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List of facilities 'vital to US security' leaked

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BBC News - December 5, 2010

Wikileaks

A long list of key facilities around the world that the US describes as vital to its national security has been released by Wikileaks.

The US State Department in February 2009 asked all US missions abroad to list all installations whose loss could critically affect US national security.

The list includes pipelines, communication and transport hubs.

Several UK sites are listed, including cable locations, satellite sites and BAE Systems plants.

This is probably the most controversial document yet from the Wikileaks organisation.

The definition of US national security revealed by the cable is broad and all embracing.

In addition to obvious pieces of strategic infrastructure like communications hubs, gas pipelines and so on, it contains, amongst other things, a cobalt mine in Congo, an anti-snake venom factory in Australia and an insulin plant in Denmark.

The US missions were asked to list all installations whose loss could critically impact the public health, economic security or national security of the United States.

In Britain, for example, the list ranges from Cornwall to Scotland, including key satellite communications sites and the places where trans-Atlantic cables make landfall.

A number of BAE Systems plants involved in joint weapons programmes with the Americans are listed, along with a marine engineering firm in Edinburgh which is said to be "critical" for nuclear powered submarines.

'Targets for terror'

The geographical range of the document is extraordinary.

If the US sees itself as waging a "global war on terror" then this represents a global directory of the key installations and facilities - many of them medical or industrial - that are seen as being of vital importance to Washington.

No wonder then that the Times newspaper in London has published the story under the headline "Wikileaks lists 'targets for terror' against the US".

Some locations are given unique billing. The Nadym gas pipeline junction in western Siberia, for example, is described as "the most critical gas facility in the world".

It is a crucial transit point for Russian gas heading for western Europe.

In some cases, specific pharmaceutical plants or those making blood products are highlighted for their crucial importance to the global supply chain.

Of course the critical question is that raised by the Times newspaper's headline: Is this really a listing of potential targets that might be of use to a terrorist?

The cable contains a simple listing. In many cases towns are noted as the location but not actual street addresses.

That, of course, is not going to hinder anyone with access to the internet.

There are also no details of security measures at any of the listed sites.

What the list might do is to prompt potential attackers to look at a broader range of targets, especially given that the US authorities classify them as being so important.

It is not perhaps a major security breach, but many governments may see it as an unhelpful development.

It inevitably prompts the question as to exactly what positive benefit Wikileaks was intending in releasing this document.

Former UK Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind condemned the move.

"This is further evidence that they have been generally irresponsible, bordering on criminal," Mr Rifkind said. "This is the kind of information terrorists are interested in knowing."


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