Posts Tagged ‘cablegate’

You read it here first.

Whistleblower Wikileaks today released a confidential cable from the United States embassy in London linking the Philippines to possible smuggling incident of nuclear and other radioactive material. The memo was dated November 21, 2007 and was marked as “sensitive”.

It said that at the time, the location of the nuclear or radioactive material was in the Philippines and that it formerly belonged to the US. At the time the memo was issued, Philippine authorities have not been notified.

The memo said that the UK post “wishes to alert the Department and Washington agencies per reftel that it has received a report indicating a potential incident of illicit trafficking in and possible offer of nuclear and/or radiological materials. This report came to post’s attention via call-in and email. Information concerning this report was relayed telephonically to PMAT at 0715 GMT on 11/21/07.”

The US embassy in London said that “At approximately 1100 hours GMT on 11/20/07, a phone message was received by Post’s Foreign Service National Investigator (FSNI) Unit from a male stating he had information in regard to the sale of Uranium that formerly belonged to the US. He also stated he had previously sent faxes to the Embassy and the CIA, but as yet had not received a response. The source left a contact phone number of: xxxxxxxxxxxx(UK number). At approximately 1200 hours GMT on 11/20/07, the FSNI unit received a phone call from subject, xxxxxxxxxxxx, stating he had worked with divers in the  Philippines previously and was recently contacted by them with information that they had found 5-6 Uranium “bricks” at the sight of an underwater wreck. xxxxxxxxxxxx stated his contacts expressed a desire to sell the “bricks” for profit. At approximately 1700 hours GMT on 11/20/07, an unclassified email was received to the RSO Investigation Unit’s mail box from xxxxxxxxxxxx at xxxxxxxxxxxx, Attached to the email were 9 photos of the substance in question.

This is quite alarming. The memo raises a lot of questions on how and why there would be uranium bricks in Philippine territory. We are a country does not allow nuclear weapons, nor do we operate any nuclear power plant, nor do we allow the storage of nuclear material. At least officially, that is.

The nuclear material “formerly belonged” to the US according to the leaked cable.

We can only think of a few American entities in the Philippines that are nuclear-capable. These are the US troops, like those based in Mindanao and elswehere. The question is, what are the US forces doing with nuclear material in our country? How are they able to

Under the VFA, Philippine authorities are not allowed to inspect the warships of the US forces. The US commanders merely issue a general statement certifying the contents of the vehicles.

Was there a US vessel that sunk or crashed in Philippine waaters, and is this what’s being described as the underwater wreck? Was this vessel nuclear-powered or nuclear-capable?

We seek a response from the Department of Foreign Affairs if they were at anytime notified of such a situation and if there were any reports of a US vessel sinking anywhere in the Philippines.

Does the DFA even know about this or were they at any point formally notified by the US government? Or was this kept a secret because it will expose the US government’s violation of the constitutional ban on nuclear weapons.

At the very least, the US government and Philippine government should issue their explanation. The people deserve to know.

So far the DFA has refused to comment on the leaked cable, saying it has a policy not to comment on unverified or raw intel reports. We also find this hard to believe especially since when several countries issued travel advisories against the Philippines based on “raw and unverified” intel reports, the DFA was quick to issue its reaction.

Another explanation I heard was that the whole uranium thing could be part of a scam to get money from governments. This was relayed by a diver involved in such search operations. The diver allegedly confirmed that there was a spike in diving and retrieval operations in 2007 but that no uranium was found.

Just the same, in the name of national interest, the DFA can’t simply dismiss the leaked cable. Not when it involves the safety and security of our people. The least it could do is formally inquire with the US government and ask why they were not notified (if such were the case).

Otherwise, we get the impression that the DFA is afraid to ruffle some feathers at the US embassy.

Read more Wikileaks entries on the Philippines here:

WikiLeaks Cablegate PH round-up

WikiLeaks “Cablegate” and PH-US relations

Wikileaks PH update: Philippine facilities among list of “critical US infrastructure”

Wikileaks Cablegate PH update: US government wanted to know if Saudi Ambassador to Manila was aiding terrorists

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Wikileaks recently disclosed a long list of pipelines, cables and assets that the US government considers “critical infrastructure” and “key resources”. The US Patriot Act defines “critical infrastructure” as “systems and assets, whether physical or virtual, so vital to the United States the incapacitation or destruction of such systems and assets would have a debilitating impact on security, national economic security, national public health or safety, or any combination of those matters”.  The Homeland Security Act meanwhile defines key resources as “publicly or privately controlled resources essential to the minimal operations of the economy and government.”

