How to Make Sense of WikiLeaks: Searching the Secret Cablegate Documents
The last few months of WikiLeaks controversy has surely peaked your interest, but when viewing the WikiLeaks site, finding what you want is quite a hard task.
Despite rumors of easy access via the Kindle and iTunes App Store, there currently is no way to view the leaked documents without a little digging. The version on sale at Amazon is NOT the cables in their entirety. Amazon recently added this warning to the product page:
This book contains commentary and analysis regarding recent WikiLeaks disclosures, not the original material disclosed via the WikiLeaks website.
"We removed the WikiLeaks App from the App Store because it violated our developer guidelines," said Trudy Muller, a spokeswoman for Cupertino, California-based Apple. "Apps must comply with all local laws and may not put an individual or target group in harm's way."
But you CAN still enjoy the recent Cablegate documents on WikiLeaks. You just have to know how to sort through all the data. But be aware, not all of the documents have been released yet. Only a small portion (about 2,000) have actually been published, with the remainder to be published over the next couple of months.
PS: If you want to see an odd mapped out visualization of the text contained on WikiLeaks, check out the DataBlog at the Guardian.
Step 1 Find WikiLeaks
Since the original WikiLeaks site has been shut down (wikileaks.org), you're going to have to gain access through one of the many mirror sites. Below are a few places you can find the WikiLeaks site.
- http://www.wikileaks.ch/ (New official site; Switzerland)
http://www.wikileaks.pl/ (Poland, redirects to wikileaks.ch)
- http://www.wikileaks.fi/ (Finland)
- http://www.wikileaks.nl/ (Netherlands)
- http://www.wikileaks.de/ (Germany)
- http://www.wikileaks.at/ (Austria)
- http://www.wikileaks.lu/ (Luxembourg)
- http://www.wikileaks.se/ (Sweden)
- http://www.wikileaks.no/ (Norway)
- http://www.wikileaks.is/ (Iceland)
And for more up-to-date WikiLeak mirrors, visit wikileaks.info.
Step 2 Find the Cablegate Documents
What you're interested in is the Cablegate Documents, where you'll find roughly 2,000 of the 251,287 U.S. Embassy Diplomatic Cables, which first started uploading on November 28th, 2010. It's the "largest set of confidential documents ever to be released into the public domain. The documents will give people around the world an unprecedented insight into the US Government's foreign activities."
From the main page of one of the mirror sites, you'll find a link to them. For this (and future) examples, I'll be using this one:
Step 3 Follow WikiLeaks Guidelines
WikiLeaks themselves have published a mini-tutorial on viewing the Cablegate archives, mentioning how you can explore the data, plus giving you some key figures from the documents.
Step 4 Browse the WikiLeaks Website
On the WikiLeaks website, there's multiple ways to browse the Cablegate archives. You can browse recent articles written about specific cables and you can browse cables by their release dates, creation dates, origination, tags and classifications.
You can also download an archive of the entire website (download torrent file here), but it only provides html links, which is perfectly fine for most, once you figure out what you're looking at.
Articles are not cables. They are commentaries on specific cables published on WikiLeaks, outlining what they are about. There's some written in other languages, but the ones we English folks should play attention to are the ones labeled "United States" and "Editorial". There's a few articles in each about the DDoS attacks on WikiLeaks and the problems with MasterCard and PayPal.
These are not the dates the cables were sent, but the dates on which they were published in the WikiLeaks archive.
If you've already browsed all of the cables from the first day of publish, then there's no reason to go back to them, unless you found some gold. So stick with the cables you haven't read.
Articles have been added to Wikileaks everyday, from the first publish date of Nov. 28th to the most recent, Dec. 21st.
Once you've picked your date, you'll be directed to the articles entered that day. The cable results will include the following information:
- Reference ID
Browsing by the creation date lets you see the cables by the dates they were originally written and sent.
You can see the list of years directly under this section, dating from 1966 to 2010. Clicking on your desired year will not let you see all of the cables from that year, rather it will generate a list underneath with links to the months from that year.
So, clicking on 1966 will show you only 1 month, since there are cables from only one month in that year, whereas clicking on 2005 will show you all 12 months, because there were cables created throughout the entire year (or at least ones that WikiLeaks acquired).
This section allows you to browse the consulates and embassies for which cables were originally sent from. By clicking on a place, you can see all of the published cables that originated from that location. However, you cannot easily browse by locations that received the cables.
