WikiLeaks on Friday began publishing more than half a million top-secret documents from Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Ministry, including communications from Saudi embassies across the globe, information from other state institutions, and correspondence with foreign entities, the US-based Commondreams news website said.
“While analysts have not yet pored through the documents, the files are poised to expose the Saudi government, whose atrocious human rights record is being put on display with its ongoing bombing and blockade of Yemen. They could also shed light on the relationships between Saudi Arabia and its close allies throughout the region and world, including the United States,” the website said.
According to the Commondreams, WikiLeaks said that the massive trove of cables will be published in bunches of tens of thousands over the next few weeks. As of Friday, at least 61,205 documents had been published, with more troves expected in coming days. The cables are being hosted on an online database and can be searched here.
‘The Saudi Cables lift the lid on a increasingly erratic and secretive dictatorship that has not only celebrated its 100th beheading this year, but which has also become a menace to its neighbors and itself,’ said Julian Assange of WikiLeaks in a press statement.
As for where the files came from, the website said that the famed publisher of government and corporate secrets said: “Since late March 2015 the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been involved in a war in neighboring Yemen. The Saudi Foreign Ministry in May 2015 admitted to a breach of its computer networks. Responsibility for the breach was attributed to a group calling itself the Yemeni Cyber Army. The group subsequently released a number of valuable ‘sample’ document sets from the breach on file-sharing sites, which then fell under censorship attacks. The full WikiLeaks trove comprises thousands of times the number of documents and includes hundreds of thousands of pages of scanned images of Arabic text. In a major journalistic research effort, WikiLeaks has extracted the text from these images and placed them into our searchable database. The trove also includes tens of thousands of text files and spreadsheets as well as email messages, which have been made searchable through the WikiLeaks search engine.”
There was no immediate way to verify the authenticity of the documents, although WikiLeaks has a long track record of hosting large-scale leaks of government material. Many of the documents carried green letterhead marked ‘Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’ or ‘Ministry of Foreign Affairs.’ Some were marked ‘urgent’ or ‘classified.’ At least one appeared to be from the Saudi Embassy in Washington.
If genuine, the documents would offer a rare glimpse into the inner workings of the notoriously opaque kingdom. They might also shed light on Riyadh’s longstanding regional rivalry with Iran, its support for Syrian rebels and Egypt’s military-backed government, and its opposition to an emerging international agreement on Tehran’s nuclear program.
One of the documents, dated to 2012, appears to highlight Saudi Arabia’s well-known skepticism about the Iranian nuclear talks. A message from the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Tehran to the Foreign Ministry in Riyadh describes ‘flirting American messages’ being carried to Iran via an unnamed Turkish mediator.
The AP was able to partially verify a handful of documents’ authenticity by calling the telephone numbers included in many of them. WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson told AP he was confident that the material was genuine.