Wikileaks: Decoding the cables

The diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks are littered with acronyms and abbreviations used by US officials using the Secret Internet Protocol Router Network communication system.

In this 2008 cable from the US Embassy in Riyadh, we have highlighted some of the key points to look out for when looking at the Wikileaks documents.

Header information
Header section of cable

1. Reference numbers for cable - parts of which are repeated in the body of the cable.

2. Time and date cable was sent: This was sent on 08:47 on 20 April 2008

3. Who the cable is from: US Embassy in Riyadh.

4. Who the cable is to: Secretary of State in Washington.

5. Other people or groups the cable has been copied to: eg the US Embassy in Baghdad.

Body information
Body section of cable

1. Classification of cable: These range from Confidential to Unclassified. This one is labelled as Secret, others also include the label NOFORN which means not for access to non-US citizens.

2. Indicates cable has been sent via Siprnet, short for Secret Internet Protocol Router Network, the computer system used by the US Department of State and US Department of Defense.

3. Who the cable is to in a bit more detail, which here includes the OVP - Office of Vice President and the Department for Near Eastern Affairs/ Arabian Peninsula Affairs.

4. A more specific subject line in plainer English.

5. Reasons for classification of cable. Here, 1.4 (b,d) means it relates to foreign government information or foreign relations or foreign activities of the United States, including confidential sources.

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