The Department of Defense last week demanded WikiLeaks to return the documents it recently made publicly available and the 15,000 documents it still has in its possession, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said.
The department also wants the whistle-blower website to permanently delete all versions of these documents, which contain classified and sensitive information, from its website, computers and records, Morrell told reporters at a Pentagon briefing.
“We are asking [WikiLeaks] to do the right thing,” he said. “This is the appropriate course of action, given the damage that has already been done.”
WikiLeaks recently published tens of thousands of classified documents spanning the January 2004 to December 2009 time frame. The document set, called the Afghan War Diary, contain field reports from Afghanistan and an alleged Pakistani partnership with the Taliban, and also include names of Afghan informants who work or have worked with the U.S. military.
Recent reports claim WikiLeaks asked the department for help in reviewing these documents before releasing them to the public as part of a “harm minimization exercise,” Morrell said. However, “WikiLeaks has made no such request directly to the Department of Defense,” he added.
DoD is not yet sure which 15,000 documents the site is referring to, Morrell said.
“We have some ideas and are doing some proactive work … in the event that the documents we suspect they could be are indeed the documents they are threatening to post,” he said, adding the public disclosure of additional documents can only exacerbate the damage.
Defense officials are also demanding WikiLeaks cease its “brazen solicitation” of U.S. government officials, including the military, to break the law, Morrell said. If WikiLeaks does not comply with these demands, he added, Pentagon officials will look to other options to “compel them to do the right thing.”
“This is an appropriate first step,” Morrell said. “We will cross the next bridge when we come to it.”
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates asked the FBI to investigate the WikiLeaks incident early on, and the Department of Justice has also become involved. In addition, the Pentagon has a task force of more than 80 experts working around the clock to find issues of concern, Morrell said.