WASHINGTON — No US intelligence sources or practices were compromised by the posting of secret Afghan war logs by the WikiLeaks website, the Pentagon has concluded, but the military thinks the leaks could still cause significant damage to US security interests.
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The assessment, outlined in a letter obtained Friday by The Associated Press, suggests that some of the Obama administration's worst fears about the July disclosure of almost 77,000 secret US war reports have so far failed to materialize.
US Defense Secretary Robert Gates reported these conclusions in an August 16 letter to US Senator Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who had requested a Pentagon assessment.
Questions persist about whether the disclosure undermined US officials'
ability to maintain the allegiance of allies and people from other
countries who take risks to cooperate with the US.
"The mere fact
of the disclosure erodes confidence in the ability of the military to
keep secrets," said Steven Aftergood, whose Secrecy News blog tracks
trends in government openness.
"And that can have subtle but real
effects on recruitment of sources and on maintenance of relationships
with individuals and with other security services," he added. "So it's
something they have to take seriously."
self-described whistle-blower website, is believed to be preparing to
release an even larger set of classified Pentagon documents on the Iraq
war as early as Sunday.
US officials warned of dire consequences
in the days following the July leak. In his letter to Levin, Gates
struck a more measured tone in describing the impact.
initial review indicates most of the information contained in these
documents relates to tactical military operations," Gates wrote,
suggesting the materials did not include the most sensitive kinds of
"The initial assessment in no way discounts the risk
to national security; however, the review to date has not revealed any
sensitive intelligence sources and methods compromised by this
disclosure," he added.
A Pentagon spokesman, Marine Col. David
Lapan, said Friday that the assessment of the July documents is still
valid, even after a more thorough review. A special task force led by
the Defense Intelligence Agency combed the posted reports for weeks to
determine what might have been compromised.
Lapan said the since
the August 16 letter, Gates has kept members of Congress and their
staffs apprised of the Pentagon's document review through phone calls,
personal contacts and briefings.
Names of intelligence sources
generally are classified at a higher level than the secret-level
documents published by WikiLeaks. The documents provided a ground-level
view of the war, from 2004 through 2009, based largely on narrow
intelligence reports and other battlefield materials.
that the documents contained the names of "cooperative Afghan
nationals." These were not secret intelligence sources but Afghans who
had decided to cut their ties to the Taliban.
The Taliban later vowed to punish these individuals, if the reports proved true.
assess this risk as likely to cause significant harm or damage to the
national security interests of the United States and are examining
mitigation options," Gates wrote. "We are working closely with our
allies to determine what risks our mission partners may face as a result
of the disclosure."
So far, the Pentagon has not reported any incidents of reprisals against Afghans named in the leaked documents.
told a news conference on July 29, just a few days after the documents
were posted by WikiLeaks, that he had enlisted the help of the FBI to
investigate a leak with "potentially dramatic and grievously harmful
"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."
At the same
news conference, Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the US military's
Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the WikiLeaks operators could face blame for
any deadly consequences.
"The truth is, they might already have on their hands the blood of some young soldier or that of an Afghan family," Mullen said.
recently, US intelligence officials have said the July disclosures
sharpened a debate over how far to go in sharing sensitive information
within the government, a practice that expanded after September 11,
2001, in order to help prevent future terrorist attacks.