You can browse all of the locations by clicking origin or you can search the locations in alphabetical order. Simply select the letter of your choice to see what cities and urban areas are listed. If you're searching for the embassy in London, simply select the L and select Embassy London.
For a list of all the embassies and consulates, visit CableTags.
Browsing by tags can be a little confusing, if you're not sure what the tag means in the first place. Tags in Wikileaks are most commonly acronyms.
You can search the tags by the letter of the alphabet for which they begin, but the list itself for that letter will not be alphabetized (weird).
But if you're searching for UFO, which is an acronym for Unidentified Flying Object, you're not going to find it. At least, not yet. But if you want to look up Military Operations, which has an acronym of MOPS, you'll find it under M.
- For a complete list of tags and their meanings, scroll to the very bottom of this article.
This one is pretty self-explanatory. Clicking on one of the links will allow you to see all of the cables marked with that classification.
There are no Top Secret documents in these cables, so if you were looking for super secret information that could topple governments as they stand, then you've come to the wrong place.
A quick search on Wikipedia can tell you what each means.
Top Secret (not listed on WikiLeaks)
The highest level of classification of material on a national level. Such material would cause "exceptionally grave damage" to national security if made publicly available.
Such material would cause "damage" or be "prejudicial" to national security if publicly available.
Same as above, with NOFORM meaning No Foreign Nationals dissemination, which restricts dissemination to U.S. nationals.
Such material would cause "grave damage" to national security if it were publicly available.
Same as above, with NOFORM meaning No Foreign Nationals dissemination, which restricts dissemination to U.S. nationals.
Technically not a classification level, but is used for government documents that do not have a classification listed above. Such documents can sometimes be viewed by those without security clearance.
Same as above, with FOR allowing dissemination to foreign nationals.
Official Use Only
This is sensitive information that's labeled as restricted.
Step 5 Decipher the Anatomy of a Cable
There's a lot going on inside each cable, and at first glance, it's totally confusing. But once you figure out what each line and abbreviation means, you'll know what to skip and what to pay attention to. Below is a cable example, and below that, some documents that should help you be able to figure everything out.
The following document tells you what everything means on the top portion of the cables. In the above document, it would be everything from VZCZCXR09560 to Classified By: CDA Robert Silverman for reasons 1.4 (B) & (D).
More information available about the above image at StateLogs.
Below is an example of an original paper cable, what one really looks like, along with a detailed breakdown of the parts.
You can download the above images in PDF here.
Step 6 Cablegate Wikileaks TAG List
Though you won't find the TAGS in alphabetical order on WikiLeaks, in this list they are, for easier reference. In time, as more documents get posted, more TAGS will likely be added, so if there are some missing, mention it in the comments and I'll update this list.
Those without asterisks are Country TAGS, which are two-letter codes for countries and world regions. The country codes are taken from the Federal Information Processing Standards Publication No. 10 (FIPS). Some of the Regional TAGS are based strictly on geographic locations while others are based on political regions. Geographic/Region TAGS identify the country or area that is the subject of the message. They also specify the country or area in which an event takes place or the country or area taking or participating in an action.
Those with asterisks (*) are Organization TAGS, with titles and/or acronyms of organizations approved for the WikiLeaks list. Most of the acronyms consist of the initials of organizations. However, because of computer processing of TAGS data, several codes are artificial.
Those with double-asterisks (**) are Subject TAGS which cover a broad area of information.
Those with triple-asterisks (***) are Program TAGS (K TAGS), which group documents together that cross Subject TAGS. The grouping of documents allow for easy retrieval based solely upon program or office requirements. These TAGS begin with the letter K and should be placed on the TAG line of telegrams and memorandums, along with appropriate subject and geographic TAGS. K TAGS do not replace Subject TAGS, but should be used as adjuncts to them.
Those TAGS underlined are, as of yet, unidentified. If you know the meaning, please post it in the comments.
ABLD Buildings and Grounds (**)
AC Antigua and Barbuda
ACOA Communication Operations and Administration (**)
ADCO Diplomatic Courier Operations (**)
AE United Arab Emirates
AEC Atomic Energy Commission (*)
AEMR Emergency Planning and Evacuation (**)
AFIN Financial Management (**)
AL Arab League (*)
AMED Medical Services (**)
AMGT Management Operations (**)
AODE Employees Abroad (**)
AORC International Organizations and Conferences (**)
APER Personnel (**)
BEXP Trade Expansion and Promotion (**)
BIDEN Joe Biden (**)
BILAT Bilateral ??
