Return to Transcripts main page
CONNECT THE WORLD
Global Fallout from WikiLeaks Revelations; More WikiLeaks Documents Posted; Experts Speculate on Long Term Impact Leaked Documents Will Have on Foreign Relations; Responses to Leaked Documents Equally Startling; Viewer's Thoughts on WikiLeaks; Long-Term Effects of Oil Spills
Aired December 03, 2010 - 16:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MAX FOSTER, HOST: All week, this is where you've seen the WikiLeaks first. Now, we'll take you a step back. In the next 60 minutes, it's all about how this week's revelations are having a global fallout.
Going beyond borders on the day's biggest stories, on CNN, this is the hour we connect the world.
I'm Max Foster in London.
Now, every night, we've had a drip feed of conversations we weren't meant to see, be it Washington, London, Moscow or Islamabad, it seems like everyone has had their turn to be embarrassed.
This hour, we'll pick out the most explosive leaks, we'll look at the ethics of posting them and, of course, the impact. Already, we're learning of a German aide who's been let go after being outed as a U.S. mole.
Joining me tonight, a man who's had a storied career in diplomacy. Tony Brenton spent five years as Britain's ambassador to Russia.
And, of course, our reporters. Atika Shubert is in London following "The Guardian" and "Le Monde".
Tim Lister is a CNN executive editor. He's been poring over the cables since they first emerged.
And since we're expecting the next big leak to be on what's known, in the U.K., at least, as the special relationship, we'll have Dan Lothian, as well, at the White House.
Welcome to all of you.
But let's start with Atika.
And what have you got that's new -- Atika?
ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we are expecting those new documents to talk about the special U.S.-UK relationship. "The Guardian" says they'll be putting out that later tonight.
For now, however, what they're focusing on is actually Afghanistan, and specifically, how British forces have -- have done in Afghanistan. The headline is "WikiLeaks Cables Expose Afghan Contempt for British Military." And this is really about cables that describe Afghan officials, saying they were disappointed at the performance of British troops, especially in the area of Sangin. This is the area where there were the most British fatalities. So this is really a sore point with the British public back home.
FOSTER: OK, Atika, thank you very much.
Let's bring in Tim.
You've been poring over the details of all these cables.
What have you found most interesting about Afghanistan, Tim?
TIM LISTER, CNN EXECUTIVE EDITOR: I think with Afghanistan, we knew it was bad. We had been told that by countless U.S. officials and other allied officials over the last year to 18 months. I don't think we realized it was this bad in terms of the corruption and how pervasive it is at all levels of government and society.
And on top of that, the very awkward relationship with President Karzai. The U.S. ambassador, Karl Eikenberry, saying he really didn't know which Karzai was going to turn up to their next meeting -- sometimes paranoid, sometimes blaming America for absolutely everything that went wrong, other times buoyant and seeing his mission as almost the founding father of the new Afghanistan. So we see a lot of that.
As far as the corruption is concerned, the amount of money, the amount of cash that is leaving the country, at times, $200 million in one month taken out through Kabul Airport to Dubai. Nobody really knows where that money has come from. There's a good chance that a lot of it has come from the U.S. taxpayer.
So those are the two major themes that have emerged in the last week from the Afghan documents.
FOSTER: OK, Tim.
Thank you very much.
We should get, then, the perspective from the White House.
Dan is there.
Have they said anything on all of this -- Dan?
DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Specifically, the White House has been very careful since a lot of these leaks started being made public to not give a sort of endorsement or confirmation of the specifics in these documents. But in this latest round where, you know, Ambassador Ken Eikenberry is talking about the government in Afghanistan and some of the challenges there, pointing out that it's very difficult to sort of deal with the issue of corruption when some of the government officials themselves are corrupt, one U.S. official saying listen, you know, just because this is supposedly, reportedly in a document doesn't mean that there's anything new here. This is the kind of information that has been out there in the public domain. This administration has always talked about this being a major challenge with the Afghan government, to root out corruption. But they certainly believe that this is the government that they have, that they need to deal with in order to go after al Qaeda and the Taliban there.
FOSTER: OK, Dan.
Thank you very much, indeed.
Let's get the perspective, then, from a diplomat, Tony Brenton.
He's had postings in Washington, Cairo, Brussels and Moscow on behalf of the U.K.
Any surprises in the Afghan stuff for you?
TONY BRENTON, FORMER U.K. AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: Not really. I mean everybody knew that the regime was very corrupt. Everybody knew that lots of money was flowing out. Everybody knew that it was very difficult to work with them.
But nevertheless, it's actually quite difficult for U.S. official ambassador reports on that to get out into the public domain, because like it or not, they are the people we have to work with.
FOSTER: On behalf of the Foreign Office, are you insulted by what you've been reading in these cables from the US?
BRENTON: No, not insulted. I -- I think it -- its very sad, really, that the Americans cannot keep this sort of material under wraps. The way diplomacy works, the way the world works is by people talking frankly to diplomats, and governments therefore knowing better what sort of world they have to operate in.
