Gates Saw `Significant Harm' in WikiLeaks' Posting of Afghan War Reports

The release of secret military reports on the WikiLeaks website, which included the names of Afghan nationals cooperating with the U.S., is “likely to cause significant harm” to America’s security interests, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in a letter to a lawmaker.

Gates, in an Aug. 16 letter to Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat, said the Pentagon was examining ways to mitigate the risks.

Pentagon spokesman Marine Colonel David Lapan told reporters today the military is concerned that WikiLeaks, as early as Monday, might be releasing thousands of tactical-level military documents from Iraq.

WikiLeaks.org receives confidential material that governments and businesses want to keep secret and posts the information on the Web.

The website in late July published more than 91,000 secret U.S. military reports from Afghanistan. Reports on the memos appeared in the New York Times, Britain’s Guardian and Germany’s Der Spiegel.

An “initial review” showed that most of the Afghanistan information “relates to tactical military operations,” Gates wrote to Levin. The review “to date has not revealed any sensitive intelligence sources and methods compromised by this disclosure,” he wrote.

Still, the documents contained the names of cooperative Afghans and the Pentagon “takes very seriously” reports of possible Taliban reprisals, Gates wrote.

“We assess this risk as likely to cause significant harm or damage to the national security interests of the United States,” Gates wrote.

The views expressed by Gates in August remain valid, Lapan said today in an e-mail.

Attorney General Eric Holder said July 28 that the Justice Department, which includes the Federal Bureau of Investigation, is investigating the source of the leaks. Whether criminal charges are brought depends on the course of the probe, he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tony Capaccio at acapaccio@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva in Washington at msilva34@bloomberg.net

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