The WikiLeaks release of 250,000 documents is, of course, big news - it’s the largest number of published leaked secret documents ever.
There is much excitement about the content, understandably so. The US Administration is less excisted and is apparently concerned about the leaks with the following statements being made:
- “Such disclosures puts at risk our diplomats, intelligence professionals, and people around the world who come to the United States for assistance in promoting democracy and open government”
- “President Obama supports responsible, accountable, and open government at home and around the world, but this reckless and dangerous action runs counter to that goal.”
- “place at risk the lives of countless innocent individuals
- “place at risk on-going military operations,”
- “place at risk on-going cooperation between countries.”
So, the US administration and US Intelligence seem to be pretty concerned about the “risk”.
Clearly, such damaging material would be kept under incredibly tight security? They would probably take the following actions to minimize risk:
- Partition the information – so only certain people could access certain information
- For example, there is no need for all the Brazil analysts to access information on Italy.
- Remove any network connections
- For obvious reasons
- Limit physical access
- High security rooms, CCTV, armed guards, those fancy double key entry rooms you see in movies, etc, etc
- ZERO ability to copy data.
- Systems to prevent photography, printing, etc (obviously USB devices would be blocked
Errr, will no.
Those statements are probably true for critical intelligence, but these cables are NOT even Top Secret. They were just “Secret”, which is pretty low in the world of intelligence, in fact Top Secret is when intelligence circles really start to operate and there several levels above Top Secret.
The data that was stolen was copied from a centralized system, which around 3 million US military and US government workers had access to; from very junior levels upwards.
Much of the data was, according to the Guardian who are involved in leaking the material with WikiLeaks, copied to a CD! I.e – it was nothing more than a drag and drop exercise.
Hardly, high-tech and hardly highly protected data.
There is a staggering lack of security around these secret files. Probably because they contain opinions rather than hard intelligence, source names or signal frequencies.
Given the numerous cases of spying and espionage (see a small sample below, more available here) its likely these cables would already have been seen by other intelligence agencies.
Examples of Spying
- China has previously been accused of (attempting to) stealing information about the F35 and hacking US DoD systems.
- NASA has been previously hacked (presumably by China)
- Robert Hanssen spied for the Russian’s for 22 years, while working for the FBI, during the cold war.
- Iyman Faris aka Mohammad Rauf worked for the FBI and Al Qaeda
- Cambridge Five: Five British agents worked for the Soviets during the cold war.
It highly unlikely that all cases of spying are discovered and made public.
Given the alleged “risks” this data poses, with “countless lives at risk” there was little security around the actual data. In fact it sounds like its harder to get onto a plane with a 500 ml bottle of water than get hold of the “secret” cables.
The 250,000 leaked cables maybe the biggest leak ever published, but it’s probably not the biggest leak ever.