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CIA to assess Wiki-damage

world Updated: Dec 22, 2010 23:15 IST
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The CIA has launched a task force to assess the impact of the exposure of thousands of US diplomatic cables and military files by WikiLeaks.

Officially, the panel is called the WikiLeaks Task Force. But at CIA headquarters, it’s mainly known by its all-too-apt acronym: W.T.F.

The irreverence is perhaps understandable for an agency that has been relatively unscathed by WikiLeaks. Only a handful of CIA files have surfaced on the WikiLeaks website, and records from other agencies posted online reveal remarkably little about CIA employees or operations.

Even so, CIA officials said the agency is conducting an extensive inventory of the classified information, which is routinely distributed on a dozen or more networks that connect agency employees around the world.

And the task force is focused on the immediate impact of the most recently released files. One issue is whether the agency’s ability to recruit informants could be damaged by declining confidence in the US government’s ability to keep secrets.

“The director asked the task force to examine whether the latest release of WikiLeaks documents might affect the agency’s foreign relationships or operations,” CIA spokesman George Little said. The panel is being led by the CIA’s Counterintelligence Center but has more than two dozen members from departments across the agency.

To some agency veterans, WikiLeaks has vindicated the CIA’s long-standing aversion to sharing secrets with other government agencies, a posture that came under sharp criticism after it was identified as a factor that contributed to the nation’s failure to prevent the attacks of September 11, 2001.

Even while moving to share more information over the past decade, the agency “has not capitulated to this business of making everything available to outsiders,” said a former high-ranking CIA official who recently retired. “They don’t even make everything available to insiders. And by and large the system has worked.”

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