Officials at U.S. embassies and consulates are warning allies and combing through sensitive documents in advance of an expected new release of classified files from the Internet gadfly WikiLeaks.
The documents are believed to include thousands of diplomatic cables, the contents of which the State Department said could harm relations between the United States and other nations, jeopardize national security and risk lives. They could be released as early as this weekend.
This week, WikiLeaks announced it would soon make public a trove of documents seven times larger than the nearly 400,000 Iraq war files it released in October.
"The coming months will see a new world, where global history is redefined," the organization said via Twitter.
In response, the State Department began notifying its outposts, asking them to identify documents that could contain embarrassing or sensitive material, such as candid assessments of foreign heads of state or governments.
"This is serious. These are classified cables for a reason," said department spokesman Philip J. Crowley. "Implicit in these relationships [with other countries] is trust. We're going to test that trust."
Both the State Department and the Pentagon have notified Congress about their concerns.
WikiLeaks said the Obama administration was overreacting. "The Pentagon is hyperventilating over fears of being held to account," the organization said.
The London-based newspaper Al Hayat reported Thursday that the documents show that the Turkish government allowed money and weapons to flow across the border into Iraq in support of Al Qaeda forces there.
Prior to the release of the Iraq war documents, WikiLeaks released a batch of files in July pertaining to the war in Afghanistan.
WikiLeaks has not revealed its source for the documents in its possession, but the Pentagon has in custody a former Army intelligence analyst in Iraq, Pfc. Bradley E. Manning, who has been charged with transferring classified data to his personal computer and releasing it to an unauthorized source.
WikiLeaks' founder, Julian Assange, remains the target of a sexual assault investigation in Sweden. An appeals court this week upheld an Interpol arrest warrant for Assange, 39, an Australian who has denied the allegations and claimed they're part of a smear campaign.