Leaked documents may endanger operatives, officials say

Concerns raised about reaction from US allies

President Obama said, however, that the papers did not reveal any concerns that were not already part of the debate. President Obama said, however, that the papers did not reveal any concerns that were not already part of the debate.
By Kimberly Dozier
Associated Press / July 28, 2010

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WASHINGTON — Operatives inside Afghanistan and Pakistan who have worked for the United States against the Taliban or Al Qaeda might be at risk following the disclosure of thousands of US military documents, former and current officials said.

As the Obama administration scrambles to repair any political damage to the war effort in Congress and among the American public by the WikiLeaks revelations, there are also growing concerns that some US allies abroad may ask whether they can trust America to keep secrets, officials said.

Speaking in the Rose Garden yesterday, President Obama said he was concerned about the massive leak of sensitive documents but the papers did not reveal concerns that were not already part of the debate.

In his first public comments on the matter, Obama said the disclosure of classified information from the battlefield “could potentially jeopardize individuals or operations.’’

The president spoke following a meeting with House and Senate leaders of both parties.

In Baghdad, Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters he was “appalled’’ by the leak. He said “there is a real potential threat there to put American lives at risk.’’

The Army is leading the Pentagon’s inquiry into the source of the leak. A federal law enforcement official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the Justice Department does not have its own separate investigation into the leak but is acting in a support role to the Pentagon.

Colonel Dave Lapan said the Army criminal probe launched yesterday is aimed at finding the source of secret documents published Sunday by WikiLeaks, an online site.

The Army’s criminal investigative division led the investigation into Bradley Manning, an Army intelligence specialist charged with leaking other material to WikiLeaks. Lapan said it’s not clear whether the latest material came from Manning.

The WikiLeaks material, which ranges from files documenting Afghan civilian deaths to evidence of US-Pakistani distrust, could reinforce war opponents in Congress. But the leaks did not halt passage in the House yesterday of a war-funding bill.

Congress has backed the war so far, and an early test of that support came when the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, led by Senator John F. Kerry, opened a hearing on the matter.

At the hearing, few members mentioned the leak of documents, but several expressed frustration at the lack of progress in improving Afghan governance and in drawing more ordinary Afghans away from the Taliban.

In a tone of exasperation, Kerry questioned why the Taliban, with fewer resources, is able to field fighters who are more committed than Afghan soldiers.

“What’s going on here?’’ the Massachusetts Democrat asked.

In his only reference to the leak, Kerry called the new material “overhyped’’ and said it was released in violation of the law and it largely involves raw intelligence reports from the field.

He said he thought the document release could jeopardize the US mission there.

Senator Christopher Bond, Republican of Missouri and the ranking Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said he worried that the leaks won’t stop “until we see someone in an orange jumpsuit.’’

Geoff Morrell, Pentagon spokesman, contended that too much was being made of the documents.

Referring to files that detailed American suspicions that some Pakistani intelligence officials were aiding insurgents, Morrell insisted those concerns have abated in recent years and the relationship has improved.

The disclosures, he said, are “clearly out of step with where this relationship is now and has been heading for some time.’’

Morrell was interviewed on CBS’s “The Early Show,’’ and Bond appeared on NBC’s “Today’’ show.

Even as the administration dismissed the WikiLeaks material as outdated, US military and intelligence analysts were caught up in a speed-reading battle to limit the damage contained in the once-secret files now scattered across the Internet.