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WikiLeaks disclosures reveal U.S. frustration with Russian corruption

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Putin: Democracy is alive in Russia
  • WikiLeaks founder an "anarchist," State Department spokesman says
  • Amazon bounces WikiLeaks from servers after pressure from senator
  • Embassy cables note "pervasive and deep-rooted" Russian corruption
  • Pentagon spokesman says new safeguards in place

(CNN) -- The United States scrambled to contain the fallout from the slow-motion leak of cables from its embassies worldwide Wednesday as new documents showed American diplomats casting a jaundiced eye toward corruption's grip on Russia.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton personally made "several dozen" calls to counterparts in other countries in an effort to mitigate the damage from WikiLeaks, a website that facilitates the anonymous leaking of secret information, a senior State Department official said.

In a CNN interview Wednesday night, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley called WikiLeaks founder and editor-in-chief Julian Assange an "anarchist."

"He's trying to undermine the collaboration, the cooperation, the system by which we engage with other governments, cooperate with other governments and solve regional challenges," Crowley told CNN's "John King USA." But while Clinton is facing other world leaders, "trying to solve the world's challenges," Assange is in hiding, he said.

Assange remains shadowed by an arrest warrant issued by Swedish authorities over allegations of sex crimes that his attorney called "positively surreal." Several American political figures have called for his prosecution, and online retailer Amazon kicked WikiLeaks off rented server space Wednesday after a complaint from a leading U.S. senator, the group told its followers on the microblogging site Twitter.

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"WikiLeaks servers at Amazon ousted. Free speech the land of the free," the site announced. "Fine -- our $ are now spent to employ people in Europe."

Amazon had not responded to requests for comment Wednesday evening.

WikiLeaks began releasing a quarter-million State Department diplomatic cables on Sunday, a process it said could take months to complete. Wednesday, it began posting a new string of documents from the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, including one that blasted the Russian capital as a "kleptocracy" under now-ousted Mayor Yuri Luzhkov.

Luzhkov, who was fired by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in September, "oversees a system in which it appears that almost everyone at every level is involved in some form of corruption or criminal behavior," the February document states. But the Kremlin tolerated him because he could deliver votes for the ruling party of Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, it continued.

Another document described corruption as "pervasive and deep-rooted" in post-Soviet Russian society. While Medvedev announced an anti-corruption campaign in 2008, little had been done to implement it, the document stated. One Russian contact warned that Medvedev's plans were "hindered by an alliance between business and government bureaucracy -- business pays off the bureaucracy and bureaucracy defends business from real competition."

Luzhkov, in previous interviews with CNN, has denied any wrongdoing. And Putin, who served as president for eight years before Medvedev took office in 2008, hit back at remarks in another embassy cable from U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who is quoted telling his French counterpart that "Russian democracy has disappeared and the government was an oligarchy run by the security services."

In an interview airing Wednesday on CNN's "Larry King Live," Putin called Gates "deeply misled" and said the United States wasn't without its own flaws.

But to our colleagues, I would also like to advise you, don't interfere either [with] the sovereign choice of the Russian people.
--Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin

"When we are talking with our American friends and tell them there are systemic problems in this regard, we can hear from them, 'Don't interfere with our affairs. This is our tradition and it's going to continue like that.' We are not interfering," he said. "But to our colleagues, I would also like to advise you, don't interfere either [with] the sovereign choice of the Russian people."

In Washington and abroad, the senior State Department official said, that agency's staffers had reached out to 186 countries in an effort to control the damage from documents like those. And at the White House, the Obama administration on Wednesday tapped a career counterterrorism official to oversee the government's efforts to fix security gaps.

But the the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee said the announcement, that Russell Travers will serve as a senior adviser for information access and security policy, isn't enough.

"I still don't sense an urgency to fix the problem," Michigan Rep. Peter Hoekstra said.

The embassy papers mark WikiLeaks' third major disclosure of American secrets this year. It already has released U.S. military video of a 2007 helicopter strike in Iraq that killed two Reuters journalists and dumped tens of thousands of field reports from the war in Afghanistan along with a similar cache of documents from the Iraq war.

Crowley said that government officials have determined that WikiLeaks has more documents -- but "We're not entirely sure what they are."

Bradley Manning, a U.S. Army private first class, is a prime suspect in previous leaks. Before October's release of information on Iraq, Manning was being held in Quantico, Virginia, charged with leaking the video of the Iraq airstrike to WikiLeaks as well as removing classified information from military computers.

U.S. officials say Manning was able to take advantage of a system put in place after the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington to share information between the military and civilian agencies like the State Department.

"In light of what's happened here, across the government, we are stepping back and saying, 'OK, we've shared information, but what can we learn from this?' " Crowley said. "We have taken aggressive steps, and we'll take more steps as we work through how to achieve that balance -- how to share information but protect it at the same time."

And Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morell told "John King USA" that numerous computer restrictions have been enacted "since we were first done wrong by these guys."

"No longer can you write on to removable media," he said. "You can no longer move classified information onto an unclassified network, unless you are in a situation where it is monitored and where there are two people on hand to do it. So there have been a number of safeguards."

CNN's Matthew Chance, Jill Dougherty, Doug Gross and Laurie Ure contributed to this report.

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