Image: Julian Assange of WikiLeaks
Peter Macdiarmid  /  Getty Images
Julian Assange, founder of the WikiLeaks website, holds up a copy of The Guardian newspaper as he speaks to reporters in front of a Don McCullin Vietnam war photograph on Monday at The Front Line Club in London.
By Michael Isikoff National investigative correspondent
NBC News
updated 7/26/2010 7:21:03 PM ET 2010-07-26T23:21:03

An ongoing Pentagon review of the massive flood of secret documents made public by the WikiLeaks website has so far found no evidence that the disclosure harmed U.S. national security or endangered American troops in the field, a Pentagon official told NBC News on Monday.

The initial Pentagon assessment is far less dramatic than initial statements from the Obama White House Sunday night after three major news organizations – The New York Times, the Guardian and Der Spiegel — published what was touted as an unprecedented “secret archive” of classified military documents relating to the war in Afghanistan. The documents appear to show, among other matters, close collaboration between elements of the Pakistani intelligence service and the Taliban — an awkward issue that U.S. intelligence officials have strenuously complained about for some time but are loath to talk about publicly.

The news organizations said they received the documents from WikiLeaks, a controversial website that specializes in soliciting and publishing sensitive government documents.  No sooner did the stories appear this weekend than U.S. National Security Adviser James Jones “strongly” condemned the WikiLeaks disclosure, saying that the trove of classified documents “could put the lives of American and our partners at risk and threaten our national security.”

But David Lapan, deputy assistant secretary of defense for media operations, told NBC News on Monday that a preliminary review by a Pentagon “assessment” team has so far not identified any documents whose release could damage national security. Moreover, he said, none of the documents reviewed so far carries a classification level above “secret” — the lowest category of intelligence material in terms of sensitivity.  

The review team — consisting of military intelligence analysts, lawyers and others working for the Joint Chiefs of Staffs and other elements of the Defense Department — is examining the Wikileaks material to determine whether the disclosures endanger U.S. troops in the field, harm U.S. national security or compromise sources and methods for intelligence gathering.

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While the team so far has not found any that would meet any of those criteria, Lapan noted that WikiLeaks has yet to publish all the documents it claims to have. Moreover, the Pentagon review has been stymied by the fact that, for at least part of the day Monday, the military team was unable to access — apparently because of the heavy traffic it was receiving. In effect, the Pentagon analysts were unable to read classified government documents that had already been posted and read by the general public around the world.

The disclosure came as a spokesman for WikiLeaks said the international organization has no idea who provided the classified material to the organization through its website. There has been considerable speculation that the material had been provided by Pfc. Bradley Manning, the U.S. soldier arrested in Baghdad last month after boasting that he had leaked a video showing a U.S. military strike that killed civilians in Iraq. Manning also said that he had provided WikiLeaks of other classified military documents.

John Farrell, a spokesman for WikiLeaks in London, said that if Manning was in fact the source of the documents, “then we believe him to be an international hero.” 

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Video: Leaked war docs provide details, no bombshells

  1. Transcript of: Leaked war docs provide details, no bombshells

    WILLIAMS: Good evening.

    BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: There has been a massive leak. There are so many pages of military secrets now public, the Pentagon hasn't even read all of them. Ninety-one thousand documents have been released on the Internet by the whistle-blower Web site, and they have more. Some of the documents ripped the cover off the US-led war effort in Afghanistan . They tell a story that some veterans of

    the region know full well: more civilian deaths than are ever reported, unexplained American deaths, questionable battlefield tactics, and a mission just not going that well. This comes just as the US, of course, is gearing up this new push in the conflict. We have two reports to start off with tonight. First, our Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski . Jim , good evening.

    JIM MIKLASZEWSKI reporting: Good evening, Brian . This massive leak provides incredible detail and insight into the US war in Afghanistan . Day by day, battle by battle, it's a tough look at the worst of the war. The staggering mountain of documents, nearly 92,000, covers a six-year stretch of the war ending last December when the US war effort was failing and the Taliban was on the rise. The secret documents were released by the whistle-blower Web site WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange .

    Mr. JULIAN ASSANGE: The real story of this material is that it's war. It's one damn thing after another. It is the continuous small events, the continuous deaths of children, insurgents.

    MIKLASZEWSKI: Many of the documents tear the cover off Pakistan 's alleged secret support for the Taliban . The US has long complained to Pakistan that its intelligence service , the ISI , was working with the Taliban ; but today's release provides shocking and specific new details. Even as Pakistan accepted billions in US aid , the documents suggest ISI officials conspired with Taliban leaders to plan attacks against American forces in Afghanistan . Former ISI chief Hamid Gul was reportedly deeply involved in the Taliban operation. In an NBC interview today he fired back.

    Mr. HAMID GUL: I deny it vehemently, outrightly. I think it is mischievous. It is fictitious, and it is fabricated.

    MIKLASZEWSKI: At the White House today, press secretary Robert Gibbs called the allegations old news, and insisted Pakistan has stepped up its efforts to eliminate safe havens and drive out the Taliban .

    Mr. ROBERT GIBBS: I am not going to stand here on July the 26th and tell you that all is well. I will tell you that we have made progress in moving this relationship forward.

    MIKLASZEWSKI: The documents do show serious concerns among US military commanders. They repeatedly complain about lack of resources, unreliable Afghan soldiers and a corrupt Afghan government . Some cases suggest possible military cover -ups. In May 2007 documents show the Taliban shot down a US helicopter with a shoulder-fired heat-seeking missile, killing seven soldiers.

    Flipper 75 engaged and struck with a Missile

    MIKLASZEWSKI: But American commanders concealed that fact. Today US military officials tell NBC News that it was an Iranian-made heat-seeker that brought down the chopper. There are concerns, however, that this massive breakdown in security, revealing sources of battlefield intelligence, puts US forces and their allies at greater risk.

    General BARRY McCAFFREY, Retired (NBC News Military Analyst): Will we see friendly human intelligence sources murdered by the Taliban in Pakistan or Afghanistan ? Will we lose access to intelligence that we use to protect our soldiers?

    MIKLASZEWSKI: The White House and Pentagon argue that since most of these documents were written, the president signed off on a new strategy, and more American forces are headed to Afghanistan , providing a better chance for success. But given the history in Afghanistan , nobody's making any promises.

    Brian: Jim Miklaszewski starting us off at the Pentagon . Jim , thanks.



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