WikiLeaks launches Web War III

WikiLeak's release of 250,000 secret U.S. documents turns the notion of state secrecy inside out -- and may lead to real conflict

Well, that certainly got everyone's attention.

As promised back in June, Wikileaks and its controversial spokesmodel Julian Assange released the contents of 251,287 diplomatic cables on the Web this week, kicking off Cablegate and causing a crisis in international relations not seen since the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, the opening shot of World War I.

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It will probably take months to tease out all the nuggets buried in those documents, none classified Top Secret but many of which contain candid, juicy tidbits about foreign leaders and their governments not intended for public consumption. Recovering from the damage caused by the release of this information will take much longer, if it happens at all.

Imagine every unkind thing you've thought or said about everyone you've ever met exposed to the very people you said or thought them about. That would empty your Facebook friends list in a hurry. Now imagine some of those friends having nuclear weapons. In a word: Ka-boom.

The New York Times received an early copy of the documents -- not from WikiLeaks but from the U.K.'s Guardian newspaper, which shared the docs as part of a collaborative agreement to parse out the impact of the revelations. Reuters and other news organizations have also been poring over the docs since their official release. Some of the choicer bits:

  • U.S. authorities have concluded that yes, the Chinese government was responsible for the hack attacks that infiltrated Google and more than 30 other U.S. companies last winter. We are shocked -- shocked, we tell you -- to learn of such evildoing on behalf of our Chinese comrades.
  • The Saudis are still the primary bankrollers of Al-Qaeda but also wouldn't mind seeing Iran bombed back to the stone age (or at least its pre-nuclear state).
  • The increasing coziness between Russian strongman Vladimir Putin and Italian Prime Minister/Party Animal-in-Chief Silvio Berlusconi has the United States a little worried.
  • China is sick to death of Korea's Kim Jong Il and his ridiculous shenanigans. Even to Beijing, the puppet version of Jong Il in "South Park: The Movie" "Team America: World Police" was less of a nut job.

Alternately, some of the revelations were, well, a bit more soap opera:

  • It seems Libyan strongman Muammar el-Qaddafi has a voluptuous blonde Ukranian travel mate who doubles as his "senior nurse." (Hey, when you live in a desert and want to stay fresh, you require a lot of sponge baths.)
  • Ali Abdullah Saleh, president of conservative Muslim Yemen, apparently appreciates a snort of fine American whiskey now and again. (But he's quite devout about drinking it on his knees while facing east.)
  • The United States suspects Argentine President Cristina Fernandez may be off her rocker. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reportedly wanted to find out if Fernandez was taking medication. You know, you ask the same question of a lot of world leaders.
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