BK Bosnia and Herzegovina
BTIO Trade and Investment Opportunities (**)
CACM Central American Common Market (*)
CASC Assistance to Citizens (**)
CBW Chemical and Biological Weapons (**)
CDB Caribbean Development Bank (*)
CDG Committee on Disarmament (*)
CE Sri Lanka
CF Congo (Brazzaville)
CG Congo (Kinshasa)
CH China (Mainland)
CIA Central Intelligence Agency (*)
CIS Commonwealth of Independent States (*)
CJAN Judicial Assistance and Notarial Services (**)
CLINTON Bill Clinton (**)
CMGT Consular Administration and Management (**)
COE Council of Europe (*)
CONDOLEEZZA Condoleezza Rice (**)
COUNTER Counter Terrorism (**)
COUNTERTERRORISM Counter Terrorism (**)
CR Coral Sea Islands
CS Costa Rica
CV Cape Verde
CVIS Visas (**)
DEA Drug Enforcement Administration (*)
DEAX Drug Enforcement Administration / ?? (*)
DHS Department of Homeland Security (*)
DOD Department of Defense (*)
DOE Department of Energy (*)
DR Dominican Republic
EAGR Agriculture and Forestry (**)
EAID Foreign Economic Assistance (**)
EAIR Civil Aviation (**)
ECIN Economic Integration and Cooperation (**)
ECON Economic Conditions (**)
ECPS Communications and Postal Systems (**)
EFIN Financial and Monetary Affairs (**)
EFIS Commercial Fishing and Fish Processing (**)
EIND Industry and Manufacturing (**)
EINDETRD Industry and Manufacturing / Foreign Trade (**)
EINT Economic and Commercial Internet (**)
EINV Foreign Investments (**)
EINVEFIN Foreign Investments / Financial and Monetary Affairs (**)
EINVETC Foreign Investments / ?? (**)
ELAB Labor Sector Affairs (**)
ELECTIONS Elections (**)
ELTN Land Transportation (**)
EMIN Minerals and Metals (**)
ENRG Energy and Power (**)
EPET Petroleum and Natural Gas (**)
ES El Salvador
ETRD Foreign Trade (**)
ETTC Trade and Technology Controls (**)
EU Europa Island
EUC Europa Island / Croatia / Chapter 23 / ??
EUN European Union (*)
EWWT Waterborne Transportation (**)
EZ Czech Republic
FAO Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (*)
FARC Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionaria (*)
FBI Federal Bureau of Investigation (*)
FMLN Farabundo Marti Liberacion Nacional (*)
FTAA Free Trade Area of the Americas (*)
GOI Government of Italy
GTMO Guantanamo Bay Naval Base (*)
GZ Gaza Strip
HILLARY Hillary Clinton (**)
HUMAN Human Rights (**)
IAEA International Atomic Energy Agency (*)
ICAO International Civil Aviation Organization (*)
ICTY International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (*)
IMO Intergovernmental Maritime Consultative Organization (*)
INRA National Institute for Agrarian Reform (*)
INRO International Natural Rubber Organization (*)
INTERPOL International Criminal Police Organization (*)
IO Indian Ocean
IRAJ Iran / Azerbaijan ??
ITPHUM Italy Human Rights
IV Cote D'Ivoire
IWC International Whaling Commission (*)
JAMES James Steinberg (**)
JOSPEH Joseph Biden (**)
JUS Department of Justice (*)
KACT Strategic Arms Control (ACS) Treaties (***)
KAWC Atrocities and War Crimes (***)
KBCT Arab League Boycott (***)
KCFE Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (***)
KCIP Critical Infrastructure Protection (***)
KCOM Chief of Mission (***)
KCOR Corruption and Anti-Corruption (***)
KCRM Criminal Activity (***)
KDEM Democratization (***)
KDEMAF Democratization / Afghanistan (***)
KDRG Detainee Repatriation from Guantanamo Bay (***)
KFRD Fraud Prevention Programs (***)
KGHG Global Climate Change (***)
KGIC Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism (***)
KGIT Global Information Technology Modernization Program (***)
KHDP Humanitarian Demining Program (***)
KHIV Emerging Infectious Diseases and HIV/AIDS Program (***)
KHLS Homeland Security (***)
KIPR Intellectual Property Rights (***)
KIRC Information Resource Centers (***)
KIRF International Religious Freedom (***)
KISL Islamic Issues (***)
KJUS Administration of Justice (***)
KLIG Foreign Litigation (***)
KMCA Millennium Challenge Account (***)
KMDR Media Reaction Reporting (***)
KMRS Rightsizing the U.S. Government's Overseas Presence (***)
