We're still waiting for WikiLeaks to make good on its pledge to reveal hundreds of thousands of US military documents on the Iraq war. But if the past is any prologue, the impact of the leak might be less severe than the military fears. Its last big military document dump didn't botch the US's intelligence sources in Afghanistan, according to Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
Gates wrote to Carl Levin, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, that a preliminary Pentagon review 'has not revealed any sensitive intelligence sources and methods compromised' by WikiLeaks' July release of 77,000 'tactical' military reports from Afghanistan. Gates penned his August 16 letter a few weeks after Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, accused the anti-secrecy organization of endangering the lives of US troops and the Afghan civilians who work with them. You can read Gates' full letter, first reported by Reuters and the New York Times, on Scribd.
But the military's continued access to its Afghan intelligence sources 'in no way discounts the risk to national security' from WikiLeaks, Gates added, which he said was likely to be 'significant.' In a hint of what's to come from the impending Iraq disclosures, Gates wrote that the Defense Department is developing unspecified 'courses of action' to deal with 'additional military documents [that] may be disclosed by WikiLeaks.'
As our sister blog Threat Level first reported, the Pentagon has assembled a huge 120-person team to go through its 'Significant Activities' database to predetermine what Iraq documents WikiLeaks might release. The material in the database, which the Pentagon believes WikiLeaks has accessed, covers insurgent attacks and US responses.
Much as we're hitting refresh in anticipation of the Iraq release, WikiLeaks' website is still down. ('Undergoing scheduled maintenance,' it explains.) Threat Level reported last month that at least six WikiLeaks staffers have recently resigned, upset by the rapidity with which founder Julian Assange wants the Iraq documents released or the pre-release screenings provided to select media outlets. Some of those staffers considered an October 18 release deadline—today—inadequate for withholding the names of Iraqis who aided US troops, a priority for the group after it saw widespread criticism for releasing the names of Afghans who did the same thing.
Gates wrote to Levin that he took 'very seriously' reported threats from the Taliban to retaliate against those Afghans. CNN, citing an anonymous senior NATO source, reports that no Afghans named in WikiLeaks' documents has required additional US military protection.
Check out Gates' letter on Scribd. You can also go here to read the July letter Levin sent to Gates about WikiLeaks that prompted the defense secretary's assessment.