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Attorney General Holder Says U.S. Probing Leaks of Afghanistan Documents

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said the Justice Department was investigating the source of the leaking of secret U.S. military reports on Afghanistan to the WikiLeaks website.

“The Justice Department is working with the Department of Defense with regard to an investigation concerning who the source of those leaks might be,” said Holder, who spoke at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo today. “Whether there will be any criminal charges brought depends on how the investigation goes.”

WikiLeaks published more than 91,000 secret military reports from Afghanistan which cover the period from about 2004 up to a change in war strategy initiated by President Barack Obama last year. The U.S. and Pakistan have dismissed portions of the documents that indicate the American military suspects Pakistan’s main intelligence agency of secretly aiding the Taliban and other Islamic extremists battling the U.S. in Afghanistan.

“I deplore the release of classified information,” said Holder. “It’s not in the interest of the United States to have that kind of information leaked.”

Obama said yesterday he’s “concerned about the disclosure of sensitive information from the battlefield that could potentially jeopardize individuals or operations.” Reports on the memos appeared on July 25 in the New York Times, Britain’s Guardian newspaper and Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine.

Confidential Material

Conceived as an electronic dead drop for confidential documents, WikiLeaks.org receives material that governments and businesses seek to keep secret and publishes them so that they remain in the public domain forever.

The most notable WikiLeaks release before the Afghan cables was a military video of a July 2007 helicopter attack in Iraq that killed a Reuters television cameraman and his driver. A U.S. soldier, Bradley Manning, was charged by military prosecutors July 5 with leaking the video, released under the title “collateral murder.”

The Obama administration is investigating who disclosed the documents, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said yesterday. Most of the memos date from before Obama took office in January, 2009, and revamped his Afghanistan policy in December, he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mahmoud Kassem in Cairo at mkassem1@bloomberg.net

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