WikiLeaks: Vital Sites Vulnerable to Terrorism

If Osama bin Laden, wherever he is, needed a "to do" list, he's got one now.

Officials fear the release of the latest secret diplomatic cables posted on the WikiLeaks website could be a big help to terrorists, CBS News National Security Correspondent David Martin reports. Special Report: WikiLeaks
(Scroll down to watch a video of this report)

Courtesy of WikiLeaks comes a secret State Department cable listing sites around the world vital to U.S. national security and public health.

"Leaking a list that purports to lay out critical infrastructure is like painting a target on the companies or the entities which are listed," said former Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, who was once responsible for what's called the national infrastructure protection plan.

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The list of overseas facilities goes on for four single-spaced pages covering the globe from mines in Africa that produce critical minerals to labs in Europe that manufacture life saving drugs.

Want to find "the most critical gas facility in the world"? According to the document, it's the Nadym gas pipeline junction in Russia. How about a "critical irreplaceable source of power to portions of northeast U.S."? Just Google hydro Quebec in Canada or maybe the plant in Presont, England, that makes parts "critical to the new F-35 joint strike fighter."

"Some of the infrastructure is very well protected, and there's probably not very much a terrorist could do, but there may be some elements that are not well-protected or not well-known," Chertoff said.

Attacks damaging to the U.S. could occur on any continent and in unlikely places that might never have occurred to bin Laden or any other terrorist.

Examples include a lab in Kvistgaard, Denmark, which makes small pox vaccine; an undersea cable connection in Brookvale, Australia; flood-control dams along the Rio Grande between the U.S. and Mexico; a tin mine in Peru; a chromite mine in Kazakhstan; and a plant that produces an antidote for snake bites in Parma, Italy.

"What happens in one part of the world can have a direct impact on another part of the world," Chertoff said.

That would seem to make this cable potentially the most damaging of all the quarter million released over the past week by WikiLeaks. But U.S. officials say other cables, like the one describing the quirks of Libya's Moammar Qaddafi, could result in the recall of a small number of American ambassadors who can no longer deal with their host government.

In some countries, American diplomats are now forbidden to take notes during meetings with local officials, so no more embarrassing quotes can show up in State Department cables.

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  • David Martin

    David Martin is CBS News' National Security Correspondent.