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How WikiLeaks could undo post-9/11 intelligence reforms

A former US diplomat who helped push for the intelligence-sharing reforms aimed at preventing another 9/11 says the WikiLeaks fiasco could prompt a reversal.

Newspaper fronts reporting on the documents released by the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks are seen in New York, on Nov. 29.

Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

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Governments are already using the WikiLeaks release of a trove of US diplomatic traffic to bolster their own international agendas, from Israel's push for military action against Iran, to Iran's effort to paint US engagement as insincere.

But the WikiLeaks intelligence fiasco could have far-reaching implications for US diplomacy, well after the initial shock waves subside. By sending a message to America's counterparts and confidential informants around the world that the US can't keep conversations private, the controversy could severely compromise the quality of information US policymakers receive, and America's own ability to coordinate its diplomatic and antiterror efforts.

"This is immensely, immensely damaging," says Wayne White, a former senior official at the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) and now a scholar at the Middle East Institute. "You’ve got sources exposed out there ... many of them characterized as sources that need to be protected. So now we have governments who have been very frank with us who are no longer going to do so. If I were a foreign official I would be reluctant to ever be as frank with the American government as I’ve ever been before."

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