Posts Tagged ‘WikiLeaks’

An August 2008 cable from the US Embassy in Manila showed the US government’s concern over the human rights situation in the Philippines and its implications on US funding for the country. Mr. Keith Luse, Senior Professional Staff of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, visited the Philippines from August 14-18 as part of a three-nation Asian visit that also included Indonesia and Mongolia.

According to the cable, “the purpose of Mr. Luse’s visit was to conduct a field-based study on bilateral U.S. foreign assistance, and also gather information about the human rights situation in the Philippines, particularly the issue of extra-judicial killings”.

It said that various forms of assistance were being provided by the US to “transform the Philippines into a more democratic, prosperous and stronger sustaining partner of the United States”.

From the discussion of the cable, Luse himself conveyed to the Philippine government the “perception, whether correct or not, that the Philippines was on a downward trend in terms of the rule of law and human rights”.

On the side of the Philippine government, Luse met with Senior State Prosecutor and Head of the Presidential Task Force Against Media Harassment of the Philippine Department of Justice, Undersecretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs, Deputy National Security Adviser, and Vice Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.  Mr. Luse also attended a briefing by the Philippine National Police’s “Task Force Usig,” which is charged with investigating human rights abuses.

“In several meetings with senior Philippine officials, Luse conveyed serious Congressional concern about extrajudicial killings and explained that his trip was essentially a fact-finding visit to learn first-hand about the issue.  He added that he hoped to obtain the Philippine government’s perspective on the nature of the problem and possible solutions,” the cable said.

According to the cable, the Department of Foreign Affairs Undersecretary tried to explain the context of the extrajudicial killings as well as the steps taken by the Philippine government to address the problem. .He said that the Philippine government “took extrajudicial killings seriously and had recently taken a number of steps to address the issue, such as designating 99 special courts to hear such cases and providing additional funding to the Commission on Human Rights”.  He also explained that “the killings did not occur in a vacuum, but resulted partly from the Philippine government’s concurrent fight against three insurgencies (communist, Muslim, and terrorist).”

However, the glaring proof that the Philippine government was not serious in addressing the problem was when the Usec claimed that “many of the killings were actually perpetrated by the Communist National (sic) People’s Army, which was currently purging its ranks of disloyal members as it had done in previous years”.

This was echoed by the Philippine National Deputy Security Adviser’s who heavily emphasized the role of the National People’s Army in the killings. However, he noted that to the extent the Philippine military was involved, it was “rogue elements” within it, as the Melo Commission had concluded.

For his part,the Deputy Director underscored of Task Force Usig also said the cases of extrajudicial killings  were not politically motivated, but the result of personal squabbles, armed conflict, escape attempts, and many other non-political reasons.

These statements show deceit and cover-up by the Philippine government of the real causes of the extrajudicial killings which claimed the lives of hundreds of activists during the time of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. While one Philippine official cited the Melo Commission’s finding that “rogue elements” within the Philippine government may be involved in the killings, Philippine officials completely ignored the most important finding of the Melo Commission. The fact-finding body actually demolished the theory that an NPA internal purge was behind the extrajudicial killings. This was in fact discussed extensively in the Melo report. The officials were either ignorant of the Melo findings or were simply lying.

Different agencies like the USAID, the MCC and JUSMAG were providing various forms of assistance to the Philippine government in relation to the rule of law and human rights. It said that the “Joint U.S. Military Assistance Group’s support to Philippine Defense Reform is helping build a more professional and accountable Philippine military”.

We don’t know what they mean by a “professional and accountable Philippine military, but it is a well known fact that the AFP’s counter-insurgency program is under the guidance and direction of the US military through the JUSMAG. The reality is that there has been no accountability in the AFP on the issue of extrajudicial killings.

What was the reaction of Luse after the briefing? “Luse was grateful for the perspective he gained from the briefing and requested that the Task Force continue regularly to brief Embassy officials,” the cable said. Despite the obvious efforts of the PH government officials to cover-up or downplay the issue of extrajudicial killings, the US embassy saw the visit of Luse as affording “excellent opportunities for substantive discussions of these challenges and opportunities in the Philippines and for U.S. bilateral assistance”.

Eventually the US Congress would make the release of some $2 million in foreign military assistance contingent on the Philippine government’s compliance with the UN special rapporteur Philip Alston’s recommendations for addressing human rights issues in the Philippines. Some $30 million in annual US military aid continued to be channeled to the Philippines despite its dismal human rights record. ###

Some 33 cables from the US embassy in Manila were released today by Wikileaks. Here are three of the more interesting cables that deal with US counter-terror efforts in the country and the region. The cables give us a glimpse of the real intent of the US government when they invoke regional security against terorrism. One cable tells us that the US is proposing the setting-up of dual-use facilities in Mindanao. Another tells us of a US proposal for an integrated maritime surveillance system in Southeast Asia.

