Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) this week sent a letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates regarding the Wikileaks.org website's release of thousands of classified documents on the war in Afghanistan.
"Since classified information is, by definition, material that reasonably could be expected to cause damage to the national security if made publicly available, I am concerned about the nature and extent of the damage caused by the release of these documents and the steps that the Department of Defense is taking to address the problem," Levin wrote July 28.
Specifically, the senator wants to know the following:
1. What is the Department's assessment of the extent to which the documents disclosed on Sunday contain information that was not previously available in the public domain? In the Department's judgment, what are the most significant new disclosures resulting from the release of these documents?
2. What is the Department's assessment of the extent to which sources and methods were divulged as a result of the release of these documents?
3. Has the Department conducted a damage assessment to determine the extent to which individuals may have been put at risk, the enemy may have learned about our tactics and techniques, our allies may be less cooperative in the future, or we may have suffered other specific damage as a result of the release of these documents? If so, what are the conclusions of that assessment?
4. What steps is the Department taking to identify the individual or individuals who released these documents and to prevent future leaks of this kind?
In a Pentagon briefing yesterday, Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said:
The sheer size and scope of the collection now demands a careful review to determine the degree to which future tactical operations may be impacted, and the degree to which the lives of our troops and Afghan partners may be at risk. And I think we always need to be mindful of the unknown potential for damage in any particular document that we handle.
Mullen then had a few choice words for Julian Assange, the editor of Wikileaks:
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. Disagree with the war all you want, take issue with the policy, challenge me or our ground commanders on the decisions we make to accomplish the mission we've been given, but don't put those who willingly go into harm's way even further in harm's way just to satisfy your need to make a point.
In an interview this morning on NBC's Today show, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs admitted the administration doesn't have much leverage with Wikileaks in stopping the organization from releasing another batch of classified documents:
Well, we can do nothing but implore the person that has those classified top-secret documents not to post any more. As you mentioned, what Admiral Mullen said -- and I talked to him about that yesterday when we had our meeting about Afghanistan and Pakistan -- and, look, you have Taliban spokesmen in the region today saying they're combing through those documents to find people that are cooperating with American and international forces to bring peace to Afghanistan. They're looking through those for names. And they said they know how to punish those people.