WASHINGTON, Nov. 29, 2010 — The WikiLeaks release of classified State Department documents over the weekend constitutes an attack not only on America, but also on the international community, as diplomats around the globe try to solve the world’s most complex problems, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said today.
Clinton said the publication “puts people’s lives in danger, threatens our national security and undermines our efforts to work with other countries to solve shared problems.”
U.S. diplomats focus on advancing American national interests, Clinton noted, and work with representatives around the world to handle everything from economic issues and recovery to stopping the spread of weapons of mass destruction.
“So let’s be clear. This disclosure is not just an attack on America’s foreign-policy interests,” she said. “It is an attack on the international community, the alliances and partnerships, the conversations and negotiations that safeguard global security and advance economic prosperity.”
The United States regrets the disclosure of any information that was intended to be confidential, including private discussions between counterparts or diplomats’ personal assessments and observations, she added.
Clinton stressed that U.S. official foreign policy is not set through these messages, but in Washington.
“Our policy is a matter of public record, as reflected in our statements and our actions around the world,” she said.
This is the third set of documents WikiLeaks has released. The first set was military reports from Afghanistan, and the second release was military documents from Iraq. Officials of the website have said they will release more classified documents in the future.
Meanwhile, the U.S. government is taking aggressive steps to hold responsible those who stole this information.
“I have directed that specific actions be taken at the State Department, in addition to new security safeguards at the Department of Defense and elsewhere, to protect State Department information so that this kind of breach cannot and does not ever happen again,” Clinton said.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates ordered two reviews of information and intelligence sharing in August. The reviews called on DOD systems officials to disable all “write” capability for removable media on classified computers to mitigate the risks of personnel moving classified data to unclassified systems. He also directed DOD organizations to have a limited number of systems authorized to move data from classified to unclassified systems, and to implement two-person handling rules for moving data from classified to unclassified systems.
More than 60 percent of DOD’s classified net is now using a host-based security system -– an automated way of controlling the computer system with a capability of monitoring unusual data access or usage. The department is speeding deployment to the rest of the classified system, officials said.
In addition, the department is conducting security oversight inspections in forward-deployed areas, undertaking vulnerability assessments of DOD networks, and improving awareness and compliance with information protection procedures.
U.S. Central Command, for example, has increased insider threat training for its intelligence professionals and has started multidiscipline training for traditional security, law enforcement and information assurance personnel at all echelons.
Centcom also has established insider-threat working groups to address the WikiLeaks incident and prevent reoccurrence.
“Previously, oversight was done by humans and, clearly, there were failures there,” Marine Corps Col. Dave Lapan, a Pentagon spokesman, told reporters today.
While “there are some valid reasons” to remove large amounts of information from classified computers, Lapan said, officials are putting obstacles in place to mitigate the leaking of such information. “It will be monitored much more closely,” he said.
In making the changes, defense officials are working toward Gates’ call for a balance between security and information sharing, the colonel said. To prevent leaks, he added, government officials are focused on procedures and technical systems, not who obtains clearances.
Lapan also addressed the vulnerability of the DOD system to future leaks of classified information. “I wouldn’t say it is vulnerable,” he said, “but I can’t say it won’t ever happen again. There are safeguards in place, but it’s up to individuals to follow them.”
The WikiLeaks postings have caused a chilling effect on who may cooperate with government officials in the future, Lapan said. Defense officials know that WikiLeaks still has some 15,000 sensitive documents related to the war in Afghanistan that they have yet to release, he said.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)