 Terror law after Bali Bombing

The US was closely monitoring and keenly interested in the passage of the Philippines anti-terror law, especially in the aftermath of the Bali bombing in 2005. The particular cable  sent on October 2, 2005 was described as “sensitive” but “unclassified”. It said that “in the aftermath of the October 1 bombings in Bali, Indonesia, Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo expressed her condolences to the victims’ families…and urged swift passage of an anti-terrorism bill by Congress”.

The cable also noted that then DILG secretary Angelo Reyes warned that there was “clear and present danger” of a terrorist attack but did not provide specifics. The cable also noted the passage of the House version of the anti-terror law at the committee level, as well as the assurance from then Senate President Franklin Drilon that the anti-terror law will be passed. However, the US embassy also said that the bill has “many hoops to go through before possible final approval”.

US security interest in Southeast Asia

In a cable dated August 27,  2007 by US ambassador to the Philippines Kristie Kenney, the US embassy in Manila expressed support for funding for fiscal year 2008 under Section 1206 of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2006. This Security Assistance Program allows the US Department of Defense to spend up to $200 million dollars to train and equip foreign militaries to undertake counterterrorism or stability operations. The program is deemed important in helping countries like the Philippines build capacity to help fight the “war on terror”.

The endorsement for the program was made by the US embassies in Manila, Jakarta,Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Phnom Penh, Dhaka and Colombo. The cable said that in 2007, the US had developed the capacity to protect the area from Sulu and Sulawesi Seas in the border region shared by the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia.  “This area is a priority in the war against terrorism in Southeast Asia,” the cable said.  It should be noted that there are US troops based in Zamboanga and Sulu.

The US hopes to establish “a seamless interface among their respective maritime security efforts”. Part of the efforts would be to make use of US military exercises in the region such as the ones hosted by the Philippines under the Visiting Forces Agreement. “Our proposal maximizes the use of existing U.S. military exercises in the region, as well as initiatives managed by other agencies.  We have worked closely with USPACOM, Special Operations Command Pacific, U.S. Pacific Fleet, Joint Interagency Task Force West (JIATF-W) and other commands to ensure that PACOM planners understand our 1206 objectives and develop realistic scenarios in future exercises that will help host nations test and improve their new capabilities,” the US embassy in Manila said.

The US embassy in Manila also proposed an elaborate regional surveillance network both land and sea-based to further advance US maritime security efforts. “Our proposal emphasizes the installation of land-based and sea-based maritime radars and other types of surveillance and identification equipment in the tri-border area of Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines and other key points between Sri Lanka and the Philippines to monitor vessels suspected of carrying terrorists, weapons, or drugs, as well as engaging in human trafficking and other illegal activities”.

At the end of the cable, it is still the US’ own strategic objectives which are paramount when it comes to the issue of “regional security”.  The funding will be used as leverage by the US to influence the regional counter-terror policies. “Protecting the waters in South and South East Asia and stopping the terrorist groups operating there are vital U.S. interests.  Assisting countries in the region to work together to counter threats is a long-term objective.  The FY07 1206 proposal gives countries in the region capabilities they do not presently have to wage the War on Terror and affords the United States unique opportunities to influence the shape of a regional counter terrorism strategy,” the cable said.

Philippines focal point of US counter-terror efforts

In an earlier cable dated April 4. 2007, the US embassy again stressed the need for US funding for counter-terror efforts.

“The Philippines is currently the focal point of our counterterrorism fight in the region.  The Armed Forces of the Philippines has scored significant victories during its ongoing campaign on the island of Jolo against Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah terrorists.  With U.S. help, Philippine troops have overrun terrorist training camps and conducted successful operations that led to the deaths of Khadaffy Janjalani and Abu Solaiman, the top two leaders of the Abu Sayyaf Group.  Our $10 million Philippine 1207 initiative would build upon existing U.S. Agency for International Development and Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines activity to improve dual-use infrastructure on the islands of Jolo and the neighboring island of Tawi-Tawi, where we have made significant gains in separating the terrorists from the population,” the cable said.

The embassy proposed 5 priority projects that have “dual use”, meaning both civilian and military use. Some of the proposed infrastructure were tailor-made for use by US military aircraft. Others had clear counter-insurgency uses.  The cable lists down the five projects as:

Jolo Airport: A $3 million expansion project would lengthen the current runway from 1500 meters to 2000 meters, giving it increased capacity to handle civilian and military (both U.S. and Philippine Air Force) aircraft, such as Boeing 737s and C-130s.

Tawi-Tawi Airport: A similar $3 million expansion project would give this airport the same expanded dual-use capability.

Tawi-Tawi Bridge: This $3 million project would construct a bridge and approach roads that would link Tawi-Tawi and Sanga-Sanga, the two main islands of the Tawi-Tawi group.  The project would also enable the Armed Forces of the Philippines to shift forces by land from Sanga-Sanga to Tawi-Tawi, an operation it is now only able to conduct by sea, in order to eliminate terrorist safe havens and transit areas from this heretofore inaccessible area.

