MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE 2) - A total of 1,796 diplomatic cables from the United States embassy in Manila are part of more than 251,000 documents leaked by the website WikiLeaks on Sunday.
The leaked memos are part of a release that Julian Assange, the chief of the whistleblower website, described as a "diplomatic history of the United States" that would cover "every major issue" as governments braced for damaging revelations.
"The cables, which date from 1966 up until the end of February this year, contain confidential communications between 274 embassies in countries throughout the world and the State Department in Washington DC. 15,652 of the cables are classified Secret," WikiLeaks stated in their website.
These diplomatic cables include "orders sent out from the Department of State, embassy reporting about the local governments and details of US government activities in each country."
Based on a database made public by The Guardian newspaper in the United Kingdom, out of the total sent by the US embassy in Manila, 1,794 were sent between January 2005 to February 2010. The remaining two leaked cables are dated Novemer 21, 2001 and July 19, 1994.
The cables are classified as follows:
- 982 "unclassified" cables
- 749 "classified" cables
- 65 "secret" cables
The Manila outpost of the US government is ranked 44th among the 274 embassies and consulates that have the most cables in the leak.
The US embassy in Ankara, Turkey, is the origin of most cables among the diplomatic posts, with 7,918 memos. The US Secretary of State has 8,017 cables coming from it.
Meanwhile, the Philippines is discussed in 2,036 documents. Iraq, the most discussed country in the database, clocks in at 15,365 cables.
WikiLeaks said that based on the US State Departments labeling system, the most frequent subjects discussed are:
- External political relations – 145,451
- Internal government affairs – 122,896
- Human rights – 55,211
- Economic Conditions – 49,044
- Terrorists and terrorism – 28,801
- UN Security Council – 6,532
Bayan: Probe leaked documents
On Monday, the group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) called on the government to "conduct an official probe" into the documents once the files are made available.
"The files include 'tags' or descriptions of topics such as foreign relations, military operations, military assistance, internal governmental affairs and external affairs," Bayan said in a press release.
"It is no secret that the US embassy in Manila is actually a post for US intelligence gathering and US intervention in Philippine affairs. The Wikileaks files may help us better understand how the US exerts its influence in our country in light of several domestic controversies over the past nine years," Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr. said.
"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," he added.
"The release of the files comes at a crucial moment for PH-US relations when the Visiting Forces Agreement is being reviewed by Malacañang," Bayan noted.
Documents during Arroyo's time
Reyes noted that the period in which the cables were dispatched were during the "most tumultuous" years of the administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
"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," he said in a separate statement, also released Monday.
"Maybe through these files, we can better understand the US positions on the VFA [Visiting Forces Agreement] and the US troops in Mindanao. We would also like to know why the US has solidly supported the Arroyo government despite massive calls for her ouster. 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," he said.
Release in stages
The full texts of the leaked cables sent by the US embassy in Manila have yet to be released. WikiLeaks is planning to release the documents "in stages over the next few months."
"The subject matter of these cables is of such importance, and the geographical spread so broad, that to do otherwise would not do this material justice," WikiLeaks said in its website.
As of Monday, only 220 documents had been published on the site, none from Manila.
WikiLeaks started publishing the 251,287 cables -- 15,652 of which are "classified" -- from 274 US embassies around the world, on its own website http://cablegate.wikileaks.org.
"The full set consists of 251,287 documents, comprising 261,276,536 words (seven times the size of "The Iraq War Logs", the world's previously largest classified information release)," the website said.
The cables cover from 28 December 1966 to 28 February 2010.
"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," WikiLeaks said.
The New York Times, UK's The Guardian, Germany's Der Spiegel, France's Le Monde and Spain's El Pais released the first batch of the documents on Sunday, saying more would follow in the coming days. With reports from the Agence France-Presse