updated 7/28/2010 1:27:45 PM ET 2010-07-28T17:27:45

The leaking of 90,000 U.S. intelligence documents has put hundreds of Afghan lives at risk because the files identify informants working with NATO forces, The Times of London reported on Wednesday.

In just two hours of searching the WikiLeaks archive, reporters found the names, villages, and fathers' names of dozens of Afghans credited with providing intelligence to U.S. forces, the paper said.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has said that all the released reports were checked for named informants and that 15,000 such documents had been held back to protect people.

Despite his claim, The Times of London gave examples of informants named in the released documents.

'[X] said that he would be killed'
The paper, which withheld all details that would identify Afghans, said a Taliban fighter considering defection was named in a 2008 interview. The document reportedly included his village and statements he made about specific commanders and other potential defectors.

"The meeting ended with [X] agreeing to meet with intel personnel from the battalion," the report reads, according the paper. It was not known whether the man subsequently left the Taliban.

In a case from 2007, a middleman and the Taliban commander he spoke to were both named, according to the paper.

"[X] said that he would be killed if he got caught interacting with any coalition forces, which is why he hides when we go into [Y]," the report read, according to The Times.

The paper gave other examples and said that in all cases the dates and precise locations of meetings were included in the reports.

  1. Click here for related content
    1. Obama plays down Afghan war leaks
    2. NYT: Leaked docs reveal bleak view of Afghan war
    3. Review of WikiLeaks docs sees no smoking gun
    4. WikiLeaks founder sees himself as 'information activist'
'Real risk'
The WikiLeaks reports posed no immediate threat to U.S. forces, according to the Pentagon. But, experts warned that Afghans had been put at risk.

"It's possible that someone could get killed in the next few days,” Robert Riegle, a former senior intelligence officer, reportedly told the paper.

"The leaks certainly have put in real risk and danger the lives and integrity of many Afghans," a senior official at the Afghan Foreign Ministry reportedly told the paper on condition of anonymity.

"The U.S. is both morally and legally responsible for any harm that the leaks might cause to the individuals, particularly those who have been named. It will further limit the U.S./international access to the uncensored views of Afghans," he said, according to The Times.

Assange, WikiLeaks' editor-in-chief, claims his organization doesn't know who sent it some 91,000 secret U.S. military documents.

Assange didn't say whether he meant he had no idea who leaked the documents or whether his organization simply could not be sure. But he did say the added layer of secrecy helps protect the site's sources from spy agencies and hostile corporations.

"We never know the source of the leak," he told journalists gathered at London's Frontline Club late Tuesday. "Our whole system is designed such that we don't have to keep that secret."

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said a Pentagon investigation will determine whether criminal charges will be filed in the leaking of Afghanistan war secrets. Holder, speaking during a visit Wednesday to Egypt, said the Justice Department is working with the Pentagon-led investigation to determine the source of the leak.

In Baghdad, Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters he was "appalled" by the leak.

"There is a real potential threat there to put American lives at risk," he said.

© 2013 Reprints

Video: WikiLeaks reviewing ‘rumors’ of informant leaks

  1. Transcript of: WikiLeaks reviewing ‘rumors’ of informant leaks

    VIEIRA: All right, Jim Miklaszewski , thank you very much . Julian Assange is the founder of, the online whistle-blower that published the classified Afghanistan war documents. Mr. Assange , good morning to you.

    Mr. JULIAN ASSANGE (WikiLeaks Founder): Good morning, Meredith .

    VIEIRA: Just since releasing these leaked reports, you said, I'm quoting you now, "Our primary concern with people being potentially harmed had to do with Afghan informants, and that is why we have held back some 15,000 reports for a more detailed review." Yet this morning the London Times is reporting that in just two hours of examining your archives, it has found at least 12 -- I'm sorry -- the names of dozens of Afghans credited with providing detailed information to US intelligence . So what is your reaction to that?

    Mr. ASSANGE: We're still reviewing that report by the Times to see if it's credible. We did spend quite a bit of effort on pulling out 15,000 threat reports which might have mentioned Afghan informants for a detailed review. They have not been published and will not be published until they are significantly reviewed. This report by the Times , I mean, I really can't comment on it too much. I've seen the allegation. We take this seriously and we're reviewing it.

    VIEIRA: But of the 90,000-plus documents that have been released so far, you've admitted that only 2,000 of them have been reviewed by you in depth. So how do you know what you've put out there?

    Mr. ASSANGE: Well, the reports themselves have particular classifications which are placed on them by the US military . Now, it is possible that some of those classifications were misapplied internally, so that could be a cause of something slipping in there. But it really is too early to say yet. We have seen these things in the past where the media reports are not particularly credible. Reading the Times article is a bit hard to get a hook onto what they're talking about. But we have our people involved looking at the matter, so we'll come to a conclusion soon enough about what is going on. But looking at the broader picture, I mean, there are 22,000 -- 2200 escalation of force reports in this material, the deaths of some 20,000 people documented. And of course, every week another 100 or so people are killed in Afghaniskan -- in Afghanistan , and that number is increasing.

    VIEIRA: Well...

    Mr. ASSANGE: So we shouldn't let these rumors about whether there are additional names in there or not, which may be serious or may not be...

    VIEIRA: Yeah. Well, since...

    Mr. ASSANGE: ...eclipse the bigger problem.

    VIEIRA: Well, since releasing these documents, you've said that there is a mood to end the war in Afghanistan . You hope this information will shift political will in a significant manner. If in the process you have also jeopardized the lives of these Afghan informants, if somebody is executed because now their name is out there, would you consider that your form of collateral damage?

    Mr. ASSANGE: Yes. That would be true in our case. If we had, in fact, made that mistake, then of course that would be something that we would take very seriously.

    VIEIRA: Well, I have to -- this has to be very sobering for you, sir, because your number one concern you said was to protect these people. You could have put dozens, maybe many more than that, in harm's way.

    Mr. ASSANGE: Well, once again, we are checking to see whether this is in fact credible. It is probably unlikely. We have taken care to in fact hold back 15,000 for review that it should have this type of material in it. If there are those names there and they are at risk, this would be because of a misclassification by the US military itself.

    VIEIRA: Would you consider never releasing those other 15,000 documents, given what's going on now?

    Mr. ASSANGE: Well, we reserve the other 15,000 for a very detailed review. We have even designed a computer system specially for that review at a -- at a low level because we viewed that there was a small risk that some of them would have names within them. And that review is progressing.


Discussion comments


Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments