Concern over damage done by leaks

ISLAMABAD: The Defence Committee of the Cabinet decided on Friday to convey to the US authorities the government’s reservations over the disclosure of confidential and secret information by WikiLeaks, reliable sources said.

A meeting of the committee, presided over by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, denounced the leak of sensitive information and warned that its continuation would endanger friendly ties among countries.

The DCC meeting was attended by ministers for defence, interior, finance and information, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee and the three services chiefs.

The sources said that a formal stance of the government on the problem caused by the whistleblower website would be handed over to the US authorities through proper channel at an appropriate time.

Some TV channels reported that after the DCC meting, Chief of the Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani called on President Asif Ali Zardari, but neither the Presidency nor the ISPR confirmed the report.

Although the Prime Minister’s Secretariat issued a press release of over 1,000 words on the proceedings of the committee, it did not say a word about the much-talked about leak of loads of top secret information about the country the US embassy had been sending back home through confidential cables.

“There are so many important issues than this (WikiLeaks disclosure) and whatever we have discussed at the meeting has been mentioned in detail in the official handout issued by the Prime Minister’s Secretariat,” Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira told Dawn.

He kept quiet when repeatedly asked if the DCC, which represents the top civil and military leadership, had deliberated upon information released by WikiLeaks over the past few days.

But sources privy to the proceedings confided to Dawn that the issue was very much discussed by the participants during the four-hour meeting. Initially, they said, it was decided to include one paragraph about it in the official statement, but it was later dropped on the instructions of a ‘top official’.

Some participants, according to the sources, wanted that a clear stand should be taken on the WikiLeaks issue in the official statement, but others advised that it should be played down for the time being.

According to the press release, the prime minister said that Pakistan needed to depart from its ‘traditional thinking’ on national security and develop ‘alternative strategies’.

“The multiplicity and size of the challenges to our national security demand that we may have to make a departure from our traditional thinking and look for out-of-box solutions and alternative strategies,” he told the meeting.

Mr Gilani also sought views of the participants on his visit to Afghanistan beginning on Saturday. But the press release did not say anything about what response he had received from the participants.

The prime minister said the committee would meet every three months to deliberate on various aspects of national security.

WikiLeaks fights to stay online as founder’s arrest looms

View of the Interpol “wanted” page for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange taken in Washington. WikiLeaks faced growing pressure as its founder dealt with a new arrest warrant and death threats, while the website hopped around the globe trying to evade efforts to shut it down. As the fallout grew from its release of secret US diplomatic cables, the whistleblower site found new domain names in a string of European countries after its original address was shut down by an American provider. The elusive Assange, who is believed to be in hiding in Britain, faced fresh trouble as Swedish prosecutors sent out a new international arrest warrant for the 39-year-old Australian over sex assault allegations. –AFP Photo/Nicholas Kamm

LONDON: The WikiLeaks website was fighting to stay online Saturday after Sweden issued a new arrest warrant for its elusive chief and it battled cyber attacks and government attempts to silence it.

The whistleblowing website’s founder Julian Assange briefly broke cover to say he had boosted his security after receiving death threats amid the storm unleashed by his site’s publication of some 250,000 US diplomatic cables.

In Stockholm, Swedish prosecutors issued a new international arrest warrant for Assange — who is believed to be in Britain — on sex assault allegations that incorporated missing elements requested by British police.

“They were asking for additional information concerning the maximum penalty for all the crimes and infractions on the file. We usually only include the most severe offence,” which was rape in this case, prosecution office spokeswoman Karin Rosander told AFP.

Reports in Britain said Assange could be arrested within 10 days.

The website was forced to turn to Switzerland for a new domain name after its original address was shut down by an American provider, while Paris tried to ban French servers from hosting it.

The Swiss address was out of service late Friday after the domain name was blocked by the US system provider but WikiLeaks popped up on more than 20 alternative websites.

