The Times in a leading article today says the latest revelation by WikiLeaks of a list of installations across the world considered vital to US national security was "a cable too far" and "an invitation to kill".
The leader asks: "Is WikiLeaks a serious journalistic enterprise or a wrecking party? The organisation had given the impression that it had been trying to be more responsible in the past month, after having been accused of endangering the lives of US troops and their helpers by releasing the Afghanistan war logs. But yesterday’s publication of a list of facilities deemed vital to US national security is a step back in the wrong direction. There is a dangerous nihilism in the refusal to distinguish between information that embarasses the powerful, and information that potentially puts lives at risk."
The Times says: "Its decision to publish a list of pipelines, satellites, smallpox factories and other pieces of infrastructure seems to present a clear risk to security and safety. Mark Stephens, WikiLeaks’ lawyer, claims that the information is not new, merely embarrassing to individual governments. But that is something of a cop-out. Most of the sites mentioned were undoubtedly already known, at least within certain circles. But their incorporation into a list of installations whose loss could critically affect US security surely increases the risk of attack. It is bound to prompt would-be attackers to broaden the range of targets that they are considering. It will also enhance the impression that the West is temptingly vulnerable to attack on many different fronts. That is likely to give succour to all those who loathe liberal values and democracy.
"The publication of this list may also cause concern among people living near some of these sites. And it will probably raise the costs of protecting them. Sensibly, the list does not provide street addresses. But in many cases it does give the name of the town, making it relatively easy to locate the installations. There are no details of security measures at any of the listed sites. But that may be scant consolation to those with the task of making them secure.
"The definition of US security is intriguingly broad. The list was provided by US embassies in response to a request by the State Department. Assets that are regarded as “critical” to US interests include an insulin plant in Denmark and the Nadym gas pipeline junction in western Siberia, the transit point for Russian gas going to Europe. In Britain, the list includes places where transatlantic cables make landfall, and a marine engineering company in Edinburgh that is said to be critical for nuclear powered submarines.
"Whoever leaked the US embassy cables is 'an unparalleled hero', Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, said last week. That is an odd use of a term that usually implies exceptional courage, in a noble cause, not the bravado of an anonymous leaker whose positive purpose remains unclear. This latest cable reads like a cable too far.Whether or not these installations are all genuinely vital to US security, publishing them is an open invitation to mischief — if not murder."
- The Guardian's investigations executive editor David Leigh has tweeted: "Times calls #wikileaks cable an 'invitation to kill'. But it still publishes the text for terrorists to read!"
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