WikiLeaks: Continuing To Threat National Security 

Here is an extract from the BBC website published yesterday, if you found my take on the WikiLeaks interesting I think this will put some more meat on the bones!

Exposing Infrastructure Sites

Of all the leaks to have emerged from this set of releases from Wikileaks, this global list of infrastructure sites which the US considers critical for its national security interest, must surely count as one of the most sensitive. In its preamble, the cable from the US State Department in 2009 specifically notes it was compiled to try to protect US interests from terrorists.In their own defence, those working with Wikileaks have pointed out that they deliberately removed details of names and locations from the secret list.But that has not impressed those who deal with national security issues.

In London the British government condemned the leak unreservedly. The British national security adviser, Sir Peter Ricketts, has asked all government departments to review their computer security.

And Sir Paul Lever, former chair of the Joint Intelligence Committee, called the leak "grossly irresponsible."

But now the information is out in the public domain, it is worth considering in general terms what it tells us about what is nowadays seen as sensitive: what sort of facilities are included and - just as interesting - which ones are omitted.

The Threat of Attack: WikiLeaks

First off, one must note that this is not a list of military facilities. You will not, for instance, find any mention of Diego Garcia, the US military base built on land leased from the UK in the middle of the Indian Ocean which has proved so critical for the recent conflict in Afghanistan.

Instead it is a list of key facilities which, if attacked, could disrupt the global supply chain and global communications, as well as goods and services critical to the wellbeing of the US and its economy.What hits you first and foremost is how important on this list is the unseen network of cables that lie on the ocean bed, linking up the American continent across the Pacific Ocean to New Zealand, Australia, China and other US allies. Similarly, on Europe's coastline it is the cables that reach from the United Kingdom and Ireland northwards and stretch across the US and Canada that apparently give the US government cause to worry.

And these are not the only maritime considerations. We may operate in a new world of virtual communications, but (along with space communications no doubt) what is carried by or under water is still, it seems, essential. High on the list of concerns are major port hubs - in China, Japan and South Korea, or critical sea lanes, like the Straits of Hormuz in the Gulf that carries so much of the world's oil and gas supplies, and the Straits of Malacca between Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia.

The Panama Canal is mentioned. But if warmer temperatures open up the north-west and north-east passages in the Arctic, one has to wonder - for how much longer?

The WikiLeaks So Far

•    Fears that terrorists may acquire Pakistani nuclear material
•    Several Arab leaders urged attack on Iran over nuclear issue
•    US instructs spying on key UN officials
•    China's changing ties with North Korea
•    Yemen approved US strikes on militants
•    Personal and embarrassing comments on world leaders
•    Afghan leader Hamid Karzai freed dangerous detainees
•    Russia is a "virtual mafia state" with widespread corruption and bribery
•    Afghan President Hamid Karzai is "paranoid and weak"
•    The extent of corruption in Afghanistan
•    Chinese leadership 'hacked Google'
•    A list of key global facilities the US says are vital to its national security

Pharmaceutical Emphasis

But perhaps most surprising of all is the long list of pharmaceutical facilities in Europe that are apparently of vital importance nowadays.

Who would have guessed that it is Tamiflu and typhoid vaccines in Switzerland, anti-snake bite venom in Italy, foot and mouth vaccines in the UK and numerous drugs-making sites in Germany that make Europe worthy of so much attention from those who worry about US national security?

The fear of global pandemics or even biological warfare is a subject of considerable discussion, one presumes.

And the omissions? Perhaps the most significant is the lack of any attention to civil nuclear power plants outside of the United States. Fears about nuclear non-proliferation from rogue states continue to plague diplomats and defence strategists, of course.
But if the inference from this list is correct, it seems that when it comes to civil nuclear power, we have moved into an age of asymmetrical threats, fluid and often unpredictable.

Other potential soft targets have moved centre stage, and perhaps the days have gone when security planners believe a terrorist attack on a civil nuclear plant to wage nuclear war, or cause nuclear panic is either particularly likely, or necessarily globally devastating.

I am sure this story has a long way to run, but I would place bets on this site being closed down - one way or another!

What do you think? Feel free to comment on your own views of the WikiLeaks...