How to Make Sense of WikiLeaks: Searching the Secret Cablegate Documents

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.

How to Make Sense of WikiLeaks: Searching the Secret Cablegate Documents

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.

Apple recently removed the WikiLeaks application, too, which sold for $1.99 and let people view material from WikiLeaks on an iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad.

How to Make Sense of WikiLeaks: Searching the Secret Cablegate Documents"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 (, 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.

And for more up-to-date WikiLeak mirrors, visit

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."

How to Make Sense of WikiLeaks: Searching the Secret Cablegate Documents

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.

How to Make Sense of WikiLeaks: Searching the Secret Cablegate 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.

Browse the Articles

How to Make Sense of WikiLeaks: Searching the Secret Cablegate DocumentsArticles 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.

Browse the Cables by Release Dates

How to Make Sense of WikiLeaks: Searching the Secret Cablegate DocumentsThese 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
  • Subject
  • Created
  • Released
  • Classification
  • Origin

How to Make Sense of WikiLeaks: Searching the Secret Cablegate Documents

Browse the Cables by Creation Date

How to Make Sense of WikiLeaks: Searching the Secret Cablegate DocumentsBrowsing 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).

How to Make Sense of WikiLeaks: Searching the Secret Cablegate Documents

Browse the Cables by Origination

How to Make Sense of WikiLeaks: Searching the Secret Cablegate DocumentsThis 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.

How to Make Sense of WikiLeaks: Searching the Secret Cablegate Documents

For a list of all the embassies and consulates, visit CableTags.

Browse the Cables by Tags

How to Make Sense of WikiLeaks: Searching the Secret Cablegate DocumentsBrowsing 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.

Browse the Cables by Classification

How to Make Sense of WikiLeaks: Searching the Secret Cablegate DocumentsThis 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.

How to Make Sense of WikiLeaks: Searching the Secret Cablegate Documents

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).

How to Make Sense of WikiLeaks: Searching the Secret Cablegate Documents

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.

(1) This is what a real paper cable looks like. (2) Paper cable explanation.

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.

Country TAGS

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.

Organization TAGS

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.

Subject TAGS

Those with double-asterisks (**) are Subject TAGS which cover a broad area of information.

Program TAGS

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.

Unknown TAGS

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 (**)
AF  Afghanistan
AFIN  Financial Management (**)
AG  Algeria
AJ  Azerbaijan
AL  Albania
AL  Arab League (*)
AM Armenia
AMED  Medical Services (**)
AMGT  Management Operations (**)
AO  Angola
AODE  Employees Abroad (**)
AORC  International Organizations and Conferences (**)
APER  Personnel (**)
AR  Argentina
AS  Australia
ASEC  Security
AU  Austria


BA  Bahrain
BB  Barbados
BE  Belgium
BEXP  Trade Expansion and Promotion (**)
BF  Bahamas
BG  Bangladesh
BH  Belize
BIDEN  Joe Biden (**)
BILAT  Bilateral ??
BK  Bosnia and Herzegovina
BL  Bolivia
BM  Burma
BO  Belarus
BR  Brazil
BRUSSELS  Brussels
BTIO  Trade and Investment Opportunities (**)
BU  Bulgaria
BX  Brunei
BY  Burundi


CA  Canada
CACM  Central American Common Market (*)
CASC  Assistance to Citizens (**)
CBW  Chemical and Biological Weapons (**)
CD  Chad
CDB  Caribbean Development Bank (*)
CDG  Committee on Disarmament (*)
CE  Sri Lanka
CF  Congo (Brazzaville)
CG  Congo (Kinshasa)
CH  China (Mainland)
CI  Chile
CIA  Central Intelligence Agency (*)
CIS  Commonwealth of Independent States (*)
CJAN  Judicial Assistance and Notarial Services (**)
CLINTON  Bill Clinton (**)
CM  Cameroon
CMGT  Consular Administration and Management (**)
CN  Comoros
CO  Colombia
COE  Council of Europe (*)
CONDOLEEZZA  Condoleezza Rice (**)
COUNTER  Counter Terrorism (**)
COUNTERTERRORISM  Counter Terrorism (**)
CR  Coral Sea Islands
CS  Costa Rica
CU  Cuba
CV  Cape Verde
CVIS  Visas (**)
CY  Cyprus


DA  Denmark
DEA  Drug Enforcement Administration (*)
DEAX  Drug Enforcement Administration / ?? (*)
DHS  Department of Homeland Security (*)
DJ  Djibouti
DOD  Department of Defense (*)
DOE  Department of Energy (*)
DR  Dominican Republic


EAGR  Agriculture and Forestry (**)
EAID  Foreign Economic Assistance (**)
EAIR  Civil Aviation (**)
EC  Ecuador
ECIN  Economic Integration and Cooperation (**)
ECON  Economic Conditions (**)
ECPS  Communications and Postal Systems (**)
EFIN  Financial and Monetary Affairs (**)
EFIS  Commercial Fishing and Fish Processing (**)
EG  Egypt
EI  Ireland
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 (**)
EN  Estonia
ENRG  Energy and Power (**)
EPET  Petroleum and Natural Gas (**)
ER  Eritrea
ES  El Salvador
ET  Ethiopia
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 (*)
FJ  Fiji
FMLN  Farabundo Marti Liberacion Nacional (*)
FR  Corsica
FTAA  Free Trade Area of the Americas (*)


GA  Gambia
GG  Georgia
GH  Ghana
GM  Germany
GOI  Government of Italy
GT  Guatemala
GTMO  Guantanamo Bay Naval Base (*)
GV  Guinea
GZ  Gaza Strip


