WASHINGTON: WikiLeaks on Wednesday released a CIA memo analyzing the risks of terrorists operating from the United States, but the document offered no dramatic revelations of government secrets like the website’s earlier leaks.
The CIA paper — titled "What If Foreigners See the United States as an ‘Exporter of Terrorism’?" — examines the implications of extremists recruiting US nationals and using the United States as a base for attacks abroad.
The Central Intelligence Agency played down the release of the February memorandum, a so-called "red cell" analysis that is supposed to provide an alternative view to the spy agency’s leaders.
"These sorts of analytic products — clearly identified as coming from the agency’s ‘Red Cell’ — are designed simply to provoke thought and present different points of view," CIA spokesman George Little said in an email.
A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, made light of the development and sought to ridicule WikiLeaks, which had announced it was about to release a CIA document.
"This is not exactly a blockbuster paper," said the official.
The website is locked in a dispute with the Pentagon over the leaking of secret military documents on the Afghan war.
It published nearly 77,000 classified US military documents on the war in Afghanistan on July 23 and has said it will publish another 15,000 within the next couple of weeks.
The short document posted Wednesday was a modest paper compared to the trove of files released in July, much of it raw intelligence reports out of Afghanistan.
The CIA memo warns that the United States has long been used by Muslim and other militants as a base for staging terror attacks abroad. It cites recent cases including that of Pakistani-American David Headley, who admitted to carrying out surveillance for the devastating 2008 attacks on Mumbai.
But it said that US officials have tended to focus mainly on the threat from extremists planning attacks against US targets, overlooking those who might be aiming at foreign targets abroad.
"Primarily we have been concerned about Al-Qaeda infiltrating operatives into the United States to conduct terrorist attacks, but AQ may be increasingly looking for Americans to operate overseas," it said.
"Foreign terrorists have recruited homegrown US extremists for attacks abroad and are likely to increase the use of this method because so far it has slipped below the radar of the governments of the US and other countries."
The issue carried potential legal problems that could hamper Washington’s efforts to question and secure the transfer of terror suspects to US soil or to third countries, it said.
"If the US were seen as an exporter of terrorism, foreign partners may be less willing to cooperate with the United States on extrajudicial activities, including detention, transfer, and interrogation of suspects in third party countries," it said.
Having suffered a major attack from extremists abroad, the US government has so far enjoyed "significant leverage to press foreign regimes to acquiesce to requests for extraditing terrorist suspects from their soil."
"However, if the US were seen as an ‘exporter of terrorism,’ foreign governments could request a reciprocal arrangement that would impact US sovereignty."
The CIA memo describes a possible worst-case scenario, with a foreign government taking matters into its own hands if US authorities refused to extradite an American citizen suspected of terrorism.
"In extreme cases, US refusal to cooperate with foreign government requests for extradition might lead some governments to consider secretly extracting US citizens suspected of foreign terrorism from US soil," it said.