A serious concern at the White House is that these disclosures will make it more difficult to protect American lives because no country will ever again be confident it can trust the U.S. with confidential information.
Take one example – the President of Yemen, Ali Abdullah Saleh
Yemen is a country that is home to a significant terrorist threat to the US and others – witness the package bomb threat from last month, not to mention last year’s failed Christmas day bomber, Umar Farouq Abdulmutallab, who was radicalized in Yemen. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is the most active al Qaeda affiliate outside of the Af-Pak region.
Saleh is quoted in the leaked cables telling General David Petraeus, then commander of CENTCOM, that when it comes to US operations against AQAP in Yemen, “We’ll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours," remarks that prompted Yemen’s deputy prime minister to "joke that he had just 'lied' by telling parliament" the bombs were deployed by Yemen.
This confidential cable is on the front page of today's New York Times.
The Obama administration is now concerned that Saleh will now have to make it seem as though he's not cooperating with the U.S., he will have to pull back, and that could hurt US counterterrorism efforts.
The same concern is true for counterproliferation efforts, as with the cables showing Gulf countries helping the US with information about Iran’s nuclear weapons program, or U.S. attempts to contain Pakistan’s enriched uranium.
Now the cooperation will dry up and by definition the US will be more at risk, officials fear.
The cable also contain the names of dissidents — people the US brought into embassies in countries with little to no human rights.
“These people will disappear," one official said.
The Wikileaks have massive implications, and the White House contention is that the disclosure of the documents puts at risk not just the lives of dissidents – but all Americans.
Another fear — what the impact will be on information-sharing among US government officials.
One official says this will cause the pendulum to swing back from the 9/11 Commission's push for agencies to share confidential information, with officials no longer recording data as candidly or sharing information as freely.