WASHINGTON, Aug. 1, 2010 — The WikiLeaks whistleblower website is morally guilty of putting people’s lives at risk by making public tens of thousands of classified U.S. military documents, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said today.
The documents’ release on the WikiLeaks site last week places people in real danger and could damage U.S.-Pakistan relationships, said Gates and Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Both appeared on television talk shows today and discussed their concerns with WikiLeaks’ postings.
“My attitude on this is that there are two areas of culpability,” Gates said on ABC’s This Week. “One is legal culpability. And that’s up to the Justice Department and others — that’s not my arena.
“But there’s also a moral culpability,” he added. “And that’s where I think the verdict is guilty on WikiLeaks. They have put this out without any regard whatsoever for the consequences.”
Those consequences could be the loss of innocent lives, Gates said, and not just those of American troops.
“If I’m angry, it is because I believe that this information puts those in Afghanistan who have helped us at risk. It puts our soldiers at risk because they can learn a lot — our adversaries can learn a lot about our techniques, tactics and procedures from the body of these leaked documents,” the secretary said.
Gates said that having an intelligence background, he knows that “protecting your sources is sacrosanct.” He noted that “there was no sense of responsibility or accountability” associated with the leak of information.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said he was also angered by the information leak, he said on CBS’s Face the Nation. WikiLeaks has blood on their hands, Mullen said, echoing comments he made last week.
Recent statements made by the Taliban endorse the Pentagon’s fears, Mullen said. The militant group told British media those Afghans named in the reports for helping U.S. forces will be hunted down.
“What I don’t think people that aren’t in the military, and aren’t in conflict, understand is that the danger of these kinds of leaks,” the admiral said. “I think that it’s irresponsible and could very well end up in loss of lives.”
WikiLeaks claims to have an additional 15,000 U.S. military documents that may be released on their site.
“I feel very strongly that the continued release of additional information could continue to jeopardize” lives and impede progress in Afghanistan, Mullen said.
Although Mullen could not offer specifics, the Pentagon is working to protect Afghans named in the leaked reports, he said.
“We do have a moral obligation, given their exposure and given what they’ve done, to do all we can to ensure their safety,” he said.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)