Pentagon Says It's Preparing Response to Iraq Secrets Release by WikiLeaks

The Pentagon is prepared to quickly analyze the extent of damage to U.S. national security if more secret documents are released by the WikiLeaks.org website and to take action to mitigate problems, a spokesman said today.

A 120-person task force has reviewed the military’s entire database of low-level Iraq tactical reports compiled during the conflict in preparation for the possible release of what could be thousands of similar documents from WikiLeaks.

The Defense Department intends, if and when WikiLeaks releases its files, to assess the material as soon as possible and, if necessary, take steps to protect Iraqi individuals named in the reports, Defense Department spokesman Colonel David Lapan told reporters today.

“We don’t know how these documents might be released, when they might be released and in what number they might be released, so we are preparing for all eventualities,” Lapan said.

He said the Pentagon team is ready to evaluate any released documents to determine if they pose concerns.

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

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

The Pentagon set up the review team days after the first release, and it’s still assessing potential damage from the Afghanistan documents.

Potential Damage

“We are in the position now, unlike the first time, that that would happen very quickly,” Lapan said of the analysis.

Lapan said much of the Pentagon’s concern over potential national security damage centers on Iraqi citizens who might be named in WikiLeaks documents, and not specifically on descriptions of battlefield conditions.

In an Aug. 16 letter to Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the release of documents that included the names of Afghan nationals cooperating with the U.S., is “likely to cause significant harm” to American security interests.

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.

Taliban Reprisals

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.

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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