Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) this week described a massive leak of dispatches from U.S. diplomats abroad as treason, saying it could have a devastating impact on national interests.
A 2008 meeting involving Schiff and the future president of Pakistan is the subject of one of many private dispatches that have been made public since the WikiLeaks cache has steadily filtered out among a handful of international media outlets.
On May 26, 2008, Schiff and Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-Penn.) met in Islamabad with top Pakistani officials, according to the leaked diplomatic cable, which detailed the comments of Asif Zardari, then leader of the Pakistan People's Party and now the president of Pakistan.
Zardari thanked the United States for supporting fair elections in Pakistan, asked for more economic development aid in rural Pakistan and said the United States would need to maintain a long-term presence there to fight terrorism.
The cable did not characterize Schiff's remarks, and noted that he "did not clear" or authorize the communiqué. Schiff, a member of the House Intelligence Committee who has made several trips to the Middle East, said he only learned of the cable this week, and condemned its release by WikiLeaks.
"I'm not surprised a cable was produced," Schiff said. "Frankly, it is the kind of thing they should be doing. What's not appropriate is it being made public."
He went on to say Zardari used the meeting to talk privately about his political rivals and the relationship between his country and the U.S.
"Certainly these disclosures can be used by his opponents back home," Schiff said. "Next time I meet with him, or others from Congress do, he'll have to be mindful that anything he says may be used in the newspaper."
The memo is one of 251,000 State Department cables given by WikiLeaks to newspapers in Germany, Spain, England and the United States. U.S. Army Intelligence Officer Bradley Manning was arrested earlier this year and has reportedly said he was involved in hundreds of thousands of intelligence leaks.
"I think the disclosure of all these cables is just devastating to the country," Schiff said, adding that he believes the leaks are an act of treason.
Schiff also said the leaked memos will have a "chilling effect" on U.S. diplomatic efforts.
"Leaders will stick to prescribed talking points, and we'll have a lot less meaningful dialogue with some of them," he said.
It will also cause a revamp of information-sharing among U.S. intelligence agencies, he said. In the wake of 9/11, the CIA and FBI were criticized for failing to share vital intelligence, a relationship that has since thawed.
Schiff said government agencies must strike a balance, preventing further leaks while sharing enough information to root out terrorist plots.