July 29th, 2010
07:03 PM ET

Top military official: WikiLeaks founder may have "blood" on his hands

The top U.S. military officer said Thursday that Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, was risking lives to make a political point by publishing thousands of military reports from Afghanistan.

"Mr. Assange can say whatever he likes about the greater good he thinks he and his source are doing, but the truth is they might already have on their hands the blood of some young soldier or that of an Afghan family," Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at a news conference at the Pentagon.

In equally stern comments and at the same session, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said the massive leak will have significant impact on troops and allies, giving away techniques and procedures. "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," Gates said. "Intelligence sources and methods, as well as military tactics, techniques and procedures will become known to our adversaries."

Gates said the United States has been contacted by Afghanistan, Pakistan and "other governments" concerned about the leak. One of the lasting impacts, he said, is rebuilding trust that the U.S. military can keep secrets secret.

Assange has refused to say where his whistle-blower website got about 91,000 United States documents about the war. Some 76,000 of them were posted on the site Sunday in what has been called the biggest leak since the Pentagon Papers about the Vietnam War.

"I spent most of my life in the intelligence business, where the sacrosanct principle is protecting your sources. And that involves your sources trusting you to protect them and to protect their identities," Gates said. "That is one of the worst aspects of this, as far as I'm concerned. Will people trust us? Will people's whose lives are on the line trust us to keep their identities secret? Will other governments trust us to keep their documents and their intelligence secret?"

Gates said he called the FBI director to partner with the Pentagon in investigating the leak.

The defense secretary said the Pentagon is also reviewing procedures for handling classified information, which could affect the flow of valuable information to troops.

"In the wake of this incident, it will be a real challenge to strike the right balance between security and providing our frontline troops the information they need," Gates said. "We want those soldiers in a forward operating base to have all the information they possibly can have that impacts on their own security but also being able to accomplish their mission."

Perhaps surprisingly, the defense secretary said it was "only very recently" that he was made aware of the magnitude of the number of documents" that had been leaked. One of the main suspects in the current document leak investigation, according to military officials, had been arrested back in the spring and eventually charged with downloading thousands of documents and a video of a 2007 airstrike in Iraq that was published earlier this year by WikiLeaks.

Gates said the defense department did not know how many more documents were out there.

"The reality is, at this point, we don't know how many more there are out there ... it could be a substantial additional number of documents, and we have no idea what their content is, either," he said.

For those put at risk by the documents, the defense secretary said the U.S. has a "moral obligation" to protect those whose names appear in the documents.

WikiLeaks' founder has said the organization held back thousands of documents in order to redact information that could put people at risk. But CNN's own review of documents found instances of names of informants and those who cooperated against the Taliban, as well as names of suspected insurgents who were being watched.

Post by:
Filed under: Security Brief • WikiLeaks
soundoff (14 Responses)
  1. Smith in Oregon

    US Commanders already have blood on their hands from the dozens of DEAD Helicopter Pilots, their flight crews and their passengers that were shot down by shoulder mounted heat seeking missiles supplied by the Pakistani ISI to the Taliban fighters and were NOT TOLD those existed.

    US Commanders deliberately with-held critical and essential information which would have SAVED the lives of many of those downed pilots who would have added flare systems and flew different flight paths if they had known of that danger.

    US Commanders are the ones with blood on their hands, the largest losses of American and NATO troops lives in any single day in Afghanistan has come from a heat seeking missile downing an American Helicopter (Chinnock) filled with American troops.

    July 29, 2010 at 7:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • afraidofheights

      Removing one's views on the war and Adm. Mullen, the message Adm. Mullen is delivering is not flawed. Whether he is the right messenger...well, that is open to debate.

      For something a bit lighter, check out Wikileaks' latest big get....Tony Hayward's resignation letter. Read it here.



      July 30, 2010 at 12:46 am | Report abuse |
    • Sean in Cali

      Hey Smith, if anyone would open a history book and read about the Soviet War vs. the Mujahideen in Afghanistan in the 80s they would know that the insurgents in Afghanistan MAY be armed with MANPADs. Unfortunately, the majority of those downed helicopters come from heavy machine gun fire or RPGs. Very few attempts of shooting helicopters down in Afghanistan have come from shoulder-fired anti-air missiles, and ALL of our helicopters aer equipped with flares and chaff. Get your facts right before criticizing our WELL equipped and even better trained military men and women.

      July 30, 2010 at 11:56 am | Report abuse |
  2. JC

    After en years of bombings, checkpoint shootings, due-process-free hit squads, air attacks, drones, and night raids on homes they're going to say that Wikileaks has blood on their hands? What joke!

    July 29, 2010 at 9:17 pm | Report abuse |
  3. truth lover

    Oh CNN...does it not embarrass your "journalists" like Anderson Cooper to be interviewing those who are doing the real job of journalism? You are supposed to be publishing this but some little rogue group has to do it and take the heat of being hunted by the CIA while you show your puppet strings nightly. Even my mother doesn't think CNN is real news. In the words of Prince, "We're tired of y'all. Wake up! Sincerely, Patriotic US citizen

    July 29, 2010 at 9:40 pm | Report abuse |
  4. kb

    this is only classified to the people who don't live it every day. the soldiers and the afghan people already know this stuff. not a surprise to them.

    July 30, 2010 at 12:41 am | Report abuse |
    • Smith in Oregon

      The Chinock helicopter pilots weren't told or they would have begun carrying flares to try and confuse a incoming heat seeking missile. They weren't told those existed and DIED along with the troops they were carrying.

      July 30, 2010 at 3:55 am | Report abuse |
  5. Arar

    What a sleazy headline by a sleazy gossip/propaganda rag. Who gives a ratzazz what a top military official says – especially a top so-called "military official" of the US? As a matter of course, all that comes from the mouth of a "top military official" is usually an outright lie or, at best, a severe alteration of the truth. We have only been privy to lies from top military officials and top government officials and top media officials (like CNN). Pure, unadulterated lies. So a real journalist comes along and exposes some very necessary truths and CNN gets a case of diarrhea in its pants. Let me state this clearly and distinctly: Julian Assange is a hero to all of humanity, INCLUDING to US troops. When was the last time CNN ran a story alleging that some paid informer with American coins in his pocket "has blood on his hands" when the satanic bombs of the US turned an innocent wedding party into a river of blood?

    July 30, 2010 at 4:24 am | Report abuse |
  6. sharingcaring

    The quality of CNN's journalism was one of the reasons that I cancelled my cable TV subscription. I see here that, with this article, CNN has once again taken the Fed-prescribed boiler-plate press release and put it out there as 'news'. However, if I want to hear the latest Hollywood Minute, I'm certain that finest dish will be served-up in a timely manner by your own Anderson Cooper. MEHHHHH

    July 30, 2010 at 8:59 am | Report abuse |
  7. BS Michaels

    CNN...Teh stoopid...it hurts...

    July 30, 2010 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Lee Oates

    I find it rather odd that a military leader can accuse someone else about having blood on his hands. The fact is that the military is attempting to stifle Free Speech and control the flow of information to the public. In this sense the military leadership is dangerous to the nation.

    August 5, 2010 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
  9. evan Mark

    Please learn about the TALIBAN and how evil these men really are.
    You absolutely MUST see this!

    August 8, 2010 at 9:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Zarko

      Talaban is a cancer, and if we don't kill them all, there will be no progress of peace.

      December 4, 2010 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
  10. drinky

    Not as much blood as Gates does

    October 18, 2010 at 11:38 am | Report abuse |