And American diplomacy, and, therefore, America's ability to operate in the world, has suffered very badly as a result of these leaks.
FOSTER: Especially because the U.K. forces have been struggling in parts of Afghanistan.
But do you disapprove of the way it's been interpreted in these cables?
BRENTON: I think you're right, it's no secret that we've had real problems in Helmand. But it -- it's really rather sad that the soldiers on the ground and their families have seen themselves being criticized by the country which we view as our major ally in the region.
FOSTER: And the morale is already fragile there.
BRENTON: Well, when morale is already under pressure, absolutely right.
FOSTER: So it could affect operations, military operations in Afghanistan?
BRENTON: Well, one hopes not. I mean, these are tough guys who know they have a real job to do. But this is unhelpful.
FOSTER: OK, Tony.
We'll have much more from you throughout the program.
Thank you very much.
You're watching a special edition of CONNECT THE WORLD.
Tonight, we're bringing you the week of WikiLeaks.
Next up, we'll break down the most shocking revelations and the gossipy ones, too.
Then, right or wrong, stay with us for the ethics debate. In one corner, one of the editors making the cables public; in the other, a defense expert who says Assange has committed treason.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RODRIC BRAITHEWAITE, FORMER U.K. AMBASSADOR TO MOSCOW: What's the point of not being blunt when you think you're speaking in confidence?
You're not going to pretty around, are you?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOSTER: Maybe not in the past, but is the WikiLeaks expose now going to prompt a more diplomatic use of words?
Our CONNECT THE WORLD special continues, right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: I can tell you that in -- in my conversations, at least one of my counterparts said to me, well, don't worry about it, you should see what we say about you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOSTER: The U.S. secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, at the start of the week there, making light of the leaked cables.
But five days on, the constant drip of diplomatic documents from WikiLeaks has prompted a ripple of reaction from around the globe.
For more on just how seriously these leaks are being taken, I'm bought -- I'm joined by Atika Shubert, who is in the London newsroom for us -- Atika.
SHUBERT: Well, it's been a whole week of revelations. But there have been a few highlights.
Here are the best of them.
SHUBERT: (voice-over): (AUDIO GAP) cables that showed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asking diplomats to spy on top U.N. officials, including the gathering of biometric data.
The Gulf States revealed Yemen's president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, is on record telling the U.S. general, David Petraeus, that he has, quote, "lied to parliament about U.S. attacks on terror suspects in the country. Quote, "We'll continue to say they are our bombs, not yours," the U.S. embassy in Sanaa quoted him as saying.
The private views of the Bahrainian and Saudi kings on Iran's nuclear policy remain excruciatingly public. Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah pushed for a U.S. military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities, quote, "cut off the head from the snake," he urged the U.S. ambassador to Riyadh.
China was revealed to be a not so strong ally of North Korea. One Chinese official described the hermit state as acting like a, quote, "spoiled child," saying, "We may not like them, but they are our neighbors."
US diplomats also reported on Russia under President Vladimir Putin as a, quote, "mafia state," dissecting money-driven politics of Putin's closest allies, including the mayor of Moscow. And suspicions by U.S. diplomats that the close friendship of Putin and Italian president, Silvio Berlusconi, may also be fueled by financial interests.
Corruption in Russia is bad, the cables say, but in Afghanistan, it is overwhelming and at every level of society. Afghanistan's vice president was caught smuggling out $52 million in cash out of the airport, the cables revealed, though he denies it. While President Hamid Karzai himself was described by the U.S. ambassador to Kabul as, quote, "a paranoid and weak individual unfamiliar with the basics of national building."
And then there were the embarrassing profiles of world leaders. Russian leaders Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev were described at Batman and Robin. "Slanderous," was Putin's response to that.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel was describe succinctly as "avoids risk, rarely creative."
And French President Nicolas Sarkozy, "thin-skinned and authoritarian."
The most juicy cable, possibly Libyan leader, Moammar al-Gadhafi and the, quote, "voluptuous blonde Ukraine nurse" that acts as his personal aide.
Is there more to come?
Well, perhaps. WikiLeaks has released only several hundred of the quarter of a million diplomatic cables in its possession.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
SHUBERT: The big concern, of course, is that this is going to put real restraints on diplomatic reporting back to the secretary of State, that sources may simply not tell U.S. embassies as much as they used to because they don't know if what they say is going to be kept secret.
FOSTER: Atika, thank you very much.
Now, as the leaks dropped throughout the week, we reached out to our correspondents on the ground in each of the countries named in those cables.
Let's rewind now, and take a look back at those reactions.
REZA SAYAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Monday downplaying the diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks, calling them "worthless propaganda that won't impact Iran's relations with Persian Gulf states." Mr. Ahmadinejad calling Iran's Arab neighbors, "brothers and friends."
But one look at these diplomatic cables paints a very different picture. Over and over again, you see Iran's Sunni-led Arab neighbors making a persistent push for the U.S. to attack Iran.
