44 'secret' cables among 910 sent from Dublin


Exact date of June 2008 dispatch for US eyes only is not known, write MARY FITZGERALDand JACK HORGAN-JONES

ONLY ONE diplomatic cable out of the 910 contained in the WikiLeaks haul which were sent from the US embassy in Dublin merits the highest level of classification below “top secret”. The dispatch was sent to the state department in Washington in June 2008.

According to data collated by German newspaper Der Spiegel, one of five media outlets granted access to the more than 250,000 documents obtained by WikiLeaks, the June cable is the only one sent from Ireland which is classified “secret NOFORN” meaning it should not be made accessible to non-US nationals. Cables classified as “top secret” are not included in the data leaked to WikiLeaks.

WikiLeaks says the material it has obtained will be released in stages over the next few months. For now, information on the cables sent from the US embassy on Elgin Road, Ballsbridge is limited to what media outlets such as Der Spiegel and the Guardian have included in online data banks. WikiLeaks itself has not posted any cables from Ireland. The information available on the Dublin embassy cables relates to dates sent, level of classification and tags that provide some clues as to the content of each cable.

Of the 910 cables sent from Dublin, 44 are classified “secret” including the June 2008 “NOFORN” cable. A total of 373 are classified confidential and 493 are unclassified, of which 129 are marked for official use only. A total of 15 cables were sent from the US consulate in Belfast, none of which were classified as secret.

The Irish Times has learned that the US embassy in Dublin did not contact the Irish Government in advance of Sunday’s release of the leaked documents because it did not consider the material from Ireland sensitive enough. Last week the US warned several countries, including France, Israel, the UK, Italy, and Canada, that the cables could cause embarrassment or “create tension”.

A trawl of the WikiLeaks data available so far reveals that the oldest cable sent from Dublin is dated June 24th, 1985. The cable, which is tagged with acronyms representing “civil aviation”, “Canada”, “Ireland” and “India”, was sent the day after the bombing of an Air India aircraft off the Cork coast. The documents contain nothing from the US embassy in Dublin between that date and March 8th, 2004. The most recent cable was sent on February 24th this year and is tagged “External Political Relations” and “Internal Governmental Affairs”.

In between are hundreds of cables whose tags hint at the ebb and flow of bilateral relations between the US and Ireland. References to economic and financial matters are the most common. There are also scores of cables tagged “Military Operations”, “Military and Defence Arrangements”, “Military Capabilities” and “Military Assistance and Sales”. In several instances, cables with military- or security-related tags also carry tags related to airports/aviation and economic issues, which may indicate the content relates in some way to bilateral agreements over the use of Shannon airport by US troops. At times, such cables are tagged with “Terrorists and Terrorism”. On several occasions, the cables are also tagged with “Human Rights”, which may refer to the controversy surrounding the use of Shannon by aircraft known, or suspected, to be involved in the US renditions programme.

The exact date of the June 2008 cable classified “secret NOFORN” is unknown. A total of 20 cables were sent that month, two of which were sent the day after the first Lisbon Treaty referendum on June 12th.

Of those, one is tagged “Israel”, “Human Rights”, “External Political Relations”, “Ireland” and “Internal Governmental Affairs”; the other is tagged “EU” “Ireland” “External Political Relations” and “Internal Governmental Affairs”. Two cables with identical tags including “Intelligence” and “Terrorists and Terrorism” were sent on June 24th and June 25th. A cable with a tag referring to visits and travel of “prominent individuals and leaders” was sent on June 11th.

In August 2005, several cables tagged “Colombia”, “Terrorists and Terrorism”, “Criminal Activity”, “Ireland” and “Justice” were sent from Dublin to Washington. These cables are likely to refer to the case of the three Irish men sentenced to jail terms in Colombia for training Farc rebels. The trio, who disappeared from Colombia in late 2004 while on bail, turned up in Ireland in August 2005.

There are also several cables tagged “NIPP” – which may be a reference to the Northern Ireland peace process – sent in 2005. Many of those cables are also tagged “UK”, “Ireland”, “Terrorists and Terrorism”, “Intelligence” and “National Security”.