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US warns against crackdown on exposed sources

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ROBERT BURNS | January 7, 2011 04:40 PM EST | AP

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The State Department on Friday warned foreign governments not to retaliate against human rights activists or others whose dealings with American officials were disclosed in secret diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters that certain governments have been told that if they take what Crowley called "adverse actions" against sources cited in the cables it would harm relations with the United States. Crowley didn't say which governments have been warned, or describe any specific instance of retaliation.

The State Department has as many as 60 people poring over the leaked cables to assess potential damage, Crowley said. So far they have identified several hundred individuals thought to be at risk, he said.

"We are focused on people that have been identified in documents and (assessing) whether there is a greater risk to them of violence, imprisonment or other serious harm, particularly in repressive societies around the world," he said.

In a few cases, he said, individuals have been moved to safer locations since WikiLeaks began releasing sensitive State Department cables in November.

Crowley declined to provide more details, saying additional information could further jeopardize the safety of people believed to be at risk.