WASHINGTON, Oct. 22, 2010 — The Defense Department is preparing for an additional publication by Wikileaks of classified military documents from Iraq operations, DOD officials said here today.
A DOD task force has been combing through the Iraq data base to assess the damage that a proposed Wikileaks publication of 400,000 significant activity reports could pose to the U.S. military, Iraqi allies, and on-going operations.
“We strongly condemn the unauthorized disclosure of classified information and will not comment on these leaked documents other than to note that ’significant activities’ reports are initial, raw observations by tactical units,” Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell told reporters. “They are essentially snapshots of events, both tragic and mundane, and do not tell the whole story.
“That said, the period covered by these reports has been well-chronicled in news stories, books and films and the release of these field reports does not bring new understanding to Iraq’s past,” Morrell added.
In a note to news organizations, Pentagon spokesman Marine Corps Col. Dave Lapan said the department does not know for sure what Wikileaks will publish, but officials expect the same type of documents the organization put on the Internet in July about the Afghan conflict. Wikileaks put 77,000 documents from the Afghan data base on line in that breach of national security.
“If the release of documents is four times what it was for the Afghan logs, this is larger in that sense,” Lapan said. “But in view of the types of information, the two are very similar.”
Task force officials, he said, concluded that Wikileaks might release the names of Iraqis who cooperated with the coalition and information that could aid enemies in operations.
The potential breach is dangerous, but not fatal, Lapan said, noting neither the Iraq, nor Afghanistan data bases contain intelligence sources and methods.
“That’s a different level, and that’s not what is in these documents,” he said.
The data bases contain reports of every company level significant activity, Lapan said.
“These are raw observations from the tactical level of combat operations,” he said. “They could be casualty incidents; they could be IED incidents, information on working with Iraqis –- any number of things that units use this database to report.”
Wikileaks should not publish anything, the colonel said.
“The problem with Wikileaks is it goes beyond just taking out names of people,” Lapan said. “There is lots of other information that could be damaging, and they don’t have the expertise to know what they are.”
Lapan said if Wikileaks does publish the documents on the Web, servicemembers and DOD civilians should steer clear of the site.
“The information remains classified even if it is released publicly,” Lapan said. DOD personnel should not access that website from their government computers, he said, lest they create a security breach.
“We deplore Wikileaks for inducing individuals to break the law, leak classified documents and then cavalierly share that secret information with the world, including our enemies,” Lapan continued. “We know terrorist organizations have been mining the leaked Afghan documents for information to use against us, and this Iraq leak is more than four times as large.”
Wikileaks’ actions are putting the lives of troops and civilians at risk, Lapan said.
“The only responsible course of action for Wikileaks at this point is to return the stolen material and expunge it from their websites as soon as possible,” he said.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)