WikiLeaks' Vatican cables involve national security, intelligence and religious freedom issues

Wikileaks logo St Peters Basilica CNA Vatican Catholic News 12 2 10

The ongoing WikiLeaks “Cablegate” project could result in the release of more than 800 U.S. diplomatic cables involving the Vatican.

According to an exclusive analysis of preliminary data conducted by Catholic News Agency, many of the cables, which span a nine-year period from 2001-2010, concern human rights and religious freedom issues.

However, more than 50 of the cables reputedly originating from the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See concern intelligence issues, and another five involve national security issues.

Other cables deal with the Vatican’s internal government and its relations with other states.

CNA contacted the U.S. Embassy to the Vatican Dec. 2 but calls had not been returned before publication time.

The Vatican has not yet officially reacted to the leaks, but its daily newspaper L’Osservatore Romano stressed that the release of the cables does nothing to change diplomatic relations between the U.S. and the Holy See.

U.S. Army intelligence specialist Bradley Manning, among others, is suspected of leaking the State Department cables.

However, former U.S. National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski has voiced concern that amid the gossip about world leaders, some of the leaks appear to serve particular interests.

“It’s rather a question of whether WikiLeaks are being manipulated by interested parties that want to either complicate our relationship with other governments or want to undermine some governments. Because some of these items that are being emphasized are very pointed,” he told PBS News Hour on Nov. 29.

Without doubting that many of the cables came from “relatively unimportant sources,” he wondered whether intelligence services are also feeding information to WikiLeaks to exploit a “unique opportunity” to achieve “very specific objectives.”

While the WikiLeaks website has published only several hundred cables, the London-based newspaper The Guardian has released the place of origin, date, time, and subject tags of all of the leaked cables, which total over 250,000.

Of the more than 800 Vatican-related cables, tagged “VT,” 715 apparently originated at the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See.

CNA’s study of the cable data found that among the cables from the U.S. Embassy to the Vatican more than 400 concern human rights and 245 involve religious freedom issues. These cables are respectively tagged as “PHUM” and “KIRF.”

More than 20 cables involve refugee issues and 16 are tagged “human trafficking.” Several dozen cables involve biotechnology and dozens others appear to be related to terrorism.

About 62 entries bear the “IZ” tag, signifying Iraq. Several of these cables were sent in the months before and after the U.S. invasion of the country in 2003.

A March 20, 2001 cable from the Vatican Embassy includes the subject tag “PROP.” According to a glossary provided by The Guardian, this abbreviation means “Propaganda and Psychological Operations.”

U.S. State Department cables from other countries are also tagged as Vatican-related. These cables are from embassies and consulates in countries including China, Israel, Iraq, Venezuela and Vietnam. They are frequently tagged as involving religious freedom and human rights topics.

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Two such cables from the U.S. Consulate at Ho Chi Minh City were sent on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1, 2008. This was a time of major conflict between Catholics and Vietnam’s communist government over confiscated church lands. Another cable came from the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi in early October, 2007.

Other State Department cables involving the Vatican originated at the U.S. consulate in Hong Kong and the U.S. embassies to Germany, France, Italy, the Philippines, Lebanon and Colombia.

James Ball, a journalist working with the WikiLeaks project, on Nov. 29 told the British newspaper The Telegraph that some of the Vatican-related cables would be released “in the next few weeks.”

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