EUNICE YOON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The latest U.S. diplomatic cables confirm what many China watchers have suspected for years, that China is growing frustrated with North Korea. One cable dating back to April 2009 was particularly telling. It referred to a conversation with a Chinese vice foreign minister, who called North Korea a "spoiled child," trying to get the attention of Washington by carrying out missile tests.
JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Almost all the focus of the WikiLeaks releases has been on how this is going to damage the United States, damage its international policy. But Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is trying to make the case that this is going to damage not only the U.S., but alliances around the world.
SAYAH: These latest leaked cables on Pakistan don't really give us a lot of information that we didn't know before. But certainly the detail and the color is unprecedented. The cables show that Washington has an acute concern and anxiety about Pakistan's nuclear material.
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the latest cables leaked by WikiLeaks describe a pyramid of corruption in Russia. One secret account from February this year focuses on the Moscow city government, which it says operates like a kleptocracy, with the then mayor, Yuri Luzhkov, at the top maintaining links with criminal groups and receiving bribes from businesses.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
FOSTER: Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia just four of the countries caught up in the WikiLeaks controversy this week.
But will the mud stick?
British diplomats, former British diplomat, Tony Benton, joins me again now.
Tony, how many of these leaks would you say have truly global implications, are really important?
BENTON: Well, I mean, several of them. I mean the fact that the leaders in the Gulf having been very careful in public in their attitude to Iran are recommending that the Americans actually take out Iran's nuclear facilities is quite a major political development. And (INAUDIBLE)...
FOSTER: Did that surprise you, what...
BENTON: Well, I found it...
FOSTER: -- what we heard from (INAUDIBLE)?
BENTON: Well, I think everybody knew that they didn't like the Iranians, but that they were giving such frank and aggressive advice to the Americans, did surprise me.
FOSTER: And staying on that point, what will they make of the fact that their conversations have been recorded and are seen by the world?
BENTON: Well, they will be very upset about it. They assumed they were speaking in -- in confidence and that their confidences have now, obviously, been broken. And...
FOSTER: So the same conversations won't be held again at some time?
BENTON: Well, it doesn't follow. I think the Americans now will go to a lot more trouble to protect these sorts of conversations and they will be able to reassure their interlocutors. And over time, confidence will be reestablished. But that's going to take time.
FOSTER: OK, we've got the Saudi cable there.
Then what else did you find had global implications?
BENTON: Well, the other thing that really struck me was this stuff about China being less firmly attached to North Korea than they publicly presented themselves as being. I don't think this is yet formal Chinese policy. But the fact that people are beginning to think that way within the Chinese bureaucracy is really quite encouraging in terms of potential cooperation between the U.S. and China in dealing with a very troublesome, sore point.
FOSTER: And how has the world suffered because of this, in the sense that whatever people think of the United States, they are the -- the country that deals at very high levels with embassies and governments around the world, so those relationships are important and have global implications.
And they've been affected, those relationships?
BENTON: I -- as I say, I don't think the relationships have been very badly affected. But a lot of people's willingness to talk to American diplomats frankly and, therefore, for the ability of the U.S. government to understand how the world really is, has been damaged. And, as you say, the U.S. is the world's ctrl nation. It's important that they have a realistic perception of how the world is if they're to operate most effectively.
FOSTER: We got insight into that perception, didn't we?
FOSTER: OK, Tony.
For now, thank you very much.
Now, one thing is for sure, these cables were never meant for public consumption.
So should they have stayed secret?
And what would -- have we really gained from their release now that most of them, it seems, are out.
We'll explore that next.
FOSTER: Julian Assange may believe his work is for the greater good, but some U.S. lawmakers say he should be charged with spying.
To discuss whether these secret documents should have remained just that, I'm joined here in London by David Leigh from "The Guardian," one of the newspapers which is publishing these leaked cables.
And from Washington, I'm joined by Koori Schake.
She's a former senior defense adviser to John McCain's presidential campaign. And she has described the work of WikiLeaks as "treasonous."
You've got to explain this one, Koori.
Why such strong language?
KOORI SCHAKE, FORMER ADVISER TO MCCAIN-PALIN CAMPAIGN: I am not hearing you.
FOSTER: All right, can you hear me OK now?
SCHAKE: Yes, I can.
FOSTER: When you think about WikiLeaks acting in a treasonous way, can you just explain why you say that?
SCHAKE: Sure. I mean for Americans to reveal classified government information is actually against the law. For foreigners to do it is an act of espionage.
FOSTER: And would you say the same thing about the -- the -- the publications which then publish the WikiLeaks information?
SCHAKE: I think what they did is damaging to the United States. I also think it's illegal. And the people who released the information to them are actually going to be subject to criminal penalties. And the -- the news outlets that have released them, it, will bear some culpability in the damage that's done.
FOSTER: David Leigh from "The Guardian," are you culpable?
DAVID LEIGH, INVESTIGATIONS EDITOR, "THE GUARDIAN": Culpable?
We are very responsible and serious journalists. We've redacted all the -- all the names that -- of individuals who might suffer harm. I think we've behaved in a very, very responsible fashion.
