US urges media not to publish WikiLeaks files

October 19, 2010 12:00 am

, WASHINGTON, Oct 19 – The Pentagon urged media outlets not to publish secret military files on Iraq obtained by WikiLeaks, as the website vowed to release the secret documents "very soon."

"News organizations should be cautioned not to facilitate the leaking of classified documents with this disreputable organization known as WikiLeaks," Pentagon spokesman Colonel Dave Lapan told reporters.

Helping the website publish the classified records could "provide a veneer of legitimacy to WikiLeaks," he said.

But Lapan did not threaten legal action and said so far no news outlet has indicated it intends to cooperate with WikiLeaks, in what would be the second planned online document dump by the renegade website.

"We have not been approached specifically by news organizations about the release," Lapan said.

He made his remarks as defense officials scoured through an Iraq war database to prepare for potential fallout from an expected release by WikiLeaks of some 400,000 secret military reports.

The massive release, expected possibly as early this week, would dwarf the website\’s publication of 77,000 classified US military documents on the war in Afghanistan in July, which included the names of Afghan informants and other details from raw intelligence reports.

WikiLeaks first released those files to three publications, the New York Times, the Guardian and Der Spiegel, but it was unclear if the website would take a similar approach with the Iraq documents.

An Icelandic spokesman for WikiLeaks said the website would not publish any reports on the Iraq war on Monday, but would make new documents public "very soon."

"I can confirm that there\’s nothing coming out today," Kristinn Hrafnsson told AFP.

"I can say with certainty that WikiLeaks will publish something very soon," the close collaborator of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange added.

As the Pentagon braced for the documents\’ release, Swedish authorities reportedly denied a request for residency from the website\’s founder, Assange.

An Australian national, Assange had viewed Sweden as a possible legal base for his organization because of laws that safeguard whistle-blowers.

Although the Pentagon appealed to news outlets to refrain from cooperating with WikiLeaks, officials did not threaten any legal action.

American newspapers have argued that media outlets are under no legal obligation to obey secrecy rules that are designed to apply to government employees, and that in the past the publication of classified documents has served the public interest.

US Justice Department officials in recent months reportedly considered prosecuting WikiLeaks under the country\’s 1917 espionage act.

To prepare for the anticipated exposure of sensitive intelligence on the US-led Iraq war, Pentagon officials set up a 120-member task force several weeks ago to comb through the database on Iraq.

WikiLeaks has not identified the source of the documents it obtained but suspicion has fallen on Bradley Manning, a US Army intelligence analyst who is currently in military custody.

Manning was arrested in May following the release by WikiLeaks of video footage of a US Apache helicopter strike in Iraq in which civilians died and has been charged with delivering defense information to an unauthorized source.

The release of Afghan war files by WikiLeaks in July drew condemnation from military leaders and officials, who said that the website\’s founder had jeopardized lives and US interests.

In an August 16 letter to the Senate Armed Services Committee, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the disclosure did not compromise "any sensitive intelligence sources and methods."

But he said the documents "contain the names of cooperative Afghan nationals" and that the Defense Department takes seriously threats from the Taliban.

The Islamist insurgency has said it would study the files to identify and punish those who have cooperated with NATO-led forces.


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