The most significant California-related news in the
Wikileaks cables are the Chinese hacking attacks on Google. That story has been
well covered. But California also appears in a dozen different places in the
cables. Among them:
-Bulgarian organized crime in LA. A July 2005 cable from the
U.S. ambassador in Sofia, Bulgaria, warns that organized crime was the
country’s most significant problem, and it notes that it’s a problem that
affects the U.S. because of "significant drug trafficking organizations run by
Bulgarian nationals in Los Angeles."
– A key member of the Afghan President Karzai’s government –
the economic minister Haji Abdul Hadi Arghandewal – is seen as being a moderate
that the U.S. can work with. Among his ties to the country: he used to live
here and still has family in California, according to a 2010 cable.
– Swedes and climate change. Swedish companies in
alternative energy are desperate for funding from California venture capital
firms, according to 2007 cables from the U.S. embassy in Stockholm. The State
Department even seemed to have a role in a meeting at Stanford between Swedish
firms and venture capitalists.
-Dangerous criminal immigrants… from Israel. A May 2009
cable expresses concern about Israeli organized crime, particularly in
California, and urges stepped up immigration enforcement.
-Did a Venezuelan nuclear scientist smuggle radioactive
material to his country from California? Cables quote an unidentified
Venezuelan academic as complaining that the Venezuelan government won’t give
him licenses to import radioactive material for research. In one vague cable,
the academic says he flew in to Venezuela from California with "undeclared
material in his pocket" despite a warning from his own university that he could
end up in jail. Nothing is said about the exact source of the radioactive
-A California’s drivers license is a great identification to
The most intriguing story involved a 75-year-old Los Angeles
dentist named Hossein Ghanbarzadeh Vahedi. While visiting relatives in Iran,
his passport was seized – apparently in an effort to convince Dr. Vahedi to
pressure his sons, music promoters who represent Iranian pop stars who have
been critical of the regime. Says the cable: "He repeatedly told the
officials of the Islamic Revolution Court that his children had lived in
America all of their lives and as such he exerted no control over their strong,
typically American independent behavior."
So to get home to California, he escaped via bus and on
horseback last year from Iran to Turkey. How did he get through the 20 security
stops along his path? By showing his California driver’s license.
A New Year’s resolution: Be more grateful to the DMV.