AP review finds no WikiLeaks sources who say revealing their names put them at risk

By Associated Press, Washington Post

WASHINGTON — Federica Ferrari Bravo’s story of meeting American diplomats in Rome seven years ago hardly reads like a James Bond spy novel or a Cold War tale of a brave informant sharing secrets to help the United States.

So it came as a something of a surprise to her to hear that in one of the 250,000-odd State Department cables released by WikiLeaks, she was deemed a source so sensitive U.S. officials were advised not to repeat her name.

“I don’t think I said anything that would put me at risk,” Ferrari Bravo said.

The Italian diplomat’s episode, along with similar stories from several other foreign lawmakers, diplomats and activists cited in the U.S. cables as sources to “strictly protect,” raises doubts about the scope of the danger posed by WikiLeaks’ disclosures and the Obama administration’s angry claims going back more than a year that the anti-secrecy website’s revelations are threatening lives around the world. U.S. examples have been strictly theoretical.

The question of whether the dire warnings are warranted or overblown became more acute with the recent release all of the 251,287 diplomatic memos WikiLeaks held. Tens of thousands of confidential exchanges were dumped, emptying a trove of documents that had been released piecemeal since last year and initially with the cooperation of a select group of newspapers and magazines that blacked out some names and information before publishing the documents.

The latest cables were published in full, without the redaction of any names. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland branded the action “irresponsible, reckless and frankly dangerous,” and the U.S. says the release exposes the names of hundreds of sensitive sources.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has blamed Britain’s Guardian newspaper for publishing a secret encryption code, allowing intelligence agencies worldwide to access the cables and forcing WikiLeaks to provide the people affected the same information.

But an Associated Press review of the sources found several of them comfortable with their names in the open and no one fearing death. Others are already dead, their names cited as sensitive in the context of long-resolved conflicts or situations. Some have publicly written or testified at hearings about the supposedly confidential information they provided the U.S. government.

The Associated Press survey is selective and incomplete, as it focused on those sources the State Department seemed to categorize as most risky. The AP did not attempt to contact every named source in the new trove. It’s generally up to the embassies themselves to decide which identities require heightened vigilance, officials say.

Hadzira Hamzic, a 73-year-old Bosnian refugee, wasn’t bothered about being identified as one of thousands of victims from the Balkan wars of the 1990s. “I never hid that,” she told the AP. “It is always hard when I have to tell about how I had been raped, but that is part of what happened and I have to talk about it.”

In Asia, former Malaysian diplomat Shazryl Eskay Abdullah was shocked an “unofficial lunch meeting” he had several years ago with a U.S. official meant his name ended up on a formal report. But he said his role in southern Thailand peace talks was well known. “I don’t see why anyone would come after me,” Shazryl told the AP.