In a letter to WikiLeaks, the US State Department said its expected release of diplomatic cables would endanger "countless" lives and that the US will not cooperate or negotiate with the whistleblower website.
The US State Department is trying to limit the damage of the leaks
The US rejected talks with the whistleblower website WikiLeaks, which is expected to release confidential US diplomatic cables from American embassies abroad and the State Department, including frank evaluations of foreign governments and political figures.
"We will not engage in a negotiation regarding the further release or dissemination of illegally obtained US government classified materials," State Department legal advisor Harold Kohl wrote in a letter to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Saturday.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is wanted in Sweden over a sexual assault charge
"As you know, if any of the materials you intend to publish were provided by any government officials or any intermediary without proper authorization, they were provided in violation of US law and without regard for the grave consequences of this action," he continued.
"As long as WikiLeaks holds such material, the violation of the law is ongoing."
US officials said Kohl was responding to a letter from Assange asking for the names of individuals who might be "at significant risk of harm" because of the document release. Kohl responded that Assange's actions would endanger the lives of "countless innocent individuals."
Warning friends and allies
The US was in diplomatic overdrive over the weekend to prep its international allies for the release of the documents.
State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said in a tweet that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been in touch with leaders in Germany, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Britain, France and Afghanistan, while separately adding that she has spoken by telephone with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi about the potential contents of the release. Diplomats have also warned leaders in Israel and Canada.
US Ambassador to Germany Philip Murphy told the Sunday edition of the tabloid newspaper Bild that it was difficult to predict what repercussions the release would have. "At the very least it will be uncomfortable he said," he said.
Murphy says the German-US relationship is not at risk
"We often speak with contacts and try to understand what's going on in our host country and then we report home with what we're hearing and sometimes what we think," he told the newspaper regarding the memos to the State Department from the embassies around the world.
Bild is reporting that the cables are particularly critical of German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, who supposedly is described as being politically weak. Chancellor Angela Merkel also got a negative review, according to Bild, although somewhat less so.
Murphy said, however, that he remains optimistic. "I'm sure that the friendship between the US and Germany will survive this challenge," he is quoted as saying.
Breach of confidence
US ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey told reporters that the release would undermine trust in the US as a diplomatic partner.
"WikiLeaks are an absolutely awful impediment to my business, which is to be able to have discussions in confidence with people," he said. "They will not help; they will simply hurt our ability to do our work here."
The Italian government said it was worried about "possible negative repercussions for Italy." Foreign Minister Franco Frattini told parliament that he had spoken with US diplomats and had been told that "the person responsible for leaking the information has been arrested."
In October, WikiLeaks released 400,000 Iraq war logs
That person is believed to be Bradley Manning, a former army intelligence agent, although US officials have not confirmed the source of the leaks. The technology magazine Wired said that Manning confessed to the leaks via web chat in May. Manning was arrested in connection with the leaks in July.
WikiLeaks is the brainchild of Australian hacker Assange. The first two document releases included US soldier-authored incident reports from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Those documents included allegations of torture by Iraqi forces and the possibility of an additional 15,000 civilian deaths in Iraq.
The documents were originally shown to The New York Times, the British Guardian newspaper, and German news magazine Der Spiegel.
Author: Holly Fox (AFP, AP, dpa)
Editor: Ben Knight/Kyle James