WASHINGTON, Aug. 18, 2010 — Defense Department officials today released a letter the Pentagon’s top lawyer sent to a man purported to be an attorney for the WikiLeaks website, which published tens of thousands of classified documents last month and is threatening to release 15,000 more.
Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters this afternoon that Timothy J. Matusheski was a “no show” for a telephone call that was arranged last week when his name and purported status as a WikiLeaks attorney came up in an investigation of the document leak.
The following day, Whitman said, the Pentagon’s general counsel codified the Defense Department’s position in a letter and sent it to Matusheski.
Here is the text of the letter, dated Aug. 16 and signed by General Counsel Jeh C. Johnson. Words that were underlined in the original are presented here in all capital letters: Dear Mr. Matusheski
I understand that you represent yourself to be an attorney for WikiLeaks and that you, on behalf of that organization, sought a conversation with someone in the United States Government to discuss “harm minimization” with respect to some 15,000 U.S. Government classified documents that WikiLeaks is holding and is threatening to make public. In response, I was prepared to speak with you yesterday at 10:00am EDT and convey the position of the Department of Defense. Despite your agreement to be available by telephone yesterday morning, we could not reach you at that time.
The position of the Department of Defense is clear, and it should be conveyed to your client in no uncertain terms:
WikiLeaks is holding the property of the U.S. Government, including classified documents and sensitive national security information that has not been authorized for release. Further, it is the view of the Department of Defense that WikiLeaks obtained this material in circumstances that constitute a violation of United States law, and that as long as WikiLeaks holds this material, the violation of the law is ongoing.
The Secretary of Defense has made clear the damage to our national security by the public release by WikiLeaks of some 76,000 classified documents several weeks ago, and the threat to the lives of coalition forces in Afghanistan and to the lives of local Afghan nationals as a result. As the Secretary has also stated, we know from various sources that our enemy is accessing the WikiLeaks website for the purpose of exploiting WikiLeaks’ illegal and irresponsible actions, to pursue their own terrorist aims.
The threatened release of additional classified documents by WikiLeaks will add to the damage. Among other sensitive items, we believe the classified documents contain, like the first batch of released documents, the names of Afghan nationals who are assisting coalition forces in our efforts to bring about peace and stability in that portion of the world. Thus, the Department of Defense will NOT negotiate some “minimized” or “sanitized” version of a release by WikiLeaks of additional U.S. Government classified documents. The Department demands that NOTHING further be released by WikiLeaks, that ALL of the U.S. Government classified documents that WikiLeaks has obtained be returned immediately, and that WikiLeaks remove and destroy all of these records from its databases.
Jeh Charles Johnson
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)