Department of Defense officials yesterday released a letter the Pentagon’s top lawyer sent to a man purported to be an attorney for the WikiLeaks website, which previously published tens of thousands of classified documents and plans to release 15,000 more.
Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters Wednesday afternoon Timothy J. Matusheski was a “no show” for a telephone call arranged last week when his name and purported status as a WikiLeaks attorney came up in an investigation of the document leak.
The following day, Whitman said, the Pentagon’s general counsel codified DoD’s position in a letter and sent it to Matusheski.
The letter, dated Aug. 16 and signed by General Counsel Jeh C. Johnson, urges the whistle-blower site to return all of the U.S. government classified documents it obtained and remove and destroy all of these records from its databases. Johnson further wrote how the threatened release of additional classified documents by WikiLeaks will jeopardize national security and endanger lives.
“Among other sensitive items, we believe the classified documents contain, like the first batch of released documents, the names of Afghan nationals who are assisting coalition forces in our efforts to bring about peace and stability in that portion of the world,” he wrote. “Thus, the Department of Defense will NOT negotiate some ‘minimized’ or ‘sanitized’ version of a release by WikiLeaks of additional U.S. government classified documents.”
Johnson’s letter came in response to claims from WikiLeaks that prior to publishing the so-called Afghan War Diary—which contains field reports from Afghanistan and the names of Afghan informants who work or have worked with the U.S. military–it had offered U.S. government officials an opportunity to review the stolen documents. A Pentagon official, however, said that claim is untrue.