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WikiLeaks lists sites key to U.S. security

By Tim Lister, CNN
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WikiLeaks lists key U.S. interest sites
  • NEW: State Department blasts WikiLeaks for publishing list
  • Locations listed worldwide could hurt national security if damaged or destroyed
  • WikiLeaks says several hundred sites now mirror its content

(CNN) -- WikiLeaks has published a secret U.S. diplomatic cable listing places the United States considers vital to its national security, prompting criticism that the website is inviting terrorist attacks on American interests.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said the disclosure "gives a group like al Qaeda a targeting list." The sites are included in a lengthy cable the State Department sent in February 2009 to its posts around the world, asking American diplomats to identify installations overseas "whose loss could critically impact the public health, economic security, and/or national and homeland security of the United States."

The diplomats identified dozens of places on every continent, including mines, manufacturing complexes, ports and research establishments. CNN is not publishing specific details from the list, which refers to pipelines and undersea telecommunications cables as well as the location of minerals or chemicals critical to U.S. industry.

The list also mentions dams close to the U.S. border and a telecommunications hub whose destruction might seriously disrupt global communications. Diplomats also identified sites of strategic importance for supplying U.S. forces and interests abroad, such as in the Strait of Hormuz, the Persian Gulf and the Panama Canal.

The cable is classified secret and not for review by non-U.S. personnel.

The United States and Great Britain condemned the disclosure.

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"There are strong and valid reasons for classifying vital information, including the identification of critical infrastructure that is important to not only our society and economy, but those of other countries," Crowley said Monday.

"Without discussing any particular cable, the release of this kind of information gives a group like al Qaeda a targeting list," he said. "This is why we have condemned WikiLeaks for what it has done."

Later, on the microblogging site Twitter, Crowley said WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange -- now facing extradition to Sweden in connection with a rape investigation -- "threatens to put others at risk to save his own hide."

British Prime Minister David Cameron said in a statement that the publication is "damaging to national security in the United States, Britain and elsewhere."

And Malcolm Rifkind, chairman of the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee in Britain, said the list was "a gift to any terrorist (group) trying to work out what are the ways in which it can damage the United States."

"It is grossly improper and irresponsible" for Assange and his website to publish that information, he said.

WikiLeaks, which facilitates the anonymous leaking of secret information, published the list of sensitive sites as part of a larger disclosure of what it says are 250,000 U.S. State Department documents that were never meant for public view. The site began publishing the first of those quarter-million documents last week.

Since then, the site has been hit with denial-of-service attacks, which seek to make a website unavailable. It also has been kicked off servers in the United States and France, and it lost a major revenue source on Friday, when U.S.-based PayPal cut off its account.

On Sunday, WikiLeaks appealed to supporters worldwide to mirror its website, saying the site "is under heavy attack. In order to make it impossible to ever fully remove WikiLeaks from the Internet, we need your help."

In a message sent on Twitter on Monday, WikiLeaks said it had several hundred mirror sites -- websites at other online addresses that have the same content as WikiLeaks.

Assange, 39, is wanted by Swedish authorities on allegations of sex crimes, including rape. He has denied the allegations, but his whereabouts have been undisclosed since WikiLeaks began publishing the documents last week.

Investigators have focused much of their effort on finding Assange in Britain, where U.S. investigative activity is being conducted by the Defense Department, a senior law enforcement official said Friday.

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