FOSTER: And I -- I'm struggling to -- I'm not actually hearing David.
So, Koori, if you could just step in if you -- if you caught some of that.
SCHAKE: Sure. Gladly. I actually don't think it's responsible to breach the confidence of governments trying to have a private conversation about very dangerous threats, like the Iranian nuclear program. I don't think it's responsible to release that information to the public. I think it will make it more difficult for American diplomats to do the work that's necessary to manage problems.
FOSTER: How would you balance the -- David -- the -- the decision of whether this is in the public interest and whether you are putting intelligence services, countries, people at risk?
LEIGH: These are the kind of decisions news organizations balance all the time. We're a news organization. When we get information, we decide what's in the public interest and we prohibit it. We're only prohibiting a very small fraction of these cables, those cables which we think the public ought to know about.
FOSTER: Have you read cables which have truly global implications which you're not publishing?
LEIGH: Yes, we've read cables, for example, which have got detailed intelligence-related discussions about, for example, Iranian missile capacity. Now, they would cause an intelligence problem if they were published. And we see no particular reason in the public interest to publish them, so we're not doing that.
FOSTER: Koori, I just want to ask you, you're really shocked by the things that you've read in these cables and if you're not, does it really matter?
SCHAKE: Well, I do think the good news is that good old-fashioned journalism and scholarship has told us most of what these cables have said. But there's a difference between me sitting and reading about something and being able to understand it or maybe impute motives or to have foreign heads of state and other folks asserted on the record. That's the difference between releasing these documents.
And I really do think that both WikiLeaks and the news organizations ought to hold themselves to a standard of what public good did this serve to release?
Because I have a difficult time seeing it. It didn't tell us important information that we didn't already know. And it actually is injurious to American diplomats and other countries' diplomats and people who are democracy advocates and others trying to do good work around the world to be able to actually do that work.
FOSTER: Yes, David, what is the public interest here?
SCHAKE: So I think it's damaging that it happened.
LEIGH: The public interest is, I think, a lot of citizens around the world would recognize instantly, they need to know if China is willing to see North and South Korea reunified. They need to know if Arab leaders are urging the United States to start a fighting war in Iran. They need to know that the Russian state is riddled with corruption from top to bottom.
These are things which diplomats know and talk about behind their hands. And I think we're all better off for having a dose of frank reality.
FOSTER: And they are experts in dealing with very fragile situations. And you've sort of scuttled those discussions.
LEIGH: I'm afraid news organizations get leaks, including dispatches from ambassadors, all the time. And we print them up all the time.
FOSTER: OK. Koori, you've got to let journalists do their job, haven't you?
You were talking about sanctions against these journalists, but, actually, you've got to let them do their jobs, whatever you think of what they're publishing?
SCHAKE: I absolutely think journalists should do their job. It's our main protection in this country. It's a wonderful thing, the freedom of the press.
But there's a difference between unleashing a cache of classified documents that are a quarter million large and someone trying to understand the policy and talking to people and getting information about it. I really think both in magnitude and in the kinds of things that these are reporting, they don't add to what we knew in the public sphere, but what they do is damage the ability of the American government to be able to have confidential conversations in ways that advance international peace and security.
FOSTER: But David is a British journalist and he's accountable to his readers only. He's not accountable to the American government.
SCHAKE: Absolutely, he's not. He's accountable to his readers. But, he is also accountable -- and I think the behavior of the news outlets that have published this information, and particularly as WikiLeaks and companies that have assisted in the posting of these documents and people who have assisted in the posting of these documents, have actually done enormous damage. And they're accountable for the damage as well as what they think the good is.
The fact that they are being self-righteous doesn't actually make them right.
FOSTER: David, can you tell us what we can expect in terms of coming material and when we'll get that?
LEIGH: Yes. We're about halfway through a rolling program of disclosure. And it's careful and responsible disclosure, despite what your other interviewee says.
Tonight, we're going to go further on Libya. We're going to disclose the way that Colonel Qaddafi nearly caused a nuclear disaster because he refused to allow canisters of highly enriched uranium to be transported safely, because he was in a fit of pique about not being allowed to pitch a tent when he came to address the UN. I think we should know how irresponsible some of these world leaders are.
We're also going to look at the Yemen.
And we have got a great deal which the British media are going to be very interested in -- about the so-called special relationship between the U.S. and the U.K.
FOSTER: That's coming out in an hour or so, as I understand.
LEIGH: Yes. That's coming out very soon.
FOSTER: David Leigh and Koori Schake.
Thank you both very much, indeed, for joining us on CONNECT THE WORLD this evening.
Now, growing mistrust, resentment and ambivalence -- we're staying with the global fallout from the latest WikiLeaks revelations. That's after the headlines just ahead.
FOSTER: You're back with CONNECT THE WORLD, a special edition. I'm Max Foster. Tonight, we are dedicating the show to the WikiLeaks controversy, and right now, we're awaiting more leaked cables as well, expected to be published any minute now. We'll break down the latest batch to be dropped.
