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State Department relocating people identified in WikiLeaks releases

From Jill Dougherty, CNN Foreign Affairs Correspondent
  • Crowley: "A small number" of people have been moved "to safer locations
  • Crowley says "several hundred" people could be affected
  • Government warns countries against "adverse actions" against anyone identified

Washington (CNN) -- The State Department says it has helped relocate a number of people in other countries who, it says, could be in danger because their names have appeared in diplomatic cables revealed by Wikileaks.

"We are focused on people who have been identified in documents," spokesman P.J. Crowley said Friday, "and assess whether there's a greater risk to them of violence, imprisonment, or other, you know, serious harm, particularly in repressive societies around the world."

"In a small number of cases, we have assisted people in moving from where they are to -- to safer locations," he said. He declined to say precisely how many people have been re-located but described it as "a handful."

The State Department refused a request from WikiLeaks to help redact sensitive information before the documents were released in November, saying the documents were illegally obtained and should not be published. WikiLeaks began releasing what it says are 250,000 cables in small batches to four media outlets that, in turn, did some redaction on their own before publishing their stories.

WikiLeaks published the redacted documents only when the outlets -- The New York Times, Germany's Der Spiegel, Spain's El Pais and Britain's The Guardian -- published their stories.

Crowley said the Department has identified "several hundred" people around the world who could be affected and it continues to pour through documents to assess their situation.

Potential targets include, Crowley "civil society, journalists, government officials."

"In a few instances, we have provided assistance to individuals at risk, and we will continue to reach out to them, to monitor their situation."

In particular cases, Crowley said, the United States has "made it clear to governments that any adverse actions against individuals identified by WikiLeaks will affect, you know, future relations with those governments."

Crowley denied that informing governments could reveal the identities of potential victims. "We make clear to governments, without discussing particular identities that, you know, if -- if they do for some reason move on individuals that may be exposed in cables, that that will be something that affects our relations."

"In certain cases, the people who might be identified are already well known to us and well known to specific governments."

The information is being compiled by a State Department team created in November. It is analyzing Wikileaks documents, Crowley said, and it is "intensively focused on this on an ongoing basis." The team includes 30 to 60 staff at any given time. Much of the team's activity, he said, "is focused here at the State Department. In some cases, the activity is focused at embassies and consulates around the world."