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Secret US Embassy Cables

What are the US embassy cables?

Wikileaks is releasing classified United States diplomatic cables sent to and from US embassies in countries throughout the world. These cables include orders sent out from the Department of State, embassy reporting about the local governments and details of US government activities in each country.

How many are there and what period do they cover?

Wikileaks will publish 251,287 cables, originating from 274 embassies and dating from 28th December 1966 to 28th February 2010. Of this total, 15, 652 of the cables are marked Secret, 101,748 Confidential and 133,887 Unclassified, although even the 'unclassified' documents contain sensitive information.

What are your motives for releasing these documents?

As US founding father James Madison famously said: "Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives." This basic philosophy of the American revolution inspires all our work.

The cables appear to be the single most significant historical archive every released and affects basic and heartfelt issues all over the world; geopolitics and democracy; human rights and the rule of law; national resources and global trade.

US authorities have said the release may put people at risk. Is this true?

Wikileaks has a four-year publishing history. During that time we have released documents pertaining to over 100 countries. There is no report, including from the US Government, of any of our releases ever having caused harm to any individual. For this release we are releasing the documents in a gradual manner, reviewing them with the assistance of our media partners.

Did you contact the US Department of State ahead of the release?

As part of the review process, we requested the US State Department, which has claimed to have conducted an extensive review of the material of its own over the last few months, to provide the titles of the cables which we should look at with extra care.

The State Department refused to provide that information, or negotiate any other arrangement, suggesting that its desire to cover up at all costs eclipses its bona fide desire to minimise potential harm.

The State Department gave its side of the correspondence to the New York Times and elsewhere at the same time.

Are all the embassy cables being released at once?

No. Instead of publishing the documents all at once, the organisation will be releasing the embassy files in stages.

Why not release everything now?

The embassy cables will be released in stages over the next few months. The subject matter of these cables is of such importance, and the geographical spread so broad, that to do otherwise would not do this material justice.

We owe it to the people who entrusted us with the documents to ensure that there is time for them to be written about, commented on and discussed widely in public, something that is impossible if hundreds of thousands of documents are released at once. We will therefore be releasing the documents gradually over the coming weeks and months.

Why did you choose established "old media" as your initial media partners for the release?

Wikileaks makes to a promise to its sources: that will obtain the maximum possible impact for their release. Doing this requires journalists and researchers to spend extensive periods of time scrutinising the material.

The established partners chosen were among the few with the resources necessary to spend many weeks ahead of publication making a start on their analysis.

Even with this much effort, the five current media partners will only scratch the surface of this material. As a result, Wikileaks will continue seeking media partners to work on the embassy cables.

How does Wikileaks intend to reach people in every country?

How does Wikileaks intend to reach people in every country?

Wikileaks is staging the release of the embassy cables in order to maximise the impact of their release and do justice to the source material. A later phase of this release will involve working with partners in a far wider selection of countries to ensure each country gets to see the real workings of its government�s relations with the USA.

How did WikiLeaks obtain the US embassy cables?

Wikileaks protects its sources. We will not publicly comment on the source of any of our releases, how the information was obtained, or on the security measures used to protect sources identities. Our submission systems are secure and anonymized.

Do you think this information will have a long-term impact?

The US embassy cables cover the serious issues for every country in the world with a US diplomatic prescence. The cables extensively cover the past five years, and reach back to 1966. As far as knowledge about what is truly going on in the world can influence our decisions, this material must result in political change and reform.

What will the affect be on the Middle East?

One newspaper has alleged the cables might destabalize the Middle East. These cables, by giving the players an unvarnished description of how they are seen, there will be a common ground on which to effectively negotiate peace and stability. We do not see this as a risk of destabilisation, but an opportunity for stabilisation and reform in the Middle East.