Sir Richard Dalton, one of the UK’s leading diplomats of the past 30 years, has slammed the United States government for demanding that its diplomatic representatives to the UN spy on UN diplomats and staff, and engage in criminal acts such as stealing their credit card numbers.

Dalton’s comments come on another extraordinary day in which WikiLeaks revelations put the position of Bank of England governor Mervyn King at risk, and WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange condemned the issue of an Interpol alert for him as “worthy of [Stalin police chief] Lavrenty Beria”.

Speaking at a panel discussion at London’s Frontline Club, Dalton was unequivocal on the UN spying fiasco. “I think the diplomats who received those instructions should have returned them and refused them”, the former ambassador said. He added that while he believed that diplomatic secrecy should be preserved, WikiLeaks and news outlets had no choice but to publish the material once it was passed to them.

Dalton, who served as the UK’s first ambassador to Libya after the resumption of diplomatic relations, and as ambassador to Iran until last year, also rejected the charge that the cables show nothing new, arguing that there’s a difference between suspecting and knowing, and that the cables were of clear import.

Dalton was rebutting claims by former US under-secretary of state for public diplomacy Colleen Graffy, who argued that the cables should never be presented raw to the general public, who would not have the ability to understand their meaning, and should rely instead on journalists and others to contextualise them. Graffy, who was in the state department during the period that the practice of spying on the UN was first mooted, refused to deny that the US had broken international treaties and law by the practice, arguing only that “all nations spy”.

The statements came as the WikiLeaks Cablegate stories continued to set the news agenda across Europe and the US. Tonight’s release setting out in detail the belief of US and other diplomatic representatives that Russia is not merely a state with a lot of Mafias, but that the state and organised crime have simply merged, with Robert Gates, US defence secretary, quoted as saying that “Russian democracy has simply disappeared; it is an oligarchy run by the secret services”.

Again the establishment shills within journalism rushed to deride the release as “nothing we didn’t already know”, Vladimir Putin thought it worth so little attention that he held a global press conference, and did an interview with Larry King, in which he suggested that WikiLeaks was being fed misinformation as part of a bait-and-switch conspiracy.

That would suggest a complex operation, but that’s probably what your mind turns to if, as the cables suggest US diplomats believe, you regularly poison your opponents with radioactive material in London restaurants.

London was the scene of another WL-inspired showdown, when cables revealed that Bank of England governor Mervyn King strongly lobbied the incoming conservative government to impose a harsh deficit reduction program, while at the same time telling those who would listen that he thought that Cameron and Chancellor Osborne were lightweights. The intervention broke convention and King’s explicit rules for his subordinates against becoming involved in policy — rules he imposed on centre-left staff most insistently.

The continued tide of revelations, and the fact that there is no end in sight — WikiLeaks has released just 600 of the 250,000 cables spoken of, and it is unclear whether or not these are part of a much larger drop of up to three million cables — has prompted US figures to new heights of seething violence.

Bill O’Reilly, an alleged journalist/commentator on Fox, has called for the “execution” for treason of whoever leaked the files to WikiLeaks, while Sarah Palin suggested that Julian Assange should be hunted down like Osama bin Laden — which he sort of is, i.e. not — and also charged with treason, a tough thing for a US court to hang on an Australian citizen. Mike Huckabee has lined up with executors, while Assange has been slated for execution by the Canadian deputy prime minister. No, I don’t know either.

Surprisingly, or perhaps not, a lot of that hostility appears to be coming from the professional journalist fraternity, judging by the other questions at the Frontline Club last night. One expected the standard line from Graffy — that this had a “chilling” effect on diplomatic discourse, etc, but the weird thing was that the bulk of the questions came from journos who seemed to have some beef with WikiLeaks.

“Is this irresponsible?” said one. “Why isn’t WikiLeaks encouraging competition?’ said another. “Is WikiLeaks displacing field journalism?’ “Is redaction an admission of earlier guilt?’ “How will people understand these cables without context?’ “Has WikiLeaks betrayed Bradley Manning?’ and on and on.

It’s not that some of these questions weren’t fair or pertinent — it’s that the whole evening was taken up with a palpable anxiety by journalists, and a hostility from those who rely on political connections and inside knowledge, that the rules of the game were changing, and that there were new players.

That takes a bit of getting used to. Halfway through the evening, someone announced that WikiLeaks had been denied access to Amazon servers, a service it was using for excess demand. Graffy crowed that the site was down. Checking it afterwards, it was clearly not (though parts were bouncing back), as was the case with the last half-dozen reports of WL being decisively hacked.

Whether they can stay up for ever remains to be seen. That question is becoming more pertinent for Assange as well, currently — according to WikiLeaks rep Kristinn Hrafnsson in an undisclosed location outside London somewhere, so probably not in the UK at all.

Interpol has a issued a “red” notice of locate and trace, in relation to the Swedish warrant compelling Assange to present himself for questioning on the r-pe accusations that go back to August, and result from complaints to police by two former s-xual partners that Assange would not consent to an STI test.

Through his lawyer, Assange reiterated that he had been given leave to exit Sweden during the investigation, had been in contact with the prosecutor’s office, and that they had refused several possible interview dates.

The red notice leaves a danger that Assange could be detained in the UK for extradition, and possibly served with charges by the US government — which can be enacted near-automatically, under the one-way UK-US extradition treaty negotiated by Tony Blair.

Should the US find a way to charge him, Assange could face decades in prison — although the murderous tone of mainstream right-wing American discourse at moment suggests they have other measures on their mind, a thuggishness that has been implicit in much of their discourse for a long while now. The times are anything but diplomatic.