USA — Pentagon Releases Letter Sent to Purported WikiLeaks Attorney

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)

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