lazaroff and Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.

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