War on Terrorism

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

WikiLeaks Has Yet to Contact 'Competent Authorities'

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

Aug. 18, 2010 - The operators of a website that published tens of thousands of classified documents have contacted no "competent authorities" in the Defense Department, a Pentagon spokesman said here today.

WikiLeaks already has released 90,000 classified documents, and the site's publisher said he plans to release about 15,000 more.

"Those documents should be returned," Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said. "There should be no further posting of these classified documents, and those that have been posted should be removed."

The Army's Criminal Investigation Division and the FBI are conducting an investigation into the leak of the documents.

WikiLeaks officials have attempted to use the media as an intermediary, "but the Defense Department has had no direct contact with WikiLeaks," Whitman said.

In any event, the Defense Department is not interested in negotiating with the organization, Whitman said, noting that it's simply against the law to release classified documents. If Defense Department officials participated in trying to sanitize or redact these documents, he said, they still would be guilty of releasing classified documents.

"These documents are property of the United States government," Whitman said. "The unauthorized release of them threatens the lives of coalition forces, as well as Afghan nationals. All should be returned immediately, they should be removed from the Web, there should be no further posting of them to the Web, and all data bases containing them should be destroyed."

Defense Department officials are analyzing the leaked documents to try to minimize the risk to coalition forces and to Afghans who worked with the coalition, Whitman said, though he would not get into specifics.

Another danger of the leaks is the possibility that commands may safeguard information and intelligence so much that those who need it won't get it, Whitman noted.

"There is a balance to make sure that all the available intelligence is accessible where it needs to be accessible," Whitman said. "But there should be safeguards, too, to preclude or mitigate instances where people may be acting in an improper, unauthorized or even illegal way."

Intelligence is a tool that young servicemembers must have to carry out their missions, he added.

"Anything that we do as we assess the situation here and learn lessons from this will always be balanced with the imperative that our forces on the ground need to have access to the best information that we can provide them," he said.

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