By DAVID DISHNEAUAssociated Press
FORT MEADE, Md. (AP) - State Department workers were horrified by WikiLeaks' publication of more than 250,000 U.S. diplomatic cables leaked by Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, an agency official testified Thursday.
Elizabeth Dibble didn't give any evidence in open court of how the unprecedented leak of classified information damaged U.S. foreign relations, but she did testify in a session closed to the public to protect classified information. It wasn't clear what she talked about, but presumably it was how the cables damaged U.S. relations with other governments.
Dibble was the No. 2 official in the agency's Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs when WikiLeaks began publishing the leaked cables on its website in the fall of 2010. She was the prosecution's third witness at a sentencing hearing to determine Manning's sentence for leaking the cables, plus more than 470,000 Iraq and Afghanistan battlefield reports and some battlefield video, while working as an intelligence analyst in Iraq.
Manning faces up to 136 years in prison following his conviction on 20 counts, including Espionage Act violations, theft and computer fraud. He has said he leaked the material to expose wrongdoing by the military and U.S. diplomats.
Dibble said people in her office reacted with "horror and disbelief that our diplomatic communications had been released and were revealed on public websites for the world to see."
She said diplomatic cables - written communications between U.S. embassies and agency headquarters - contain sensitive information about U.S. foreign relations.
"Cables not only provide the facts but they provide the analysis, the synthesis and the embassy's judgment of what is going on in a particular country," Dibble said.
She was called to testify specifically about the impact of the leaks in Iran, Lebanon and Libya.
A May 2011 report by the State Department's inspector general's office said the WikiLeaks disclosures contained more information from embassies in Dibble's region than any other. The impact on U.S. relations with those countries was immediate and, in some cases, profound, the report said.
"The U.S. ambassador in Tripoli was quickly recalled after a particularly strong reaction from the Libyan government," the report said.
Then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in November 2010 that the leaks endangered people's lives, threatened national security and undermined U.S. diplomatic efforts.
Manning's lawyers maintain the leaks did little or no harm. On cross-examination, Dibble said she disagreed with the sentiments expressed by Defense Secretary Robert Gates in December 2010: "I've heard the impact of these releases on our foreign policy described as a meltdown, as a game-changer and so on. I think those descriptions are fairly significantly overwrought."
Gates also said governments deal with the United States "because it's in their interest, not because they like us, not because they trust us, and not because they believe we can keep secrets."
Dibble acknowledged only that governments deal with the United State because it's in their national interest.
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