USA — WikiLeaks Has Yet to Contact ‘Competent Authorities’

WASHINGTON, Aug. 18, 2010 — The oper­a­tors of a web­site that pub­lished tens of thou­sands of clas­si­fied doc­u­ments have con­tact­ed no “com­pe­tent author­i­ties” in the Defense Depart­ment, a Pen­ta­gon spokesman said here today.

Wik­iLeaks already has released 90,000 clas­si­fied doc­u­ments, and the site’s pub­lish­er said he plans to release about 15,000 more.

“Those doc­u­ments should be returned,” Pen­ta­gon spokesman Bryan Whit­man said. “There should be no fur­ther post­ing of these clas­si­fied doc­u­ments, and those that have been post­ed should be removed.”

The Army’s Crim­i­nal Inves­ti­ga­tion Divi­sion and the FBI are con­duct­ing an inves­ti­ga­tion into the leak of the doc­u­ments.

Wik­iLeaks offi­cials have attempt­ed to use the media as an inter­me­di­ary, “but the Defense Depart­ment has had no direct con­tact with Wik­iLeaks,” Whit­man said.

In any event, the Defense Depart­ment is not inter­est­ed in nego­ti­at­ing with the orga­ni­za­tion, Whit­man said, not­ing that it’s sim­ply against the law to release clas­si­fied doc­u­ments. If Defense Depart­ment offi­cials par­tic­i­pat­ed in try­ing to san­i­tize or redact these doc­u­ments, he said, they still would be guilty of releas­ing clas­si­fied doc­u­ments.

“These doc­u­ments are prop­er­ty of the Unit­ed States gov­ern­ment,” Whit­man said. “The unau­tho­rized release of them threat­ens the lives of coali­tion forces, as well as Afghan nation­als. All should be returned imme­di­ate­ly, they should be removed from the Web, there should be no fur­ther post­ing of them to the Web, and all data bases con­tain­ing them should be destroyed.”

Defense Depart­ment offi­cials are ana­lyz­ing the leaked doc­u­ments to try to min­i­mize the risk to coali­tion forces and to Afghans who worked with the coali­tion, Whit­man said, though he would not get into specifics.

Anoth­er dan­ger of the leaks is the pos­si­bil­i­ty that com­mands may safe­guard infor­ma­tion and intel­li­gence so much that those who need it won’t get it, Whit­man not­ed.

“There is a bal­ance to make sure that all the avail­able intel­li­gence is acces­si­ble where it needs to be acces­si­ble,” Whit­man said. “But there should be safe­guards, too, to pre­clude or mit­i­gate instances where peo­ple may be act­ing in an improp­er, unau­tho­rized or even ille­gal way.”

Intel­li­gence is a tool that young ser­vice­mem­bers must have to car­ry out their mis­sions, he added.

“Any­thing that we do as we assess the sit­u­a­tion here and learn lessons from this will always be bal­anced with the imper­a­tive that our forces on the ground need to have access to the best infor­ma­tion that we can pro­vide them,” he said.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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