11.28.10 8:00 PM ET
The 9 Most Shocking WikiLeaks Secrets
1. Yemen Takes the Fall for U.S. Drones
Leaked documents reveal that Yemen has been covering up for the U.S in the fight against al Qaeda by saying publicly that attacks initiated by the State Department were directed by Yemen. “We’ll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours,” Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh told General David Petraeus in January 2010. The coverup, made necessary by severe distrust of the U.S. in the Middle East, prompted Yemen’s prime minister to joke about how the president had “lied” to his parliament about the strikes.
2. China Hacked Google—and the Dalai Lama
The Chinese government was behind the much-publicized cyberattack on Google’s computer network this year, according to “a Chinese contact” who told the U.S. Embassy in Beijing about “a coordinated campaign of computer sabotage carried out by government operatives.” U.S. officials have previously declined to finger the Chinese government publicly for the attacks, but the WikiLeaks cable makes clear that Beijing directed hacks into not only Google, but also U.S. and Western allies’ computers, the Gmail accounts of Chinese dissidents, and even the Dalai Lama’s computer.
3. Hillary Commissioned U.N. Spies
Clinton wanted diplomats to snoop out credit-card numbers, frequent-flier details, schedules, email addresses, cellphone numbers, and even DNA of the members of the U.N. Security Council, according to the documents. That includes U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, about whom the secretary of state requested information on “management and decision-making style and his influence on the secretariat.” The requests, which were made in July 2009 and follow similar orders from Clinton’s predecessor, Condoleezza Rice, will no doubt cause embarrassment and could even be illegal: A 1946 U.N. treaty bans “search, requisition... and any other form of interference” of United Nations property.
4. “Feckless” Berlusconi Has “Shadowy” Ties to Putin
The cables are not very kind to Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who is deemed “feckless, vain, and ineffective as a modern European leader” by Elizabeth Dibble, the U.S. envoy to Rome. Another leaked document details Berlusconi’s already known “frequent late nights and penchant for partying hard.” The reports also question the intimate relationship between Berlusconi and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who reportedly use a “shadowy” bilingual go-between and lavish each other with expensive gifts. Secretary Clinton asked her envoys in the two nations to report on any business dealings between the two, in addition to their chummy bromance.
5. Saudi King Wants a U.S. Military Strike on Iran
Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah repeatedly pushed the U.S. to attack Iran, according to the U.S. ambassador there. “Cut off the head of the snake,” the king said in 2008, requesting a military strike against Iran’s burgeoning nuclear program. The Saudi government also called for “severe U.S. and international sanctions on Iran.” Israel also urged action, labeling 2010 a critical year. A June 2009 message describes Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak outlining a “window between 6 and 18 months from now in which stopping Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons might still be viable.” After that, said Barak, “any military solution would result in unacceptable collateral damage” Other cables show that the U.S. believes Iran has received advanced missiles from North Korea capable of striking Moscow and Europe.
This must have weighed down his luggage: Officials working with the Drug Enforcement Agency in the United Arab Emirates last year discovered that Afghanistan’s visiting vice president, Ahmed Zia Massoud, had $52 million on him—in cash. Calling the bonanza a “significant amount,” the U.S. Embassy let him keep it “without revealing the money’s origin or destination.” Massoud denies funneling any cash out of Afghanistan.
7. U.S. Offers Payouts in Exchange for Guantanamo Detainees
U.S. authorities were so anxious to resettle Guantanamo prisoners abroad that they were ready to strike any deal with a foreign country willing to take them. Officials offered Kiribati, a tiny island nation in the Pacific—population 98,000—millions of dollars in incentives to shelter Chinese Muslim detainees. They also bribed Slovenian officials to take an inmate in exchange for the chance to meet President Obama. Belgium, meanwhile, was told that taking Guantanamo prisoners would be a “low-cost way…to attain prominence in Europe.”
8. U.S., S. Korea Are Planning to Reunite the Two Koreas
As tensions on the peninsula escalate, American and South Korean officials have already discussed plans to unite the two Koreas should the North ultimately collapse. They’ve also considered inducing China to go along with reunification, with the South Korean ambassador telling the State Department in February 2010 that economic incentives would “help salve” China should a united Korea end up in a “benign alliance” with the United States.
9. State Department Gives Low Marks to Germany’s Merkel
The German magazine Der Spiegel, which was among the publications allowed to preview the leaks, immediately zeroed in on the State Department’s cool perception of Chancellor Angela Merkel. The German leader “has not taken bold steps yet to improve the substantive content of the relationship,” wrote former U.S. Ambassador William Timken in 2006. Merkel was also called “ risk averse and rarely creative” in a 2008 message. German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, meanwhile, was deemed “short on substance.”