On Sunday, the website WikiLeaks posted online more than 250,000 U.S. State Department documents. Many of the documents reveal secret information gathered by the U.S. State Department about world leaders and foreign governments. Other papers describe meetings that were held between U.S. and foreign officials. The U.S. government fears that the release of the documents could put American diplomatic efforts at risk. And, the documents' release could embarrass the United States and some world leaders who never imagined their conversations would be made public.
Newspapers and magazines around the world printed information contained in the WikiLeaks documents. They gave readers a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the work done by the U.S. State Department. One document revealed that U.S. diplomats collected personal data about the United Nations secretary general, his team and other foreign diplomats.
Hillary Rodham Clinton is the U.S. Secretary of State. The Secretary of State is the chief American representative to foreign nations. On Monday, Secretary Clinton spoke out against the release of the secret documents. "It puts people's lives in danger, threatens our national security and undermines our efforts to work with other countries to solve shared problems," she told reporters at the State Department, in Washington, D.C.
The U.S. State Department has embassies in more than 190 countries. American diplomats work in these embassies. The State Department's mission is to promote U.S. interests around the world. The release of information contained in the documents could make it more difficult for U.S. officials to conduct business with foreign leaders.
What is WikiLeaks?
The unauthorized release of sensitive information to the public is known as a leak. WikiLeaks provides a place for people to leak information without saying who they are or how they got the information. According to the group's website, its goal "is to bring important news and information to the public." In October, the group leaked U.S. military documents about the Iraq war. Over the summer, it posted secret military documents about the war in Afghanistan. WikiLeaks was founded in 2007 by Julian Assange, of Australia.
The White House Responds
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs also spoke out against the WikiLeaks release. He said that the U.S. government is conducting a criminal investigation into how WikiLeaks obtained the documents. Gibbs also said that the U.S. government might take legal action against WikiLeaks. In the U.S. it is illegal to release secret government documents to the public.