The release on Friday of some 400,000 classified documents related to the Iraq war by the website WikiLeaks has brought out a range of emotions from national security leaders.
Retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal, speaking at the Daily Beast Innovators Summit in New Orleans, called the leaks “sad,” CBS News reports.
“The decision to leak classified information is something that is illegal, and individuals are making judgments about threats and information they are not qualified to make,” he added. “There is a level of responsibility toward our people that needs to be balanced with a right or need to know. It’s likely that a leak of that information could cause the death of our own people or some of our allies.”
McChrystal, who retired in July, has been teaching a course on leadership at Yale University since September. He previously commanded all U.S. and international troops in Afghanistan before a Rolling Stone magazine article quoted McChrystal and his aides making controversial remarks about civilian leadership.
McChrystal was not the only one with strong feelings. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen took to Twitter to vent his anger over the leaks, The Hill reported.
“Another irresponsible posting of stolen classified documents by Wikileaks puts lives at risk and gives adversaries valuable information,” he wrote.
Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell called the leaks “shameful,” and said they were “an extraordinary disservice to America’s men and women in uniform,” who Morell said were fighting a war “far better than anyone else has in the history of warfare,” in terms of minimizing civilian casualties.
The leaks purport to show evidence of detainee abuse and previously unaccounted-for Iraqi civilian deaths.
Speculation has been swirling for weeks that WikiLeaks was on the verge of releasing even more secret war documents, this time from Iraq. The most recent disclosure dwarfs the more than 70,000 secret documents from the Afghan war the website released in July.
DoD said Friday it was prepared for any unauthorized leaks; a task force had been combing through Pentagon databases to identify information that might be leaked.
The Afghan leaks drew similar outrage from Washington, however, Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates recently told the Senate Armed Services Committee those disclosures, in fact, had not revealed “sensitive” intelligence sources.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has stated he views leaking such information as a public service and a personal mission, said Oct. 23 the release “constituted the most comprehensive and detailed account of any war ever to have entered the public record,” The New York Times reported.
But the future of the site remains uncertain. In a recent profile of Assange, who has also found himself tangled up in an ongoing sexual assault investigation in Sweden, The Times reported the man behind the whistle-blower website has alienated many of the site’s core supporters because of his erratic and imperious behavior,” and his “nearly delusional grandeur.”