Then, whilst the cables are telling enough, they've prompted in response that are even more startling. Among them, "War is imminent." That from a leader in the Arab world.
And we'll also hear from you. Your tweets and comments on whether WikiLeaks is right or wrong. All those stories ahead in the show for you, but first, we're going to check the headlines for you this hour.
WikiLeaks founder is defending the posting of classified US documents. Julian Assange says not a single person has ever been harmed in the website's four years of publishing.
US president Barack Obama surprised troops in Afghanistan with an unexpected visit. He thanked them for their service and handed out Purple Hearts to soldiers wounded in action. He said the war will be won against the Taliban.
South Korea's new defense minister says Seoul would respond with air strikes if North Korea were to attack again. Pyongyang shelled a South Korean island late last month, killing four people.
A spokesman for Ivory Coast presidential candidate Alassane Ouattara says Ouattara is not conceding after the constitutional board ruled he lost a runoff to incumbent Laurent Gbagbo. Earlier results showed Ouattara won by 10 percent.
Police suspect an arsonist may be behind a deadly wildfire in northern Israel. The fire has killed 41 people over two days. Police say the blaze started at a single location.
A disappointing November jobs report for the United States. The labor department says growth was far lower than expected and unemployment rose to 9.8 percent. More than 15 million Americans are still unemployed.
Brutally honest. Diplomatic exposed, and bombshell after bombshell has been playing out across the globe. All week, Atika Shubert is keeping a close watch on the fallout. Anything new for you in the last hour, Atika?
ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, as promised by the editor of "The Guardian," new information on Yemen has come out. This is really -- sort of goes into more detail what we know about Yemen and US cooperation. Attacks on al Qaeda in the Arabian peninsula. Here, the headline is "Yemen offered US open door to attack al Qaeda on its soil. Dispatches reveal president's secret deal to let US launch missile attacks on al Qaeda in the Arabian peninsula, but claim it as Yemen's own work."
And this is something I actually referred to in my earlier piece in the show, that Yemen's president is quoted as saying that "We'll continue to say the bombs are ours when, in fact, they're yours."
So, this is going to cause quite a stir, probably in the Yemeni public. Not the least of which because the president actually admits in the cable that he lied to parliament.
FOSTER: Atika, fascinating stuff. Thank you very much, indeed. They are out in the open and causing a stir, but will the WikiLeaks have a lasting impact on America's foreign relations? We'll ask that question next.
FOSTER: Unflattering remarks about German chancellor Angela Merkel's cabinet have helped her claim the first political scalps since the release of the WikiLeaks cables. A senior aid to this man, the German foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle, has left his post after admitting passing information to the US.
Helmut Metzner kept American diplomats informed during negotiations to form a new German cabinet last October. The cables from the US embassy in Berlin describe the German foreign minister as "inexperienced, exuberant, and wild."
Descriptions like that show that what many diplomats say in public can be very different to what they say behind closed doors. But are these remarks as damaging as they first seem? Our Senior International Correspondent Dan Rivers has been looking into that.
DAN RIVERS, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Face-to-face contact like this is essential for diplomats, but after these meetings, reports back to base are often candid to the point of being rude, as some of the WikiLeaks documents show.
RODRIC BRAITHWAITE, FORMER UK AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: What's the point of not being blunt when you think you're speaking in confidence? You're not going to pussy around, are you? Why should you? So, of course it's not surprising. And diplomatic reporting has always been blunt.
RIVERS (voice-over): But the way these forthright reports are being transmitted has changed. "Diplomatic cable" is an anachronistic term. Now, it's all electronic.
Twenty years ago, when Rodric Braithwaite was an ambassador, the dumping by WikiLeaks of 250,000 of these cables would never have been possible.
BRAITHWAITE: It's a breach of confidence, which is damaging. It's the fact that if an Italian is identified as having said Berlusconi's a crook and a womanizer to the American ambassador, that is going to damage both of them, and their ability to do business with one another is going to be diminished. That's the damage.
RIVERS (on camera): Here at the US embassy in London, diplomats have a choice when sending a cable. For very sensitive material, they can use what's called a "no-distribution" cable, which only goes to the most senior officials in Washington. It's therefore surprising that the WikiLeaks documents contains potentially explosive material that wasn't sent using this much more secure method.
PETER GALBRAITH, FORMER US AMBASSADOR: I think the most obvious case here is when the Saudi king is telling you that he wishes you would bomb Iran, bomb the neighboring country, that should have gone in a no- distribution cable. That should never have gone into the system where hundreds of thousands of people were going to read it.
RIVERS (voice-over): But others, who've made a career from writing cables, say the leaking of documents is unlikely to cause strategic damage.
CHRISTOPHER MEYER, FORMER UK AMBASSADOR TO THE US: We shouldn't exaggerate too much the embarrassment, because everybody does this. I don't mean everybody leaks. But everybody writes candid pen pictures in their diplomatic cables of presidents, prime ministers, and foreign ministers. So, it's not as if the Americans are alone in this.