The memorandum was relesed on February 2009 and was classified SECRET-NOFORN (not for foreign nationals) and originated from US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The memo sought information from US embassies worldwide on critical infrastructure and key resources abroad that may be vulnerable to attacks. It also included a 2008 list of critical infrastructure and key resources to guide embassies in determining new information. The list is updated yearly as part of the Department of Homeland Security’s National Infrastructure Protection Plan

Critical infrastructure located in the Philippines includes the C2C Cable Network undersea cable landing in Batangas and the EAC undersea cable landing Cavite.

The EAC-C2C network is an “integrated state-of-the-art fiber optic submarine cable network spanning 36,800 kilometers between Hong Kong, China, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines and Singapore. EAC-C2C has a design capacity of 20.48 Tbps” according to the website of its mother company Pacnet.

Other critical sites worldwide include hyrdoelectric plants, pipelines, mining and chemical factories and pharmaceutical companies producing vaccines.

The US government slammed the disclosure as “irresponsible” saying that in endanger the US and other countries hosting the facilities.

Steve Aftergood, director of the Federation of American Scientists’ Project on Government Secrecy thinks there may be no greater danger now than before the list was released. “My own opinion is that there’s no shortage of potential targets that hostile actors might find interesting, and they don’t need a State Department list to assist them,” he told the blog Threat Level. ###

There have not been many mentions of the Philippines in the ongoing Wikileaks Cablegate. One recent classified memorandum from the US embassy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia includes a discussion between a top US security adviser under Bush and the Saudi foreign minister. One of the topics discussed was whether the Saudi ambassador to the Philippines Mohammad Amin Waly was in some way aiding terrorism in the Philippines.

The February 2007 memo was from US Ambassador to Riyadh James Oberwetter. The document was marked “SECRET” and was distributed via the US Secret Internet Protocol Router Network (SIPRNET) and was thus marked SIPDIS.  Recipients of the memo include the US National Security Council and the Secretary of State.

According to the memo, the private meeting was between Assistant to the President on Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Frances Fragos Townsend (not Francis as memo mistakenly states) and Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal. The meeting took place February 6 and covered issues such as counterterrorism and regional political issues. The Saudi ambassador to the Philippines Muhammad Amin Wali was just one of several topics discussed. The private meeting was described by the US ambassador as:

“In a following private meeting with Saud, attended only by the Ambassador, APHSCT Townsend raised US concerns with the potential involvement of the Saudi ambassador to the Philippines Muhammad Amin Waly (Wali) in terrorism facilitation, particularly his intervention to get two members of IIRO out of prison.  Prince Saud said some of his actions may have involved bad judgment rather than intentional support for terrorism.  Waly had been investigated, he said, and no evidence was found regarding his involvement.  Since this (Wali) Ambassador’s assignment in Manila would be ending in several months, Saud asked for USG (US government) evidence of his involvement. APHSCT Townsend said the USG would cooperate with the Mubahith in providing evidence.”

The IIRO referred to by Townsend is the International Islamic Relief Organization, a charity based in Saudi Arabia. The US government considers the IIRO branch in the Philippines and Indonesia as conduits for funding the Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiya. The US government calls it a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist Group”. The designation was made on August 3, 2006. Apparently the IIRO is not the only charitable institution that the US government has designated as a conduit for terrorist funding.

The IIRO has vehemently denied the allegations of the US government. It said that the evidence presented against it were primarily news clippings and secret evidence which IIRO lawyers have not seen. The IIRO secretary general denied its office in the Philippines supported terrorist groups.

Also during the private discussion between Prince Saud and Townsend, the Saudi official complained of the difficulties faced by the Saudi embassy’s bank account in Washington. Saud said that the US bank was conducting a stringent audit of the Saudi embassy’s bank account, beyond what was required by law.

The US government has expressed its frustration over the Saudi government’s handling of allegations of terrorist funding emanating from their country. “While the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) takes seriously the threat of terrorism within Saudi Arabia, it has been an ongoing challenge to persuade Saudi officials to treat terrorist financing emanating from Saudi Arabia as a strategic priority,” says US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in one memorandum.

Other than this minor mention of the Philippines, we have yet to read any cable emanating from the US embassy in Manila. ###


WikiLeaks today began the release of some 251,287 cable transmissions and memos from some 274 US embassies worldwide. The release is being described as a diplomatic bombshell for US diplomacy. It exposes many of the ‘behind-closed-doors’ activities of the US in the conduct of its foreign relations with its allies and rivals.

According to WikiLeaks’ website “The cables show the extent of US spying on its allies and the UN; turning a blind eye to corruption and human rights abuse in “client states”; backroom deals with supposedly neutral countries; lobbying for US corporations; and the measures US diplomats take to advance those who have access to them.” The WikiLeaks site has reportedly been subjected to a Denial of Service attack (hacking) on its first day of release.

