Britain prepares for WikiLeaks barrage
Britain was readying Sunday for the flood of secret US diplomatic cables about to be published by the WikiLeaks website, with politicians gearing up to hear what US officials really thought of them.
Prime Minister David Cameron's governing Conservative-Liberal coalition and members of the former Labour administrations of his precessors Gordon Brown and Tony Blair were bracing for the flood of millions of documents.
Some Sunday newspapers quoted government sources as saying that whatever might be coming about Cameron and his coalition, it was nothing compared to what US officials thought of his predecessor Brown.
Several reports said that US ambassador Louis Susman had briefed British officials about the likely contents of the files, amid fears the cables will embarrass both the United States and its allies.
The documents could include reports from officials in Washington and diplomatic posts around the world about issues on which Britain and the United States have collaborated closely, including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Sunday Times newspaper quoted one government official as warning that British citizens in Muslim countries could be targeted in a violent backlash over any perceived "anti-Islamic" views expressed.
"The concern of the UK government is that some of the diplomatic conversations may contain certain phrases (critical) of certain sensitive places by either the US or us in which Britain might be portrayed as being hand in glove with the Great Satan to attack Islam," the official was quoted as saying.
"There is a nervousness that that might inflame the hotheads".
The Ministry of Defence has urged newspaper editors to "bear in mind" the national security implications of publishing any of the files.
British officials said some information might be subject to voluntary agreements between the government and the media to withhold sensitive data governing military operations and the intelligence services.
Britain's biggest-selling newspaper the News of the World said WikiLeaks' Australian founder had a heavy responsibility on his shoulders.
"Computer nerd Julian Assange is on the run this weekend as he prepares to post stolen state secrets on the Internet," the tabloid said in its editorial.
"Things have got a little to hot for the self-styled 'James Bond of journalism'.
"But there may be no hiding place for the hundreds of brave souls his WikiLeaks website threatens to expose."
The Mail on Sunday editorial said there was a "grim irony" in the latest WikiLeaks disclosures.
"Modern states have been great enthusiasts for recording the details of their subjects on databases, brusquely ignoring fears that such things endanger privacy," the tabloid said.
"But had these matters been kept out of vulnerable databases, the problem almost certainly would not have arisen, at least on this scale."
The Sunday Express newspaper said governments needed to get to grips with the fact that it was now harder to keep communications secret in the Internet age.
© 2010 AFP