RIVERS (voice-over): One result of the WikiLeaks cables being exposed will be a tightening of cyber security, ensuring far fewer officials have access to these frank missives. But it seems unlikely that the candid character assessments will stop. After all, it's almost part of the job description for ambassadors. Dan Rivers, CNN, London.
FOSTER: British diplomat Tony Brenton joins me again, now. Tony, do you think US diplomats and agents, perhaps, were being too complacent with what they were writing and sending off to Washington?
TONY BRENTON, FORMER UK AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: Not at all. As Dan Rivers has just said, it's their job to be frank and to tell things as they see them.
FOSTER: But there's different categories of things they write, isn't there?
BRENTON: Yes, the failure in the US system was a failure of distribution. Obviously, the more sensitive the statement is and the more senior your interlocutor is, the more careful you are with the information you hear. And the breakdown is that they weren't careful enough.
FOSTER: When you were ambassador, the sort of things that you've been reading in "The Guardian" and "The New York Times," for example, would you have made sure that only went to the person you were targeting?
BRENTON: I would have made sure that it went, yes, to a very small circle in London.
FOSTER: And that's where they've gone wrong here, perhaps.
BRENTON: Exactly so. Exactly so.
FOSTER: And do you think it was inevitable that this sort of information was going to get out at some point with internet and the fact that they were so widely distributed.
BRENTON: I don't know about inevitable. We run what we think is a pretty tight system, and we've not been confronted with anything like -- and God forbid that we should ever be confronted with anything like the sort of leakage which the Americans have now had.
FOSTER: Because English, English can be a bit more colorful, can't it?
BRENTON: I've seen some pretty colorful stuff in my time.
FOSTER: OK, so it would it would've been embarrassing to any foreign ministry if their cables got out.
BRENTON: If their private cables got out, absolutely.
FOSTER: OK. Well, we've been getting reaction from around the world all week on this program, and sometimes the reactions have been just as revealing as the cables themselves. Take a listen to what a spokeswoman for the ruling Pakistan People's Party told CONNECT THE WORLD about the use of US drone attacks within the country's borders.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FAUZIA WAHAB, PAKISTAN PEOPLES PARTY: There is a segment in the country who support the drone attacks, and they feel that drone attacks have been helpful in eliminating many of the militants. And there are elements of -- in every institution, unfortunately, who favor or who have soft corner for the militants.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOSTER: I don't think we've really had that sort of clear type of language from Pakistan ever, really, on this subject. And that was in response to a leaked cable. So, it's having an impact that way as well, isn't it?
BRENTON: Yes, it is. I mean, Pakistan has an acute problem, of course, because they want -- the leadership support the war against al Qaeda, but a large proportion of the population are very skeptical about US involvement. So, they have to be very careful and to say things in public which don't precisely match their decisions in private.
And just to respond to the debate you had earlier, I think "The Guardian" man was completely wrong on this point. If you want al Qaeda defeated, then you're going to have to do some things by covert means, which you can deny.
FOSTER: Do you think the media may have scuttled some delicate discussions behind the scenes?
BRENTON: I -- like Kori Schake, I'm a firm supporter of a free media. You get this stuff out into the media and, inevitably, it's going to become public. I don't criticize the media. But I do criticize the laxative controls which allowed this information to get out.
FOSTER: OK, we're going to talk about your expert subject here, Russia. Because Russia in particular came in for some stinging criticism in the leaked cables. Here's how the country's prime minister, Vladimir Putin, responded to one of the accusations on "Larry King Live."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LARRY KING, CNN HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": Well, how about documents that include a cable in which Defense Secretary Robert Gates of the United States is reported to have told his French counterpart that Russian democracy has disappeared, and that the government is being run by security services. What's your response to the American Secretary of Defense saying that?
VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRIME MINISTER OF RUSSIA (through translator): I know Mr. Gates. I met him several times. I believe he's a very nice person. And he's not a bad expert, too. But it is known also that Mr. Gates was one of the leaders of CIA of the United States of America before. And today, he happens to be the Secretary of Defense.
Now, if he's the best expert in democracy in the United States of America, then I congratulate you with that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOSTER: I'll let you take it from there, Tony.
BRENTON: Well, I find it rather engaging, really, that Mr. Putin is so skeptical about the democratic credentials of intelligence chiefs, since he himself, of course, was at one point an intelligence chief.
FOSTER: Absolutely. And he's clearly a bit riled there, isn't he? So, this is damaging in the sense that it's adding a bit of tension to a relationship which is a bit tense already.
BRENTON: I don't think there's going to be a serious impact on US- Russian relations. The US and Russia have too much serious business to do together for this sort of leaking to do any serious damage.
That said, this is one area where I think, actually, the leaks have been quite useful. Because by spotlighting the level of corruption in Russia, they have usefully reinforced those forces in Russia, which I think includes the president himself, President Medvedev, who would like to do something very effective about that corruption. So, not all of the release has been totally damaging.