Security Force Train-and-Equip Package: $300,000 in funds under the supervision of the resident U.S. Senior Law Enforcement Advisor would allow us to train and equip port and airport security personnel in Zamboanga and the Sulu Archipelago to screen cargo and passengers and respond to potential terrorist threats.

Jolo Water Distribution System: $700,000 would allow Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines to complete a badly needed water distribution project in Jolo City, the largest municipality on the island that would provide its residents potable drinking water.

The setting up of dual-use facilities for US troops  is a relatively new development after the US bases in the Philippines were closed down in 1991.

The proposal to have infrastructure with “dual use” allows the US troops in Mindanao more maneuverability. It is part of the US forward deployment strategy here in the Philippines. In US military parlance, these facilities are called cooperative security locations, having little or no US personnel present and can host prepositioned equipment and provide ready access for US troops

The US ‘war on terror’ has allowed the US troops permanent basing in the Philippines even without an actual basing treaty, effectively violating provisions of the Philippine constitution. February 2012 marks 10 years of the US troop’s permanent and continuing presence in Mindanao. This goes beyond what the VFA itself contemplates.The VFA has been vague to the point of being used to justify the indifinite stay of foreign troops in our country. ###

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

###

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. ###


As of Monday, it was revealed that 1,796 cable transmissions from the USembassy in Manila were part of the 250,000 cables that will be released by whistleblower WikiLeaks in the ongoing controversy now known as “cablegate.  None of the transmissions have so far been posted in the WikiLeaks cable reader or in any of the articles from the 5 media outlets given access to the files.

The US embassy in Manila reportedly transmitted 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.

Umbrella group Bayan was the first to call on the Philippine government to look into the files and determine if Philippine interests were somehow undermined. The group also called on the government to check on the spying activities of the US government, saying that it is a well-known fact that US embassies around the world are intelligence posts.

Malacanang said it was “bothered” over the leaks but declined to comment on the contents, there being none yet. Palace spokesman Edwin Lacierda admitted that it is the job of US embassies worldwide to gather intelligence.  The Department of Foreign Affairs also played it safe, saying it was too early to tell what impact the leaks may have on PHL-US relations. Meanwhile, President Aquino has called the release “alarming”.

The Philippine officials’ statements came after US secretary Hillary Clinton condemned the leaks, calling them “an attack on the US foreign policy interests” and an “attack on the international community”. Clinton has been at the center of controversy after a memorandum purportedly from her ordered US diplomats to gather intelligence information on UN officials and diplomats. (Read leaked memo here.)

As expected, the Philippine government has played it safe and has been careful not to add fuel to the fire started by WikiLeaks. Aquino has gone on to say that the information generated by Cablegate can even be dangerous, saying that “a little knowledge is deadly.” DFA spokesman Ed Malaya has sought to downplay the possible impact of the leaks, saying cable transmissions are part of the regular work of diplomats.

The Philippine government has shown itself to be highly dependent on US economic and military aid and private investments.  The entire Public-Private Partnership program of the Aquino government runs on foreign loans and investments.

The US embassy in Manila also sought to downplay the leaks and refused to comment on materials they believe to be illegally obtained. The US embassy believed that the PH-US relations will whether the worldwide diplomatic controversy.

Unsurprisingly, former Philippine president Fidel Ramos also downplayed the impact of Cablegate on the Philippines. Ramos even cast doubt on the authenticity of the files. It bears noting that the US State Department has not questioned the authenticity of the files. Quite the opposite, in vehemently condemning the files as being illegally obtained, the US government has bolstered the authenticity of the leaked memos.

No one from the Philippine government seems concerned about possible damage to national interests that the cable transmissions will reveal. The Philippine government seems to be very understanding of the predicament faced by the US.

It was about a year ago when Hillary Clinton visited Manila to much media fanfare. She was less than a year in office as State Secretary. Little did we know that she was already issuing orders that may have violated international law.

Meanwhile, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is being investigated both by the US and Australian governments. Sweden has sought the help of Interpol for his arrest. An online petition supporting Assange is now circulating.

US Congressman Peter King (R), who is the incoming chair of the US House Committee on Homeland Security, wants WikiLeaks to be designated as a terrorist organization, citing the supposed dangers it poses to US citizens and interests. He wrote a request to, of all people, Hillary Clinton.

The US State Department, in a recent press conference, has also taken pains to explain that US diplomats are not spies.

The Philippines has no choice but to wait for the US embassy Manila cables to come out. Some of the issues I am curious about would be 1) how the US views terrorism in the PH, 2) how the US viewed Arroyo during the years 2005-2010, 3) how the US intends to keep its troops indefinitely on Philippine soil and 4) what other economic interests is the US trying to gain from the PH.

Cablegate i not just a source of embarrassment for many US officials. It is also an eye-opener on how the US conducts its foreign policy initiatives. It is a reminder of US arrogance and duplicity even towards its own allies.

Given the leaks, the Philippine government cannot simply find comfort in the thought that we have a “lasting friendship” with the US, or that we are a “Major Non-Nato Ally” of America.

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.