Countries seen pulling back from U.S. over WikiLeaks

By Andrew Quinn

WASHINGTON (BestGrowthStock) – Some foreign governments are reducing engagement with U.S. diplomats and other officials after the release of Wikileaks documents, U.S. officials said on Tuesday in a sign of potential lasting damage caused by the huge public dump of classified cables.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has repeatedly vowed that the Wikileaks releases will not derail key U.S. relationships despite the embarrassing revelations of candid U.S. assessments of foreign governments and leaders.

But officials at both the State Department and the Pentagon said on Wednesday that some foreign governments were already pulling back.

“We have gotten indications that there is at least some change in how individuals and governments cooperate with us, and share information,” Col. Dave Lapan, a Pentagon spokesman, said.

Lapan renewed concerns that would-be informants or established intelligence sources might not be coming forward out of fear they could be exposed, or that governments might become more “circumspect with the information they share.”

“(It’s) hard to quantify. But again we do get a sense that there has been some pulling back because of these revelations,” Lapan said.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said there were no plans for a large-scale reshuffle of U.S. diplomatic personnel who may have been compromised by the Wikileaks documents.

But he conceded that in some cases foreign governments were approaching U.S. diplomatic contacts with new skepticism.

“We do recognize that, on a country-by-country basis, there could well be some impacts,” Crowley told a news briefing.

“We’ve already seen some indications of meetings that used to involve several diplomats and now involve fewer diplomats. I think we’re conscious of at least one meeting where it was requested that notebooks be left outside the room.”

The U.S. assessment of Wikileaks-related damage came as the group’s founder Julian Assange was arrested in Britain on allegations of sex crimes in Sweden.

Crowley declined to comment on what he said was a legal matter, but dismissed as nonsense suggestions that Wikileaks had somehow stumbled upon “a vast global conspiracy centered on the United States.”

“HARD TO QUANTIFY”

Neither Crowley nor Lapan provided specific examples of countries which had reduced their contacts with U.S. officials because of the leaks, which contained a raft of potentially damaging reports on many governments including Pakistan, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Russia.

Lapan said the releases — which this week included a list of sites such as oil facilities and medical supply companies around the world that the United States considers vital to its interests — were already playing into the hands of U.S. foes.

“We have knowledge that our adversaries are out there using this information, but how they are exactly changing their tactics is hard to quantify,” Lapan said.

Crowley said that overall, the Wikileaks release “is going to make the conduct of diplomacy more difficult for a time.”

“The reaction will vary country by country, government by government,” Crowley said.

Clinton has taken the lead in trying to contain the damage of the Wikileaks revelations, making personal telephone calls to foreign leaders to reassure them that the classified embassy cables do not reflect official U.S. policy.

(Additional reporting by Phil Stewart in Washington; editing by David Storey)

Countries seen pulling back from U.S. over WikiLeaks