USA — WikiLeaks Guilty on Moral Grounds, Gates Says

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)

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