The latest cables released by the site showed US officials suspected that Yemen had a secret cache of shoulder-fired missiles that could have threatened US forces if the weapons fell into the wrong hands.

Other cables highlighted what US officials described as Britain’s “paranoia” about its so-called special relationship with Washington.

In an online question and answer session with The Guardian newspaper, Assange vowed to resist the “attacks against us by the US.”

“The threats against our lives are a matter of public record. However, we are taking the appropriate precautions to the degree that we are able when dealing with a superpower,” the 39-year-old Australian wrote.

Former US Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee has said those responsible for supplying the leaked cables should face execution, while some pundits have called for Assange to be assassinated.

Assange’s lawyer in London, Mark Stephens, said that neither Scotland Yard nor he had received the new arrest warrant released by Sweden.

Stephens linked the warrant to “sophisticated” efforts to take down the website, suggesting that a “state actor” was behind efforts to silence Assange.

In France, Industry Minister Eric Besson called for WikiLeaks to be banned from French servers, saying it was endangering lives.

“France cannot host Internet sites that violate the confidentiality of diplomatic relations and put in danger people protected by diplomatic secrecy,” Besson wrote to the main body governing the Internet in France.

Amazon booted WikiLeaks off its computer servers on Wednesday following pressure from US politicians, and a day later a group of senators introduced legislation to make it illegal to publish the names of informants serving the US military and intelligence community.

WikiLeaks branded Amazon “cowardly” in a Twitter message on Friday.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has described the leaks as “an attack on the world” and has expressed her regret to Argentine President Cristina Kirchner and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari over their content.

Following cables that revealed criticism of the performance of British troops in Afghanistan, Clinton said she wanted to express her “deep respect and admiration for the extraordinary efforts” made by British forces.

Russia has also been upset by leaks branding it a virtual “mafia state” and President Dmitry Medvedev derided as a “Robin” to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s “Batman”.

At a press conference on Friday with visiting Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi — himself a target of some of the cables — Medvedev said the cables illustrated the “cynicism” of US foreign policy.

The White House told government agencies Friday to take measures to prevent employees without proper authorisation from accessing classified US diplomatic cables on WikiLeaks.

No deal with Taliban, US assured India

WASHINGTON: As the Afghan government engaged the Taliban in talks, the United States assured India that it would not support a power-sharing arrangement between Kabul and the militants.

A cable released by WikiLeaks shows that US Special Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke told visiting Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao in January this year that the Taliban would not be included in any power arrangement.

The Indian foreign secretary had sought US pressure on Pakistan to break its alleged ties with terrorist groups and to permit Afghanistan’s economic links with India to grow. “During the meeting Mr Holbrooke said that some of the anxiety stems from confusion between reintegration and reconciliation,” the cable notes.

The special envoy told the Indian official the reintegration programme was not a political negotiation designed to give Taliban elements a share in power. “The US cannot be a party to any such arrangement, in his view, because the Taliban is allied with the Al Qaeda and the social programmes of the Taliban are unpalatable,” he said. Mr Holbrooke also said the Taliban leadership appeared to have no interest in talking to the international community in Afghanistan.

“Secretary Rao said India needs some deliverables on terrorism before it can engage bilaterally with Pakistan,” the cable notes. Ms Rao readily agreed to Mr Holbrooke’s request for a briefing on Indian training for Afghan security personnel, emphasising that this engagement was transparent. She supported his argument by noting that India had previously provided a detailed briefing on this at the US-India Defence Policy Group meetings.

“We have nothing to hide,” she said.

“Mr Holbrooke assured Ms Rao that he is in favour of Indian assistance programmes in Afghanistan and is not influenced by what he hears in Islamabad,” the cable notes.

“Mr Holbrooke also allayed Indian concerns that UNSCR 1267 policy would be altered with respect to Taliban and LeT leaders such as Mullah Omar, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and Hafiz Saeed.”

Leave a Reply