FOSTER: OK. Let's go on to the Middle East, now, because cables from the Middle East demonstrated a region on edge over Iran's nuclear program, and some of the language there was very stark indeed. Speaking on CONNECT THE WORLD, Prince Hassan of Jordan, the brother of the late King Hussein, expressed his own fears.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRINCE HASSAN, JORDAN: Clearly the new great game from the west Asian point of view, we're talking about Pakistan and India, we're talking about the knock-on effect of relations between India and China, we're talking about developments in the next few months where the president has to finally decide, the president of the United States and, indeed, the Russian leadership, are they interested in stabilizing the region, or are they going to compete in the region for zones of influence in the central Asian republics.
So, I would say that in the next few months, as my nephew the king apparently said a couple of days ago, maybe between now and the end of the Earth that war is imminent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOSTER: "War is imminent." We do hear this, sometimes, from the Middle East. But the fear here is WikiLeaks has nudged it a bit closer.
BRENTON: I find that hard to believe. The Middle East is an area which lives constantly on the edge, and where everybody knows roughly where everyone else is. War is always a possibility there. I don't think WikiLeaks has significantly increased that possibility.
FOSTER: But the public didn't know where the Saudis were.
BRENTON: I don't think it's helpful that the position of the Saudi king has now been made public, but I suspect the Iranians know very well the attitude of the Gulf states to them. It's made cooperation between Iran and those nations which are trying to get Iran into a more sensible place more difficult.
But, finally, Iran and the countries which are dealing with it were going to make judgments very much on the basis of their own national interest. And those national interests haven't altered as a result of these leaks.
FOSTER: OK. And what about the response, then, to WikiLeaks from the Obama administration, very much caught in the center of all of this. Here's what the State Department spokesperson, P.J. Crowley, had to say to us on Wednesday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
P.J. CROWLEY, SPOKESPERSON, US STATE DEPARTMENT: Obviously, this reveals a gap in our security across the United States government. I will say the leak did not happen here at the Department of State. It happened elsewhere. But we have already taken aggressive action. We'll take more action to do everything we can to prevent this from happening again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOSTER: Can you only imagine what's going on within the State Department right now?
BRENTON: They must be horrified. And they will be rushing to stick their hands into as many dikes as they possibly can. They will be reassuring and apologizing all around the world, as we know that Hillary Clinton and others have been doing. And there will be a major loss of effectiveness and trust in the short term.
But as I said earlier, in the long term, the US remains the central nation in the world. People will want it to hear their views on things and, gradually, trust will be restored.
FOSTER: You will know Washington quite well. So, give us an idea of what this means internally to politics, tension between the CIA, State Department, White House, has damage been done there? Is there going to be some -- a blame game behind the scenes, which is going to cause some harm?
BRENTON: I'm sure there is. You just heard the State Department spokesman denying that the leak came from the State Department. There'll be lots of people searching around for where the leak came from. And whoever is identified will suffer bureaucratically and in the internal jostling for position as a result.
FOSTER: But as you said, there are people to be blamed for making the leak vulnerable in the first place.
BRENTON: Yes, but it -- it's obviously people simply not observing the rules. There's levels of conversation which you do not put onto the general distribution system and were being put on the general distribution system.
FOSTER: OK. Tony, thank you very much, indeed, for your insight on this throughout the program. It's been much appreciated.
We've heard from experts and politicians. Now, we're going to get your thoughts, though. There have been an enormous amount of feedback online. Digital Media Producer Phil Han has been monitoring that reaction for us.
PHIL HAN, CNN DIGITAL MEDIA PRODUCER (on camera): Now, the WikiLeaks story may have broken more than five days ago, but it's still creating lots of headlines on social media. This is a look at our trends map, and this is tracking all the real time tweets that are happening right now.
And as you can tell from our map, WikiLeaks is completely dominating the conversation across much of the globe, from Australia across the Americas to most of Europe, as well as parts of Africa and the subcontinent.
Now, on our very own homepage, we've been asking you guys to tell us if you think it was right that WikiLeaks is releasing these documents, or whether you think it went too far. I want to read you just a few of the comments that you guys sent on.
Let's start things off in the United States where Patriot Joe has tweeted, "We need more transparency and we deserve to know what is happening. Why should we be ashamed about keeping things secret?"
In London, Mark Wilton has written into our page by saying, "This damages the US reputation abroad. If diplomacy can't happen behind closed doors, it won't succeed."
And someone calling themselves "Yes We Can't" has written into our page by saying, "Extreme overreach by Washington and the inability of traditional journalists to hold them to account requires these types of extreme or guerrilla measures."
And finally, Daniel has written into our page by saying, "Would you like your private conversations to be published online? Some things are just private and confidential and should not be put in the open."
Now, we've been asking you guys to Skype with us as well to tell us what you think, and we got two very interesting and very different views from two ends of the Earth.
LANCE POTOCKI, SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA: With the information that they're releasing now, it sort of questions the morality, in a sense, maybe they're being more vicious rather than doing good.
DERRIC WONG, TORONTO, CANADA: It's eliciting debate. It's eliciting discussion within the general population. And it's doing something that, I think, WikiLeaks had intended to do from day one.
