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30th Jul 2021

UK condemns leak of 'critical infrastructure' list

Britain on Monday (6 December) condemned WikiLeaks for publishing a classified US list of "critical infrastructure" in European countries which could form terrorist targets. German tabloid Bild also said the whistleblower is playing into terrorists' hands.

"We unequivocally condemn the unauthorised release of classified information. The leaks and their publication are damaging to national security in the United States, Britain and elsewhere," a communique from Prime Minister David Cameron's office reads.

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  • 'Lethality enhancers' for Patriot missiles are being developed in Germany (Photo: Wikipedia)

A spokesperson for EU anti-terrorism co-ordinator Gilles de Kerchove declined to comment on the release.

Overnight from Sunday to Monday, the WikiLeaks published a cable dating to 18 February in which the US government lists what it considers "critical foreign infrastructure" around the globe, including Europe.

The inventory is drawn up from a strictly US perspective, not a national or European one. An attack on these facilities "could critically impact the public health, economic security, and/or national and homeland security of the United States," the cable says.

UK military assets make up the biggest part of the list, along with Germany's labs and bomb-testing facilities.

Among potential British targets are BAE Systems' facilities in Presont, Lancashire for being "critical to the [fighter jet] F-35 Joint Strike Fighter," the one in Southway, Plymouth Devon, described as "critical to extended range guided munitions" and the one in Chorley for its role in the Joint Standoff Weapon program, which develops "precision strike weapons" launched from fighter jets. Scotland's MacTaggart Scott engineering company, producer of propulsion units for submarines is also on the list for being "critical to the Ship Submersible Nuclear" program.

A spokeswoman for BAE Systems on Monday said: "BAE Systems recognises its role as a custodian of key industrial and military assets. We would be concerned at any activity which compromises this."

Germany did not react officially on Monday morning. The mass-circulation Bild published an article with the headline "This is how WikiLeaks is playing into the terrorists' hands," however.

The US State Department described the BASF chemical plant in Ludwigshafen, south-west Germany, as "the world's largest integrated chemical complex." Siemens' factory in Erlangen, Bavaria, is producing "essentially irreplaceble" chemicals. Hydroelectric Dam Turbines and Generators Draeger Safety in the east-German town of Luebeck are "critical to gas detection capability," while Junghans Fienwerktechnik in Schramberg, near the French border, is "critical to the production of mortars."

The Bavaria-based TDW-Gesellshcaft Wirksysteme in Schroebenhausen is "critical to the production" of so-called lethality enhancement of missiles. GlobalSecurity.org explains that these are "additional explosives aimed at increasing the kill radius of an interceptor missile."

Apart from military assets, pharmaceutical laboratories and factories are mentioned in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipline connecting oil fields in the Caspian sea to Turkey via Georgia and Azerbaijan is also on the list, along with Soviet-era oil pipe Druzba, crossing Belarus and Poland, Italy's Trans-Med gas pipeline and Spain's Maghreb-Europe gas pipeline. Russia's Novorossiysk oil terminal on the Black Sea and the Nadym gas pipeline junction in Western Siberia are mentioned, the latter being described as "the most critical gas facility in the world."

Undersea cables in Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands and the UK complete the list, along with strategic straits such as the Bosphorus and Gibraltar and some rare elements mines in Ukraine and Russia.

A second cable, sent on 20 March from the US embassy in Stockholm, further requests "to add Sweden's communications infrastructure" to the list. "Although Sweden does not posses a direct undersea cable from the US, Sweden is a central European communications hub," the document reads, citing Swedish company TeliaSonera, which owns and manages 43,000 km of fiber optic cable linking Russia and the Baltics to the rest of Europe and the US. "If these lines of communications were to be destroyed, disrupted, or xploited, it may compromise global communications," the US embassy explains.

Swedish pharmaceutical manufacturing company Recip AB is also to be "kept on the list" for its production of potassium iodide, a substance used "in the aftermath of a nuclear emergency."

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