HA  Haiti
HILLARY  Hillary Clinton  (**)
HO  Honduras
HR  Croatia
HU  Hungary
HUMAN  Human Rights (**)


IAEA  International Atomic Energy Agency (*)
ICAO  International Civil Aviation Organization (*)
ICTY  International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (*)
ID  Indonesia
IMO  Intergovernmental Maritime Consultative Organization (*)
IN  India
INRA  National Institute for Agrarian Reform (*)
INRO  International Natural Rubber Organization (*)
INTERPOL  International Criminal Police Organization (*)
IO  Indian Ocean
IR  Iran
IRAJ  Iran / Azerbaijan ??
IS  Israel
IT  Italy
ITPHUM  Italy Human Rights
IV  Cote D'Ivoire
IWC  International Whaling Commission (*)
IZ  Iraq


JA  Japan
JAMES  James Steinberg (**)
JO  Jordan
JOSPEH  Joseph Biden (**)
  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 (***)
KE  Kenya
KFRD  Fraud Prevention Programs (***)
KG  Kyrgyzstan
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 (***)
KR  Kiribati
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 (***)
KU  Kuwait
KUNR  UN Reform (***)
KV  Kosovo
KWBG  West Bank and Gaza (***)
KWMN  Women Issues (***)
KZ  Kazakhstan


LE  Lebanon
LG  Latvia
LH  Lithuania
LI  Liberia
LU  Luxembourg
LY  Libya


MA  Madagascar
MARR  Military and Defense Arrangements (**)
MASS  Military Assistance and Sales (**)
MCAP  Military Capabilities (**)
MD  Moldova
MDC  Movement for Democratic Change (*)
MG  Mongolia
MIL  Military (**)
MK  The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
ML  Mali
MNUC  Military Nuclear Applications (**)
MO  Morocco
MOPS  Military Operations (**)
MP  Mauritius
MR  Mauritania
MTCR  Missile Technology Control Regime (*)
MTCRE  Missile Technology Control Regime (*)
MU  Oman
MX  Mexico
MY  Malaysia
MZ  Mozambique


NAR  Narcotics (**)
NATO  North Atlantic Treaty Organization (*)
NG  Niger
NI  Nigeria
NIPP  North Ireland Peace Process (**)
NL  Netherlands
NO  Norway
NPT  Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (*)
NU  Nicaragua
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 (*)


PA  Paraguay
PARM  Arms Controls and Disarmament (**)
PBTS  National Boundaries, Territories, and Sovereignty (**)
PE  Peru
PF  Paracel Islands
PGOV  Internal Governmental Affairs (**)
PHSA  High Seas Affairs (**)
PHUM  Human Rights (**)
PINR  Intelligence (**)
PINS  National Security (**)
PK  Pakistan
PKFK  NATO Led Peacekeeping Forces in Kosovo (*)
PL  Poland
PM  Panama
PO  Portugal
PREF  Refugees (**)
PREL  External Political Relations (**)
PROP  Propaganda and Psychological Operations (**)
PSI  Italian Socialist Party (*)
PSOE  Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (*)
PTER  Terrorists and Terrorism (**)
PU  Guinea-Bissau


QA  Qatar


RICE  Condoleezza Rice (**)
RIGHTS  Human Rights (**)
RO  Romania
RP  Philippines
RS  Russia
RW  Rwanda


SA  Saudi Arabia
SANC  Sanctions (**)
SCUL  Cultural Affairs (**)
SENV  Environmental Affairs (**)
SF  South Africa
SG  Senegal
SHUM  Shum, Pakistan
SI  Slovenia
SL  Sierra Leone
SMIG  Migration (**)
SN  Singapore
SNAR  Narcotics (**)
SO  Somalia
SOCI  Social Conditions (**)
SP  Spain
SR  Serbia
ST  Saint Lucia
STEINBERG  James Steinberg (**)
SU  Sudan
SW  Sweden
SY  Syria
SZ  Switzerland


TBIO  Biological and Medical Science (**)
TD  Trinidad and Tobago
TERRORISM  Counter Terrorism (**)
TH  Thailand
TI  Tajikistan
TO  Togo
TPHY  Physical Sciences (**)
TRGY  Energy Technology (**)
TS  Tunisia
TSPA  Space Activities (**)
TSPL  Science and Technology Policy (**)
TT  East Timor
TU  Turkey
TW  Taiwan
TX  Turkmenistan
TZ  Tanzania


UAE  United Arab Emirates
UG  Uganda
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 (*)
UP  Ukraine
US  United States
USEU  United States / Europe
USUN  United States / United Nations
UV  Burkina Faso
UY  Uruguay
UZ  Uzbekistan


VE  Venezuela
VT  Vatican City
VTPREL  Vatican City / External Political Relations (**)


WI  Western Sahara
WMO  World Meteorological Organization (*)
WTO  World Tourism Organization (*)
WTRO  World Trade Organization (*)


XA  Africa
XC  Southeast Asia
XF  Middle East
XG  Europe
XH  Eastern Europe
XK  Central America
XL  Caribbean
XM  Latin America
XR  South America
XS  North America
XT  Western Europe
XW  East Africa
XY  West Africa
XZ  Scandinavia


YI  Yugoslavia
YM  Yemen


ZANU  Zimbabwe African National Union (*)
ZB  Baltic States
ZF  Central Africa
ZI  Zimbabwe
ZK  Central Asia
ZP  Persian Gulf Area
ZR  Arabian Peninsula
ZU  Southern Africa


Other References: Huffington Post
Tags References: WikiLeaks, Miran Rijavec, CableTags

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