KN Korea (North)
KNNP Nuclear Non- Proliferation (***)
KOLY Olympic Games Reporting (***)
KPAL Palestinian Affairs (***)
KPAO Public Affairs Office (***)
KPIN Political Internationals (***)
KPKO United Nations Peacekeeping Operations (***)
KPLS Polls, Survey Research and Focus Groups (***)
KPWR Power Support Program (***)
KRAD Radioactive Contamination of the Environment (***)
KS Korea (South)
KSCA Security Advisory Council (***)
KSPR Strategic, Performance and Resource Planning (***)
KSTC Strategic Trade and Technology Controls (***)
KSUM Summit Meetings (***)
KTFN Terrorism Finance Traffic (***)
KTIA Treaties and International Agreements (***)
KTIP Trafficking in Persons (***)
KUNR UN Reform (***)
KWBG West Bank and Gaza (***)
KWMN Women Issues (***)
MARR Military and Defense Arrangements (**)
MASS Military Assistance and Sales (**)
MCAP Military Capabilities (**)
MDC Movement for Democratic Change (*)
MIL Military (**)
MK The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
MNUC Military Nuclear Applications (**)
MOPS Military Operations (**)
MTCR Missile Technology Control Regime (*)
MTCRE Missile Technology Control Regime (*)
NAR Narcotics (**)
NATO North Atlantic Treaty Organization (*)
NIPP North Ireland Peace Process (**)
NPT Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (*)
NZ New Zealand
OAS Organization of American States (*)
ODIP U.S. Diplomatic Representation (**)
OEXC Educational and Cultural Exchange Operations (**)
OFDP Foreign Diplomats and Foreign Missions (**)
OIIP International Information Programs (**)
OPDC Diplomatic Correspondence (**)
OPRC Public Relations and Correspondence (**)
OREP U.S. Congressional Travel (**)
OSAC Overseas Security Advisory (*)
OSCE Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (*)
OSCI Science Grants (**)
OTRA Travel (**)
OVIP Visits and Travel of Prominent Individuals and Leaders (**)
OVP Office of the Vice President (*)
PARM Arms Controls and Disarmament (**)
PBTS National Boundaries, Territories, and Sovereignty (**)
PF Paracel Islands
PGOV Internal Governmental Affairs (**)
PHSA High Seas Affairs (**)
PHUM Human Rights (**)
PINR Intelligence (**)
PINS National Security (**)
PKFK NATO Led Peacekeeping Forces in Kosovo (*)
PREF Refugees (**)
PREL External Political Relations (**)
PROP Propaganda and Psychological Operations (**)
PSI Italian Socialist Party (*)
PSOE Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (*)
PTER Terrorists and Terrorism (**)
RICE Condoleezza Rice (**)
RIGHTS Human Rights (**)
SA Saudi Arabia
SANC Sanctions (**)
SCUL Cultural Affairs (**)
SENV Environmental Affairs (**)
SF South Africa
SHUM Shum, Pakistan
SL Sierra Leone
SMIG Migration (**)
SNAR Narcotics (**)
SOCI Social Conditions (**)
ST Saint Lucia
STEINBERG James Steinberg (**)
TBIO Biological and Medical Science (**)
TD Trinidad and Tobago
TERRORISM Counter Terrorism (**)
TPHY Physical Sciences (**)
TRGY Energy Technology (**)
TSPA Space Activities (**)
TSPL Science and Technology Policy (**)
TT East Timor
UAE United Arab Emirates
UK United Kingdom
UN United Nations
UNEP UN Environment Program (*)
UNESCO UN Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (*)
UNGA UN General Assembly (*)
UNHCR UN High Commissioner for Refugees (*)
UNMIK UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (*)
UNO United Nicaraguan Opposition (*)
UNSC UN Security Council (*)
US United States
USEU United States / Europe
USUN United States / United Nations
UV Burkina Faso
VT Vatican City
VTPREL Vatican City / External Political Relations (**)
WI Western Sahara
WMO World Meteorological Organization (*)
WTO World Tourism Organization (*)
WTRO World Trade Organization (*)
XC Southeast Asia
XF Middle East
XH Eastern Europe
XK Central America
XM Latin America
XR South America
XS North America
XT Western Europe
XW East Africa
XY West Africa
ZANU Zimbabwe African National Union (*)
ZB Baltic States
ZF Central Africa
ZK Central Asia
ZP Persian Gulf Area
ZR Arabian Peninsula
ZU Southern Africa