Damage Control

The big news over the weekend was WikiLeaks’ release of a pile of confidential U.S. diplomatic cables. The website has some 250,000 documents in its possession. And the State Department has been bracing for diplomatic fallout. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.S. ambassadors across the globe have been on the phone warning foreign officials about the release, which the White House has called a “reckless and dangerous action.” State Department spokesman PJ Crowley headed for Twitter. He tweeted late Friday night that Secretary Clinton “reached out to leaders in Germany, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Britain, France and Afghanistan regarding WikiLeaks.” And this morning: “Diplomats collect information that shapes our policies and actions. Diplomats for all nations do the same thing.”

The Pentagon meanwhile is beefing up its security in the wake of this and earlier WikiLeaks document releases. In August, Defense Secretary Robert Gates ordered two reviews of the Pentagon’s information safeguards. Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said that the new measures put in place after the reviews mean that “it is now much more difficult for a determined actor to get access to and move information outside of authorized channels.” The Department of Defense is, for example, making it impossible to copy files onto removable media on classified computers.

In other news, PJ Crowley announced last night that the secretary of state would be traveling to Central Asia and the Persian Gulf this week as part of a previously scheduled visit. Though there will certainly be a bit more on the agenda after the WikiLeaks release. On Tuesday, Clinton will kick off the trip in Kazakhstan for a meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Then it’s off to Kyrgyzstan (a key transit point for supplies and troops heading to Afghanistan), Uzbekistan and Bahrain.

Clinton is also still busy trying to help defuse the situation with North Korea after Pyognyang launched artillery shells at its southern neighbor. She was on the phone on Friday with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, encouraging “Beijing to make clear that North Korea's behavior is unacceptable.”

And Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen said in an interview with Fareed Zakaria that officials had suspicions that a Taliban leader in reconciliation talks with the government in Afghanistan was an impostor. As Mullen put it, “There were very early initial suspicions. And it took a little while to verify who he was or who he wasn't. And, in fact, it turns out that he wasn't the guy that he was claiming he should be.” Mullen also said that as far as he knows, the fake Taliban leader didn’t meet with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, just with the president’s “intermediaries.”