WASHINGTON, July 27, 2010 — The Pentagon has launched an investigation to find out how thousands of classified military documents were leaked to the group WikiLeaks.org, a Defense Department spokesman said.
The Army’s Criminal Investigation Division, also known as CID, is heading the investigation, Marine Corps Col. Dave Lapan told Pentagon reporters today.
“An investigation has been initiated, [and] Army CID has the lead,” Lapan said.
Having the Army take charge of the investigation doesn’t suggest that Army personnel are responsible for the leaks, Lapan explained. CID was chosen for its capabilities in such matters, he said.
“[CID] is an investigative agency that has the ability, the capability, to do these types of things,” Lapan said. “There are a number of investigative agencies [within the Pentagon], but the decision was made that Army CID takes the lead.”
Army CID, he said, also is investigating the case of Army Spc. Bradley Manning, who has been charged with leaking a video of a U.S. helicopter attack in Iraq to WikiLeaks. The document leaks investigation is a continuation or extension of the existing open investigation on Manning, Lapan said.
However, he added, the document leak investigation is “broader” than the Manning case.
“The current investigation into the leak of the documents to WikiLeaks isn’t focused on any one, specific individual,” Lapan said. “It’s much broader. They’re going to look everywhere to determine what the source may be.”
In an interview broadcast today on a segment of MSNBC’s “The Daily Rundown” television news show, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said that Manning “is a person of interest with regards to this leak, but we just don’t know at this point.”
Morrell said the question was posed to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates recently about changing the way the Pentagon shares information with uniformed members. Gates, he said, doesn’t believe that that sort of adjustment is necessary.
“What makes our military the envy of the world is that we entrust the most-junior officers, the most-junior enlisted with incredible amounts of responsibility,” Morrell said. “[Gates] doesn’t want to alter that dynamic, that trust element that exists because of one or two ‘bad seeds.’ ”
The answer, Morrell said, is “to go after the ‘bad actors,’ hold them responsible, prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law, but don’t change the fundamental trusting relationship that makes the military so effective.”
The documents, reportedly given to several U.S. and international media weeks ago, are said to detail field reports from Afghanistan, as well as alleged Pakistani partnership with the Taliban. The more than 90,000 documents cover the period from January 2004 through December 2009, according to news reports.
Morrell refuted questions about Pakistan being a questionable ally, saying Pakistan is a sovereign nation with its own interests. The U.S. military is thankful, he said, that Pakistan’s interest in eliminating terrorists coincides with that of the United States.
“We are aligned in that respect,” Morrell said of the U.S.-Pakistan relationship. “But we each have our own interests here that we have to balance and work through. We think we’re making a lot of progress there, but we’re not alone in the driver’s seat.
“As Secretary Gates says, we’re in the passenger seat. They’re at the wheel,” Morrell continued. “They determine the direction and the pace, but we’re going to be their partner in this effort.”
On questions regarding the documents’ outlining of miscues in Afghanistan, Morrell said the United States effort there is long term and moving in the right direction. Although civilian casualties there are a concern, he said, the numbers are down by a third this year, while the civilian casualties taken at the hands of the Taliban has nearly doubled. Morrell noted “rules of engagement” changes U.S. and international forces made a year ago when former commander of forces in Afghanistan Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal took the helm.
“General McChrystal, when he came in, instituted this tactical directive which has seen civilian casualties, due to our forces and coalition forces [efforts], plummet by a third this year,” Morrell said. Meanwhile, he said, Afghan civilian casualties caused by the Taliban [casualties] are up by about 90 percent.
Turning back to the WikiLeaks situation, Morrell noted that the Pentagon’s investigation of the leaked documents continues.
“To the issue of whether it’s damaged operational security or endangered our forces, we’re still trying to get our arms around that,” he said. “We’ve got a team working around the clock going through them bit by bit to try to see is there any information in there that could imperil our forces, our coalition partners, the civilians who are on the battlefield with us.
“And are there any things in there that could jeopardize our operations or our nation’s security?” he continued. “We just don’t know at this point.”
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)