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Wikileaks cats are out of the bag

The leak of hundreds of thousands of secret cables sent to and from US embassies around the world has severely embarrassed the country's politicians and diplomats.

The rest of us can start having a laugh at the can of worms the release of the 250,000 documents has opened.

The documents which were sent to WikiLeaks and shown to a number of newspapers prior to publication on the whistle-blowing web site, contain masses of information, much of which - as the US authorities predicted - is likely to damage US relationships around the world for years to come.

The cables show that the US uses its embassies as part of its global spying network, detailing how diplomats have to keep files on the people they meet, and telling them to include whatever details they can get their hands on, like credit card numbers, details of frequent flyer accounts, or even - if they manage to get a quick swab in their cheek - DNA material.

If we start at home, Britain is labelled 'paranoid' about the so-called special relationship with the US, a fact the US wants to exploit by keeping British government "off-balance" about it.

Despite the scorn, though, the cables reveal the US military isn't beyond flying secret torture missions from UK bases. Also unveiled is a scheme to mislead the British parliament over the use of banned US weapons.

The cables include thousands of files from the Bush presidency but also come bang up to date with missives relating to Hillary Clinton's time as Secretary of State. Clinton has spent most of the week on the phone trying to patch up relationships threatened by the leak.

Not surprisingly, the White House has released a statement condemning the release of the cables. "Such disclosures put at risk our diplomats, intelligence professionals, and people around the world who come to the US for assistance in promoting democracy and open government. By releasing stolen and classified documents, WikiLeaks has put at risk not only the cause of human rights but also the lives and work of these individuals."

The cables are marked "Sipdis" – secret Internet protocol distribution and mostly considered "moderately secret". Some 9,000 of the cables are marked "secret noforn" [no foreigners]. More than 11,000 are marked "secret," according to the Guardian's quick trawl through the stash.

WikLeaks has shown the documents to the Guardian, the New York Times, Der Spiegel in Germany, Le Monde in France and El País in Spain. The organisation said it is redacting some of the contents of the cables to protect some named individuals.

A 22-year-old intelligence analyst Bradley Manning was charged with leaking many of these cables, along with a gun-camera video of an Apache helicopter crew mistakenly killing two Reuters news agency employees in Baghdad in 2007, which was subsequently posted by WikiLeaks. Manning is facing a court martial.

The state department has written to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange warning that the cables were obtained illegally and whining that their exposure could threaten "the lives of countless innocent individuals … ongoing military operations … and cooperation between countries". monitors all leading technology stories and rounds them up to help you save time hunting them down.