Secrecy News

DoD Sees No Intelligence Compromise from Wikileaks Docs

The unauthorized release of tens of thousands of classified U.S. military records from the war in Afghanistan last July on the Wikileaks website did not result in the disclosure of sensitive intelligence sources, according to a mid-August assessment by the Department of Defense that has just been made public.

“The review to date has not revealed any sensitive intelligence sources and methods compromised by this disclosure,” wrote Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates in an August 16 letter (pdf) to Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin.

This is consistent with the fact that the Afghan war documents disclosed by Wikileaks were classified at the collateral Secret level and were not compartmented intelligence records.  Intelligence source identities and related information would normally not appear in Secret documents.

On the other hand, Secretary Gates wrote, “the documents do contain the names of cooperative Afghan nationals and the Department takes very seriously the Taliban threats recently discussed in the press.  We 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.”

The Taliban threats mentioned by Secretary Gates include a statement by Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, who said on July 29 that the Taliban were studying the Wikileaks documents in order to identify and punish Afghan collaborators.  “We will investigate through our own secret service whether the people mentioned are really spies working for the U.S. If they are U.S. spies, then we know how to punish them,” the Taliban spokesman said.

“People named in those documents have a reasonable belief that they are going to get killed,” said author and New Yorker writer Steve Coll, who has reported extensively from the region.  See “Taliban Study WikiLeaks to Hunt Informants” by Robert Mackey, New York Times The Lede, July 30.  However, there is no evidence to date that the Taliban has carried out any such threats against individuals who were named in the Wikileaks documents.

The release of the August 16 Gates memo was reported on October 15 by the Associated Press and Bloomberg News.