Five international media outfits were given access to the complete files. You can check out The Guardian (UK), The New York Times (US), Der Spiegel (Germany), Le Monde (France) and El Pais (Spain). The Guardian has a very informative guide which includes headings and tags but not the full text of the memos. The New York Times meanwhile gives a selection of the transmissions.

Some of the more controversial memos come from the US Secretary of State. In one memo dated July 2009, Sec. of State Hilary Clinton ordered US officials to spy on members of the UN Security Council and the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon. All permanent members of the security council – including Russia, China, France and the UK – were targeted by the secret spying mission, according to the UK’s Daily Mail. Information the US wanted included biometrics, internet passwords and even credit card numbers.

Another leaked file gave a detailed profile of Libyan leader Mohammar Qadafi, citing some of his ‘quirks’ during air travel, choice of hotel accommodation and a description of his Ukrainian nurse as a “voluptuous blonde”.

There’s also the Saudi King pressing the US to attack Iran, and the Yemeni cover-up of US attacks where the Yemeni President said that his government will continue to claim the US airstrikes vs Al Qaeda as Yemen’s own.

The complete files will be released in stages over the next few months.

Focus on the Philippines

Around 1,796 leaked files and transmissions from the total cache are from the US embassy in Manila. The Wikileaks website indicates that there are some 65 “secret” and “749” confidential files included in the cache. Some 982 files are described as “unclassified”.

Except for two files, all the rest of the Manila files cover the period of January 2005 to February 2010, during the regime of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.  The files include “tags” or descriptions of topics such as terrorism, human rights, foreign relations, military operations, military assistance, internal governmental affairs and external affairs.

The period of 2005-2010 was the most tumultuous for Arroyo since it was during this time that protest movements for her ouster reached their peak. Many wondered how the US government treated Arroyo in the face of public clamor for her removal from office. It was also during the same period that the controversies in the VFA came to the fore with the Subic rape case and the decisions of the Supreme Court in relation to the custody of then convicted rapist Lance Corporal Daniel Smith.

It is no secret that the US embassy in Manila is actually a post for US intelligence gathering and US intervention in Philippine affairs. In the US Counter-Insurgency Guide released in 2009, the US embassy is the command center for US military operations in any country. The US ambassador is also considered a very powerful individual.

To quote the US COIN Guide, “All United States Government COIN strategies, plans, programs, and activities are undertaken in support of the affected government and managed through the U.S. Mission’s Country Team, led by the Chief of Mission (COM) in coordination with the Department of State. As the U.S. Ambassador, the Chief of Mission is the President’s personal representative to the host nation and is responsible for recommending and implementing U.S. policy regarding that country, as well as overseeing all executive branch employees there and the activities of such employees with limited exceptions. Appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate, the Ambassador has extraordinary decision-making authority as the senior U.S. official present during periods of instability and crises. Where a confirmed ambassador is not present, the Charge d’Affaires represents the Secretary of State as the senior diplomat accredited to the foreign government.”

The WikiLeaks files may help us better understand how the US exerts its influence on our country in light of several domestic controversies over the past nine years.

The Philippine government should at the very least be alarmed if it is shown that the US government is actively spying on us, undermining our sovereignty and interfering in our internal affairs. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s dealings with the US government should also be looked into.

The release of the files comes at a crucial moment for PH-US relations when the Visiting Forces Agreement is being reviewed by Malacanang.

The logic of US imperialism is that it thinks it can have its way with anyone. No one, not even the United Nations, is safe from their surveillance operations. And as WikiLeaks pointed out, the US employs a two-faced foreign policy. Things are not always as they seem. Official pronouncements are not always synonymous with official policy.

Maybe through these files, we can better understand the US positions on the VFA and the US troops in Mindanao. We would also like to know why the US has solidly supported the Arroyo government despite widespread calls for her ouster. The US has long been considered one of the main pillars of support of the Arroyo government, even during the most difficult period of Arroyo’s presidency.

It would also be interesting to know what really went on during the visits of US Defense Secretary Robert Gates, US CIA Director Leon Panneta and US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, all of whom visited during 2009. Prior to them, US intel czar and former Philippine ambassador John Negroponte also paid the Philippine a visit.

We will have to wait though for the release of the complete files in the coming weeks. In the meantime, we should closely monitor how other countries are reacting to the potentially damaging expose of US “diplomacy”.

Australia has expressed support for any US action against WikiLeaks and Australian founder Julian Assange. US allies in the Middle East have remained silent on the matter. At any rate, the leak is considered a diplomatic nightmare for the US, and were just scratching the tip of the iceberg.