Hugh Pickens writes writes "It took a team of ten reporters working two months to sift through 250,000 confidential American diplomatic cables at the NY Times, but when a story idea recently came up that I wanted to research in more detail, I found Wikileaks to be a very useful and accessible tool for further investigation. First, some background: For the past ten years I have written stories about Peace Corps safety and medical issues, the Peace Corps' budget appropriations, and the work done by volunteers in their countries of service on a web site I publish called 'Peace Corps Online.' When the Peace Corps announced last month they were taking the unusual step of suspending their program in Kazakhstan and withdrawing all 117 volunteers, I decided to dig deeper and find out what was behind the decision to leave the country. First I went to blogs of volunteers serving in Kazakhstan and found that four rapes or sexual assaults of volunteers had occurred in the past year and that it had became increasingly difficult for volunteers to conduct their work. But the biggest revelation was when I found fourteen U.S. diplomatic cables on Wikileaks that cited elements in the Kazakhstani 'pro-Russian old-guard at the Committee for National Security (the KNB, successor to the KGB) aimed at discrediting the Peace Corps and damaging bilateral relations' with the U.S. Further investigation on Wikileaks revealed how one Peace Corps volunteer had been sentenced to two years imprisonment in 2009 after 'what appeared to be a classic Soviet-style set-up.' The volunteer was only freed through the diplomatic efforts of U.S. Ambassador Richard Hoagland and the personal intervention of Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev."
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