Leaked cable details Canadian sites 'vital' to U.S.
With its latest release, online whistleblower WikiLeaks appears to have upped the ante with a list of potential sites -- including dozens in Canada -- that anyone wishing to harm the U.S. might put on their target list.
In a departure from the diplomatic gossip that has characterized most of the documents released so far, WikiLeaks has published a secret U.S. State Department cable that lists key foreign infrastructure sites whose loss "could critically impact" America's economy, public health or national security.
The 2008 list was contained in a February 2009 State Department request for its foreign missions to identify and update "critical infrastructure" and "key resources" in countries ranging from Britain to New Zealand, the Middle East and China.
Canadian sites on the list -- which span the country from British Columbia to Nova Scotia -- include border crossings and bridges, oil and gas pipelines, hydroelectric dams, nuclear facilities, mines and several factories producing everything from weapons components to vaccines.
Security expert Alan Bell said the latest leak is "undoubtedly" a major risk for Canada.
"This is a shopping list (of terror targets). We would keep this type of list very secure in Canada," Bell told CTV's Power Play.
According to the diplomatic note, the order to update the list was aimed at strengthening "national preparedness, timely response, and rapid recovery in the event of an attack, natural disaster or other emergency."
Compilation of the list would help "prevent, deter, neutralize or mitigate the effects of deliberate efforts by terrorists to destroy, incapacitate or exploit" sites deemed of "vital" importance to the United States.
Some of the Canadian sites on the list include the Hibernia Atlantic undersea cable landing in Halifax, several dam, oil and gas pipelines, rail and border crossings, the Pickering Nuclear Power Plant in Ontario, the Darlington Nuclear Power Plant, as well as companies producing vaccines.
Elsewhere around the world, the list points to sites where undersea communications cables reach land, various mineral mines in Africa, Europe and Australasia, natural gas and oil production facilities and pipelines throughout the Middle East, Europe and east Asia, as well as vaccine and medicine producers in western Europe.
On account of its breadth and specific detail of potential targets, the list has officials blasting WikiLeaks for essentially handing terrorists what amounts to a shopping list.
"This is the kind of information terrorists are interested in knowing," former British Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind told the Times of London newspaper, accusing WikiLeaks of being "generally irresponsible, bordering on criminal."
Paul Kennedy, former head of the RCMP's Commission for Public Complaints, slammed WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, and said he saw no "public interest in WikiLeaks releasing that type of data.
"This is just pure and utter mischief that undermines the security of the United States and other countries," he told Power Play. "This is an example of an individual drunk on his own power attacking the interests of society at large."
But, watching developments from Ottawa, CTV's Roger Smith suggested such a reaction may be overblown.
"WikiLeaks is trying to make the point that diplomats in foreign countries are essentially spying without the knowledge of the host government," Smith said in an interview with CTV News Monday.
"But it would seem fairly easy for anyone -- if they were asked to identify what in Canada might be targets of terrorists -- it would be pretty easy for you or me to come up with a list like this," Smith added, noting that the cable was originally distributed to more than 2.5 million people in the U.S.
Since launching its latest campaign to release up to 250,000 secret State Department cables, WikiLeaks has been chased from U.S. servers and had its ability to secure online donations curtailed.
The site's 39-year-old founder Assange has also gone into hiding in the UK, but is expected to appear in British court Tuesday in relation to a Swedish extradition request.
Assange is facing sexual assault charges in Sweden.