Leaks offer targets for terrorist attacks
WIKILEAKS has released an embassy cable that is a virtual ''how-to'' guide for people wanting to harm the United States through targeted terrorist attacks on infrastructure, according to the website's critics.
The whistleblower revealed a list of global infrastructure and resources that the US considers critical to its national security.
The list, which runs to hundreds of key communications installations, transport hubs, important factories and energy hubs, includes dozens of countries across the globe's six regions.
On the defence ... a spokesman for Wikileaks, and its founder, Julian Assange, denied the cable release would be of use to violent radicals. Photo: AFP
The cable was part of a February 2009 request by the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, for US embassies around the world to update the list, called the Critical Foreign Dependencies Initiative.
It asks embassies to list new sites whose loss could critically affect the public health, economic security or national security of the US. The list is used to identify installations and locations that are of vital importance to the US and could be targeted by terrorists, the cable says.
There are six sites in Australia on the list, including two factories in South Australia that produce the world's only rattlesnake antivenom, two Sydney landings for a huge undersea communications cable, a Melbourne sedative factory and a magnesium mine.
The Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, continues to refuse to comment on specific cables, but when asked about the list, he said ''the publication of the documents that we're seeing is incredibly irresponsible and reprehensible''.
Other important sites include the world's largest chemical factory in Germany, a world-critical crude-oil processing centre in Saudi Arabia, a coltan mine in the Congo and a factory that makes parts for nuclear submarines in Scotland.
Some of the sites are given particular importance, such as the Nadym gas pipeline junction in Siberia, which is described as the ''most critical gas facility in the world''.
The list is not comprehensive, however. In one paragraph it notes that embassies ''do not need to report government facilities overseas managed by [the] state or warfighting facilities managed by other departments or agencies''.
That would explain the omission of the hundreds of global US military and intelligence installations - such as the Pine Gap communications station near Alice Springs and the Kojarena satellite station near Geraldton, in Western Australia.
While the list is also designed to assist in natural disaster preparedness, its main aim is to prevent terrorist attacks on such sites, the cable states.
''The overarching goal … is to build a safer, more secure, and more resilient America by enhancing protection of the nation's [critical sites] to prevent, deter, neutralise or mitigate the effects of deliberate efforts by terrorists to destroy, incapacitate or exploit them.'' Embassies are asked to reply within a month, and to ''consider the necessity of classifying their responses appropriately. Please note the list in its entirety is classified S/NF.''
The S/NF tag means the cable is classified at the secret level - the second highest - and is not to be seen by foreign nationals.
Critics have hit out at the release of the list, saying its release would result in a virtual ''how-to'' guide for people wishing to harm the US.
Mr McClelland said: ''There is information in these documents that when published, could seriously impact the national security of the United States and its allies, including Australia. It's extremely concerning that individuals would so carelessly publish this kind of information.''
The Australian government launched its own critical infrastructure strategy earlier this year, aimed at providing operators of critical sites with information about threats to their sector.
The former British foreign secretary Malcolm Rifkind told the BBC: ''This is further evidence they have been generally irresponsible, bordering on criminal; this is the kind of information terrorists are interested in knowing.''
A spokesman for WikiLeaks, Kristinn Hrafnsson, denied to London's Telegraph that the list would be of use to violent radicals. ''While this cable details the strategic importance of assets across the world, it does not give any information as to their exact locations, security measures, vulnerabilities or any similar factors - though it does reveal the US asked its diplomats to report back on these matters," he said.
The cable is just one among a quarter of a million cables leaked to the website earlier this year, and that are slowly being released to the world via WikiLeaks and its five media partners.