A Congressional official said publicly that the Wikileaks revelations had seriously damaged American interests in order to bolster legal efforts to shut down the WikiLeaks website and bring charges against the leakers. On condition of anonymity, Reuters was told that State Department officials have privately said to Congress they expect overall damage to U.S. foreign policy to be containable.
“We were told (the impact of WikiLeaks revelations) was embarrassing but not damaging,” said the official, who attended a briefing given in late 2010 by State Department officials.
Previously, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley had said, “From our standpoint, there has been substantial damage. We believe that hundreds of people have been put at potential risk because their names have been compromised in the release of these cables.” But it turns out those assertions were overblown in an effort to stoke the firestorm of backlash against Wikileaks and its founder Julian Assange, a claim Wikileaks defenders have been making for months. Still, the U.S. government will continue to investigate whether criminal charges can be brought against Assange. This admission by no means lets him off the hook.
This also does not mean the released information is inconsequential. Damage assessments by the State Department, Pentagon and U.S. intelligence community are still continuing. Meanwhile, the current view of many officials that damage has been limited could change if WikiLeaks releases additional material from its trove of unpublished documents.