WikiLeaks announced that as many as 500,000 new documents pertaining to the war in Iraq may be released on the website this week according to Fox40 news in San Francisco. In response, Colonel David Lapan of the Pentagon urged media outlets “not to facilitate the leaking of classified documents with this disreputable organization” by publishing stories about the documents. The Pentagon has been reviewing many of the leaked documents to assess the damage they might do and to be proactive once the media start publishing stories. WikiLeaks was also responsible for publishing documents in July 2010 about the war in Afghanistan.
Why The Documents Should be Reported
The previous leak in July wasn’t controversial, as the White House stated much of that information was already publicly discussed. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told ABC News that their concern revolved around “names, operations, logistics, sources-all of that information out in the public has the potential to do harm.”
With the combat mission in Iraq over as of Aug. 31, 2010, more Iraqi troops are taking care of their own security. The leak in July spanned six years of the war in Afghanistan, none of which were from the current aspect of the conflict. The actual harm to U.S. forces should have been minimal. The same will be true of these new leaks.
Anything of interest or sensitive materials should be from two years ago at the minimum. Any current troop positions or aspects of American forces in Iraq should have changed by now, since the military is not in combat mode.
The media already show restraint in some areas of the war. When journalists were kidnapped, such as David Rhode of the New York Times, they asked other news sources to not publish the name for fear he would be put in further jeopardy.
WikiLeaks is a different matter. There must be something about leaked documents that news media love. If these documents from the Pentagon were that important to the war effort in Iraq, they wouldn’t be leaked by lower-level officials, as top brass would only have access to them.
One journalist for CBS News is just plain bored with the alleged massive leak. David Martin says of the documents, “it’s hard to see how they will change our overall understanding of the war.” As of this writing, the WikiLeaks website is “undergoing scheduled maintenance,” probably because too many people are monitoring the site. Or perhaps it is because the documents are being downloaded first before WikiLeaks resumes normal operations?
The worst thing that can happen is more embarrassment for the Pentagon about how “classified” documents escaped their cozy confines. If the Department of Defense is so worried about leaked documents, it should be focusing on stopping the internal leaks and determining how a rogue website gets a hold of these nuggets in the first place. Surely the IP addresses from which the papers are viewed can be subpoenaed in a court of law.
The media will have their fun going over the documents, and some websites will have their day reporting on some new detail of the war. Overall, the most damaging part of the war in Iraq left office at Noon ET on Jan. 20, 2009.
Alexander, David, “Pentagon to Media: Don’t Publish Stories On New Wikileaks Documents”, Fox40.com.
Raddatz, Martha, Lee Ferran and Devin Dwyer, “White House: WikiLeak Release ‘Alarming,’ Illegal but Unrevealing”, ABC News.
The White House, “Remarks by the President in Address to the Nation on the End of Combat Operations in Iraq”, WhiteHouse.gov.
Perez-Pena, Richard, “Keeping News of Kidnapping Off Wikipedia”, New York Times.
Martin, David, “Martin: Enough with the Wikileaks Drama”, CBS News.