WikiLeaks’ release of more than 92,000 classified documents related to the war in Afghanistan could get people killed and compromise the war effort, intelligence analysts say.
The documents reveal “names of State Department officials, U.S. military officials, Afghans, and the cities where they live,” Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif., told Politico.
So WikiLeaks has “served up a target list and an enemies list to the Taliban” that will get people killed, said Harman, chairwoman of the House Homeland Security Committee on Intelligence.
“Real people die when sources and methods are revealed,” Harman said.
Former CIA Director Gen. Michael Hayden agreed, telling Politico that people will be killed as a result of this disclosure, and the damage to the nation’s intelligence gathering capabilities could be devastating.
The disclosures also could make it more difficult for the United States and its NATO allies to recruit Afghans to fight the Taliban.
“If I was an Afghan, would I risk getting my ears cut off or my head cut off?” said former CIA officer Robert Baer, who contends that the Pentagon’s sloppiness with classified materials made these leaks possible. “Would I work for the U.S. military? This is exactly what you don’t want to have happen.”
The Obama administration has acknowledged the damage the disclosure could do to the war effort.
“I’m concerned about the disclosure of sensitive information from the battlefield that could potentially jeopardize individuals or operations,” The Christian Science Monitor quoted President Obama as saying on Tuesday.
However, the president dismissed any suggestion that the documents would have any major affect on his Afghanistan policy.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange told MSNBC Tuesday that his website withheld another 15,000 pages of documents because they could have revealed the identities of Afghans who have aided American and NATO forces, opening them to “the risk of ‘retributive action’ from warlords or the Taliban.”
“This material has its strengths in that it is not an analysis. It is not written at the higher levels, so it can be publicly massaged,” Assange said on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered” Wednesday. “It is, in fact, the raw facts of the war, the same facts being passed up the Pentagon chain of command that generals and policymakers are trying to make decisions on.
“These raw facts can be interpreted by others who are trying to propose alternate policies.”
Assange is not making any apologies, comparing his actions with those of Daniel Ellsberg, who famously leaked top secret “The Pentagon Papers” to The New York Times in 1971.
But Ellsberg told The Guardian that the WikiLeaks files, although containing “outrageous” material, do not pose as devastating of a threat to American and NATO war plans as “The Pentagon Papers” did for Richard Nixon almost 40 years ago.
Other analysts, such as Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, say much of the WikiLeaks data should not have been classified in the first place because it did not pose “an immediate, desperate threat to our forces.”
The volume of intelligence data coming out of Afghanistan makes it difficult for officials to make immediate judgments about classification, Cordesman, a former NATO official who also served in the State and Defense departments, told the Monitor.
“You cannot sit around and evaluate real-time reporting for classification,” Cordesman said. “You feed it into the classified system, so you can get immediate feedback without having to fight over the classification.”
But Cordesman also expressed concern that battlefield reports in the WikiLeaks revelations could compromise certain operations.
The Pentagon has identified Pfc. Bradley Manning as a “person of interest.” Army intelligence officials have suspected him in the past of sending classified combat video and classified State Department cables to WikiLeaks.
Assange has not confirmed that Manning provided WikiLeaks with the documents and has called him a “political prisoner,” according to Politico.
The Justice Department also entered the fray.
“The Justice Department is working with the Department of Defense with regard to an investigation concerning who the source of those leaks might be,” Bloomberg quoted Attorney General Eric Holder as having said Tuesday during a visit to Egypt.
Holder would not detail whether Assange, an Australian citizen living abroad, might be investigated or indicted.
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