More challenges to the heart of the US empire:
Wikileaks raised the stakes in its battle with America last night by releasing a secret list of all the global industries and assets that the US most wishes to protect.
Security experts said that the cable, published by the whistleblower website as part of an unauthorised package of diplomatic correspondence, was a gift for terrorist organisations.
It spelt out hundreds of pipelines, undersea cables and factories across the world, including a number in Britain, that would cause most damage to US interests if destroyed.
Sir Malcolm Rifkind, a former British Defence and Foreign Secretary and chairman of the Commons Intelligence and Security Committee, said WikiLeaks had made no credible attempt to find out whether the material could assist terrorists.
“This is further evidence that they have been generally irresponsible, bordering on criminal. This is the kind of information terrorists are interested in knowing,” he added.
A spokesman for Downing Street condemned the unauthorised release of classified information, saying: “The leaks and their publication are damaging to national security in the United States, Britain and elsewhere.
“It is vital that governments are able to co-operate on the basis of confidentiality of information.”
In Washington, Philip Crowley, Assistant Secretary of State, said: “There are strong and valid reasons information is classified, including critical infrastructure and key resources that are vital to the national and economic security of any country.
“Julian Assange [the founder of WikiLeaks] may be directing his efforts at the United States but he is placing the interests of many countries and regions at risk. This is irresponsible.”
But WikiLeaks said that the document, approved by Hillary Clinton, provided further evidence that the US Administration was hoarding sensitive information on countries without their knowledge. The Secretary of State faced embarrassment after earlier cables revealed that US diplomats were asked to collect information on high-ranking UN diplomats and other individuals.
Kristinn Hrafnsson, a spokesman for the website, said: “This further undermines claims made by the US Government that its embassy officials do not play an intelligence-gathering role.
“In terms of security issues, while this cable details the strategic importance of assets across the world, it does not give any information as to their exact locations, security measures, vulnerabilities or any similar factors, though it does reveal the US asked its diplomats to report back on these matters.”
US embassies were told to update a 2008 list of critical infrastructure and key resources in their host countries whose loss would “critically impact the public health, economic security and/or national and homeland security of the United States”, according to the leaked cable.
The order was under the direction of the Department for Homeland Security in co-ordination with the Department of State.
The cable said: “Department is surveying posts for their input on critical infrastructure and key resources within their host country which, if destroyed, disrupted or exploited, would likely have an immediate and deleterious effect on the United States.
“Posts are not/not being asked to consult with host governments with respect to this request.”
The leaked document, written in February last year, gives Washington’s 2008 list of key infrastructure and resources overseas, naming each relevant country and its factories, railways, ports or other areas of interest.
The file identifies where the US is reliant on a range of substances, from smallpox vaccines in Denmark to bauxite in Guinea and liquefied natural gas in the Middle East. Several underwater pipelines are listed in Japan, China and Britain, while Indonesia is flagged up for its tin mines and Iraq for its oil.
The embassies are specifically asked not to include US government or “war-fighting” facilities, but a number of defence-related sites are listed, including three in Britain run by BAE Systems.
A spokeswoman for the company said: “BAE Systems recognises its role as a custodian of key industrial and military assets. We would be concerned at any activity which comprises this.”
The British sites identified in the latest cable, which include a telecommunications hub in Hereford, and one end of an undersea cable that stretches from Cornwall to New York, were already in the public domain, but it was not helpful to have them listed as being of such importance to the US, added Sir Rifkind.