Gates Assails WikiLeaks Over Release of Reports, DoJ Source Says Espionage Act of 1917 in play
- Bush-Cheney-Ashcroft are back as the Obama administration threatens using the Espionage Act of 1917 against whistle-blowers reinterating that Obama like Bush is lying. End game is unclear as Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, with no apparent sense of irony, portrays WikiLeaks docs on Afghanistan war as recklessly endangering people in order to satisfy its “need to make a point.” –
By Charlie Savage
WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates on Thursday denounced the disclosure this week of 75,000 classified documents about the Afghanistan war by the Web site WikiLeaks, asserting that the security breach had endangered lives and damaged the ability of others to trust the United States government to protect their secrets.
Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon, Mr. Gates portrayed the documents as “a mountain of raw data and individual impressions, most several years old” that offered little insight into current policies and events. Still, he said, the disclosures — which include some identifying information about Afghans who have helped the United States — have “potentially dramatic and grievously harmful consequences.”
“The battlefield consequences of the release of these documents are potentially severe and dangerous for our troops, our allies and Afghan partners, and may well damage our relationships and reputation in that key part of the world,” he said. “Intelligence sources and methods, as well as military tactics, techniques and procedures, will become known to our adversaries.”
Mr. Gates said the documents’ disclosure had prompted a rethinking of a trend nearly two decades old, dating from the Persian Gulf war of 1991, of trying to make intelligence information more accessible to troops in combat situations so they can respond rapidly to developments.
“We endeavor to push access to sensitive battlefield information down to where it is most useful — on the front lines — where as a practical matter there are fewer restrictions and controls than at rear headquarters,” he said. “In the wake of this incident, it will be a real challenge to strike the right balance between security and providing our frontline troops the information they need.”
The military has charged an intelligence analyst, Pfc. Bradley Manning, with downloading large amounts of classified information from a computer at a base in Iraq and sending it to WikiLeaks, which operates from servers scattered across multiple countries and solicits “classified, censored or otherwise restricted material of political, diplomatic or ethical significance.”
Military officials have said that Army investigators also consider Private Manning a “person of interest” in the investigation into the Web site’s most recent disclosures. They said Thursday that he was being moved from Kuwait to Quantico, Va., where he would remain in military confinement as he awaits further judicial steps. WikiLeaks shared the documents with publications in Britain, Germany and the United States, including The New York Times, before posting them this week.
Julian Assange, an Australian computer specialist who founded WikiLeaks, has described the project as a form of journalism that seeks to protect whistle-blowers and enhance democracy by making public information that government officials would rather keep secret.
In a series of media appearances and interviews this week, he has defended the latest release as providing an unvarnished portrait of problems with the war in Afghanistan, while saying that his organization had held back about 15,000 documents for safety reasons.
But at Mr. Gates’s news conference on Thursday, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, portrayed WikiLeaks as recklessly endangering people in order to satisfy its “need to make a point.”
“Mr. Assange can say whatever he likes about the greater good he thinks he and his source are doing, but the truth is they might already have on their hands the blood of some young soldier or that of an Afghan family,” Admiral Mullen said.
Mr. Gates said the military was taking steps to protect some Afghans identified in the documents, but he declined to specify them. He also declined to comment about the investigation beyond noting that he had enlisted the Federal Bureau of Investigation to assist Army investigators, a move that is seen as a precursor to potentially charging people who are not uniformed service members.
A person familiar with the investigation has said that Justice Department lawyers are exploring whether Mr. Assange and WikiLeaks could be charged with inducing, or conspiring in, violations of the Espionage Act, a 1917 law that prohibits the unauthorized disclosure of national security information.
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