US Ambassador to Germany on Leaks: 'I Am not Going to Apologize'

The US ambassador in Berlin, Philip Murphy, 53, discusses his views of Chancellor Angela Merkel, Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle and his incredible anger over the leak of the diplomatic cables.

US Ambassador Philip Murphy: "This is not idle gossip -- there is serious stuff that is at stake, deadly serious." Zoom
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US Ambassador Philip Murphy: "This is not idle gossip -- there is serious stuff that is at stake, deadly serious."

SPIEGEL: Mr. Ambassador, how are diplomatic cables like the ones now being published created?

Murphy: One of the core responsibilities of a member of the State Department foreign service -- in any embassy and certainly in Berlin -- is to report. In most cases, it is a moment in time, a piece of a puzzle, a scene from a movie. We try to piece things together over time. The people we have in Berlin are among our very best and we have some of the very best reporting officers in the world.

SPIEGEL: You're obviously handling a wide-ranging network of sources in the German government. You even had an informant who was involved in the negotiations to create the last government. Is that normal?

Murphy: I'm not going to comment on any specific cable or action. The overwhelming majority of what we report is based on human contact.

SPIEGEL: Where is the line drawn between the usual diplomatic business and the intelligence world here?

Murphy: I won't comment on anything on intelligence. We talk to people, you get to know each other, you try to build a level of trust and you share observations.

SPIEGEL: Should the German government be left wondering when it hears that a guy is running out of coalition talks with binders to the American Embassy reporting on confidential negotiations?

Murphy: If it is not the most, then Germany is at least among the most important allies we have. We have an excellent relationship. Then someone comes along and breaches that trust by allowing these documents to get into the sphere that they've gotten into. It is a complete and utter act of betrayal. I am mad about it, and I don't blame our brethren in the German government if they are mad, too, that someone has downloaded these documents. I'm incredibly angry.

SPIEGEL: In your internal analysis, you call the chancellor "Angela 'Teflon' Merkel". Why?

Murphy: We have enormous regard for the chancellor. Period, full stop. Since I arrived here, we have gotten an enormous amount accomplished. She is as good an ally as we have got. Period.

An Interactive Atlas of the Diplomatic Cables

A time lapse of 251,287 documents: The world map shows where the majority of the cables originated from, and where they had the highest level of classification. View the atlas ...

SPIEGEL: You have been particularly critical in dealing with Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle. How is you relationship today?

Murphy: I have a very high regard for him. I always had a clear vision of what his Free Democratic Party was. It was the kingmaking party. For a long time the foreign minister was chosen from the party, first (Hans-Dietrich) Genscher and then (Klaus) Kinkel. So I had a pretty good going-in sense of Westerwelle and what he would be like as a foreign minister. My experience since has been consistent with that. He is pretty much who we thought he would be. We have a truly good relationship.

SPIEGEL: Will the publication of the embassy cables harm American foreign policy?

Murphy: I have been thinking about that a lot in the past few days. In the medium to long term, I am supremely confident that it will not. We will have gone through tougher spots than this in our relationship of over 60-plus years. There will be a piece of broken china here and there. On the margin, though, what is the cost-benefit analysis of having done this? This is not idle gossip -- there is serious stuff at stake, deadly serious. I don't begrudge SPIEGEL and the press, who are just doing their jobs. I am criticizing those who stole this material.

SPIEGEL: What are you experiencing, personally, now that you know that assessments you have written about German politicians are being made public?

Murphy: I'm a big boy. At the end of the day, the buck stops with me. I worry about my people. They have done nothing wrong. I am not going to apologize for one speck of what they've done.

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1.
BTraven 11/30/2010
It looks like a new business model for people who know how to formulate references which are encoded in Germany therefore you do not know exactly when you scan them how your work is evaluated. The problem is that the person who you will read your next job application where the reference is enclosed can handle the code. You do not have any other choice than to seek advice by a person familiar with the subject. Why do not offer US-ambassadors to encode all evaluations they make about politician? More profitable, of course, would be to teach the diplomats to do the coding themselves.
2. Everyone does it so whats the big deal?
mae 12/01/2010
What is missing from the equation is that all countries have contacts in foreign countries to give them the scoop on local politicians. The Europeans have their contacts in America to give them inside information on US politicians. The German ambassador in USA does exactly what the US ambassador in Germany does and collects information to pass it along to Berlin. Also all countries in the UN spy, so whats the big deal? Der Spiegel might sound less hypcritical if it acknowledges that German and European diplomats do the same things. What is interesting is that these leaks originally thought to embarrass the USA are proving to be more embarassing to other countries. Arab countries caught two faced putting pressure on Obama to bomb Iran nuclear sites. German politicians snitching and talking badly about other German politicians. The US diplomats who wrote these cables come off as measured and calm dealing with a crazy world. Its the rest of the world that comes off as duplicitous and hypocritical
3.
BTraven 12/03/2010
Zitat von maeWhat is missing from the equation is that all countries have contacts in foreign countries to give them the scoop on local politicians. The Europeans have their contacts in America to give them inside information on US politicians. The German ambassador in USA does exactly what the US ambassador in Germany does and collects information to pass it along to Berlin. Also all countries in the UN spy, so whats the big deal? Der Spiegel might sound less hypcritical if it acknowledges that German and European diplomats do the same things. What is interesting is that these leaks originally thought to embarrass the USA are proving to be more embarassing to other countries. Arab countries caught two faced putting pressure on Obama to bomb Iran nuclear sites. German politicians snitching and talking badly about other German politicians. The US diplomats who wrote these cables come off as measured and calm dealing with a crazy world. Its the rest of the world that comes off as duplicitous and hypocritical
Itís the first time I completely agree with you. And itís even quite interesting to learn of how Americaís diplomats evaluate politicians and conditions of other countries. As far as I have to got they made no great mistake in their judgements. Good job.
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Interactive Atlas

A time lapse of 251,287 documents: The world map shows where the majority of the cables originated from, and where they had the highest level of classification. View the atlas ...

Reaction from the US Government
In a statement, the White House has condemned the publication of "private diplomatic discussions" with foreign governments by SPIEGEL and four other international media on Sunday. Click on the link below to read the statement in full.
White House Statement
We anticipate the release of what are claimed to be several hundred thousand classified State Department cables on Sunday night that detail private diplomatic discussions with foreign governments.

By its very nature, field reporting to Washington is candid and often incomplete information. It is not an expression of policy, nor does it always shape final policy decisions. Nevertheless, these cables could compromise private discussions with foreign governments and opposition leaders, and when the substance of private conversations is printed on the front pages of newspapers across the world, it can deeply impact not only US foreign policy interests, but those of our allies and friends around the world.

To be clear -- such disclosures put at risk our diplomats, intelligence professionals, and people around the world who come to the United States for assistance in promoting democracy and open government. These documents also may include named individuals who in many cases live and work under oppressive regimes and who are trying to create more open and free societies. President Obama supports responsible, accountable, and open government at home and around the world, but this reckless and dangerous action runs counter to that goal.

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. We condemn in the strongest terms the unauthorized disclosure of classified documents and sensitive national security information.


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