White House: Clinton Spy Charges "Ridiculous"

Hillary Rodham Clinton CBS

President Barack Obama's spokesman is labeling as "ridiculous" an assertion by the founder of WikiLeaks that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton should resign if she was involved in asking U.S. diplomats to gather intelligence at the United Nations.

In an online interview with Time magazine from an undisclosed location, founder Julian Assange on Tuesday called on Clinton to resign "if it can be shown that she was responsible for ordering U.S. diplomatic figures to engage in espionage in the United Nations" in violation of international agreements.

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White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Wednesday that Assange's statements "are both ridiculous and absurd." Clinton, he said, has done nothing wrong, and U.S. diplomats do not engage in spying. He spoke in an interview on NBC's "Today" show.

State Department officials said Tuesday that secret instructions to American diplomats to gather sensitive personal information about foreign leaders originated from the U.S. intelligence community but did not require diplomats to spy. Requests for DNA and biometric data on foreign officials were contained in leaked classified cables published by WikiLeaks.

"Secretary Clinton is doing a great job," Gibbs said. "The president has great confidence in and admires the work that Secretary Clinton has done."

Meanwhile, Clinton said during a security summit that the trove of leaked diplomatic cables will have no adverse effect on America's international relations.

Clinton said she has discussed the revelations published on the WikiLeaks website with her colleagues at a security summit in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan. The event is the first major international meeting of leaders and top diplomats since the memos began appearing on the website and in numerous international publications earlier this week.

The secret U.S. Embassy memos published by WikiLeaks contain frank details on several leaders attending the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe meeting in Astana.

"I have certainly raised the issue of the leaks in order to assure our colleagues that it will not in any way interfere with American diplomacy or our commitment to continuing important work that is ongoing," Clinton said.

"I have not any had any concerns expressed about whether any nation will not continue to work with and discuss matters of importance to us both going forward," she added.

The Obama administration has harshly criticized the leaking of the cables, saying the details in them could put lives at risk.

"I anticipate that there will be a lot of questions that people have every right and reason to ask, and we stand ready to discuss them at any time with our counterparts around the world," Clinton added.

Several officials at the summit echoed her comments.

British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who met Wednesday with Clinton, released a statement saying the "recent Wikileaks disclosures would not affect our uniquely strong relationship."

Kazakh Foreign Minister Kanat Saudabayev, commenting on leaked U.S. cables about top officials in his own government, also said "this will have no bearing on our strategic relationship."

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