The U.S. Embassy to the Holy See has condemned “in the strongest terms” the unauthorized disclosure of State Department cables possessed by WikiLeaks. Disclosure of the cables’ contents could be harmful to individuals and international relations, the embassy said in response to questions from CNA.
More than 800 cables in the WikiLeaks “Cablegate” project appear to involve the Vatican. More than 700 were labeled as originating at the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See, a CNA analysis of preliminary data found.
The cables’ subject labels indicate they involve issues regarding intelligence, national security, the Vatican’s internal governance, and Vatican relations with the U.S. State Department. Human rights and religious freedom were among the most numerous subject labels.
Vatican-related cables also involve other countries including China, Cuba, Iraq, Israel, Venezuela and Vietnam.
Around 250,000 State Department cables were reportedly obtained by WikiLeaks, a self-described non-profit media organization. The organization says the documents will expose corruption and provide “unprecedented insight” into the U.S. government’s foreign activities.
Nancy M. McNally, the State Department’s public affairs program assistant for the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See, sent CNA an e-mail response Dec. 3.
“While we cannot speak to the authenticity of any documents provided to the press, the Embassy condemns in the strongest terms any unauthorized disclosure of classified information that could have harmful implications on the individuals mentioned and on global engagement in general between nations.”
The embassy’s response said the United States and the Vatican have “a very productive diplomatic relationship” on religious freedom and human rights issues.
“Our interests and values are often similar, especially in the case of religious freedom and human rights,” the embassy continued. “We work with our Holy See partners in a variety of ways to defend and advance religious freedom in all nations and to advocate for the basic human rights and fundamental freedoms of all people.”
The embassy spokesperson declined to speculate about whether the leaks could endanger that work, saying that the State Department and its embassies will not comment on materials, including classified documents, which may have been leaked.
“As for our partnership with the Holy See, we plan to continue our work in advancing human rights and religious freedom — along with other important initiatives. The unauthorized disclosure of any classified information will not change that.”
Noting the United States’ three decades of diplomatic relations with the Holy See, the U.S. embassy told CNA it expected this “close partnership” to continue “productively into the future.”
A journalist associated with WikiLeaks told the British newspaper The Telegraph on Nov. 29 that some Vatican cables will be released “in the next few weeks.”
Some international experts, including former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, have voiced concern about whether the WikiLeaks organization is being manipulated by “interested parties,” including intelligence agencies, which are seeking to advance their own objectives.
The organization is working with established media to obtain the “maximum possible impact” and has given pre-release access to journalists and researchers from five media partners. These are the French newspaper Le Monde, El Pais in Spain, The Guardian in Britain and Der Spiegel in Germany. The Guardian shared its material with the New York Times.
The five news organizations are working together to review the material and to plan the timing of their reports, the Associated Press says.
Le Monde's managing editor, Sylvie Kauffmann, told the Associated Press that media partners have been advising WikiLeaks on which documents to release publicly and what redactions to make. New York Times executive editor Bill Keller told readers in an online exchange that the newspaper has suggested to its media partners and to WikiLeaks what information it believes should be withheld.
Some of the redacted information includes sensitive material such as the names of State Department sources and personnel.
Earlier this year the New York Times came under fire for its coverage of documents involving Pope Benedict XVI’s response to sex abuse scandals in the Catholic Church. The newspaper used documents provided by a lawyer seeking to sue the Vatican in court. Some media reports on these documents also ignored a key Italian-language memo which provided a broader perspective on the case of a sexually abusive Milwaukee priest.