HAN (on camera): And you can still have your voice heard. Just join in the debate by visiting our homepage at cnn.com/connect. Or you can connect with us on Facebook by just visiting facebook.com/CNNconnect.
FOSTER: Well, if nothing else, this really is a story that's got the whole world talking. Tony, your whole world, the diplomacy world, the spying world, has been exposed, hasn't it, by this story? We all know what it's about now.
BRENTON: Well, you all know that we report back frankly to our governments. That's our job, and we are unashamed of it.
FOSTER: OK. Tony Brenton, former British diplomat, thank you very much, indeed, for joining us on this special edition of CONNECT THE WORLD on the WikiLeaks leaks this week. I'm Max Foster in London, we'll be right back.
FOSTER: All this week on CNN, we are looking at how our actions today are impacting our tomorrows. We began on Monday in Yemen, a country torn between a lucrative cash crop and a disappearing water supply. On Tuesday, we turned to Brazil, where one man's trash has become another man's plan for the future. Wednesday, we took you out to the ballgame to show you how America's favorite pastime and some of its most legendary teams are going green. Thursday, we traveled to Russia, home to 140 million people and a tiny number of organic food producers trying to change the country's eating habits.
Today, Philippe Cousteau takes us on his journey to Mexico to examine the long-term effects of oil spills. Joining him was Dr. Wes Tunnell from Texas A&M University, who has been tracking the tar left behind from the Ixtoc spill of 1979 in the Bay of Campeche. That accident dumped 140 million gallons of oil into the gulf. Here's a portion of Cousteau's report.
PHILIPPE COUSTEAU, CNN INTERNATIONAL CONTRIBUTOR (voice-over): I asked Professor Tunnell to retrace the informal research he'd conducted about the yearly trips to Mexico he made as part of his graduate class at Texas A&M University.
That journey brought us here, to what seems like a tropical paradise off the coast of Veracruz, Mexico. This is Enmedio Island, which fared well during the first couple of months after the spill, until a tropical storm moved in, pushing the oil into the inner reefs and islands.
WES TUNNELL, PROFESSOR, TEXAS A&M UNIVERSITY: And I guess the good side of the tropical storm is that it elevated the storm surge. So, with the water being up, it came over the reef. But it did wrap around the island.
COUSTEAU (voice-over): Dr. Tunnell's students documented with pictures and measurements the oil that had washed into this very lagoon off Enmedio Island.
COUSTEAU (on camera): What has been the evolution? What have you seen happen to the oil over time, as it's become this kind of sandy, weathered oil.
TUNNELL: At first, it was, of course, that gooey kind of chocolate mousse that we heard about last summer and is typical of spills. And I've seen it in the backside, or the leeward side of Enmedio Reef, here, go from about 60 or 65 yards in length and 10 to 15 yards in width and 12 to 15 inches thick over this period of 30 years, continue to shrink or weather during that period of time.
COUSTEAU (voice-over): Dr. Tunnell and I looked for that last large tar mat, but it seems that Hurricane Karl, which pounded this area only this past summer, finally broke it up and took most of the tar somewhere out of sight. Still, we found pieces of oil lingering, even after 30 years.
COUSTEAU (on camera): This oil has been here longer than I've been alive. And it still has that noxious asphalt smell, the same way that if you're in a car when they're laying town new road in front of you or next to you as you're driving along the highway, you can smell that coming through. And it smells the same way. So, there certainly continues to be a level of toxicity to this oil.
COUSTEAU (voice-over): From the state of Veracruz, we traveled 854 kilometers, or 530 miles, to the state of Campeche to continue our quest to find more tar from Ixtoc.
COUSTEAU (on camera): So, where are we headed?
TUNNELL: Up the coast towards the mangrove area that's quite famous in this area.
COUSTEAU: We just spent the better part of three hours to get here in a small local fishing boat. This is a part of 100 miles of pristine, virgin mangrove forest that stretch inland about 15, 20, even 30 miles.
This is -- absolutely has to be one of the last remaining areas quite like this on Earth, with beautiful, healthy sea grass beds, mangrove forests, jaguar, it's dotted with Mayan ruins. And unfortunately, there's also something a little bit more insidious that can be found here. Oil.
COUSTEAU (voice-over): We docked in an area only sparsely populated by mangroves, which Wes suspects still might not have fully recovered from the toxins the oil spill left behind.
COUSTEAU (on camera): Oh, my goodness. Wes, look at this.
FOSTER: And you can see more of what they found this weekend during a special half-hour program hosted by Philippe. That is "Going Green: Our Green Future," Saturday in London at 21:00, 22:00 in central Europe here on CNN.
And CONNECT THE WORLD will take an in-depth look, meanwhile, at a related topic on Monday, and that is climate change. Becky will be at the Cancun summit speaking with the people who will shape the world's climate policies. That's on Monday on CONNECT THE WORLD.
Tonight, though, it's a very good night from us. I'm Max Foster. "BackStory" and the headlines are next, after this short break.