Pentagon rules out negotiations on ‘sanitized’ WikiLeaks
WikiLeaks said Wednesday the US military is willing to discuss the removal of sensitive data from a second batch of Afghan war documents it plans to release, but the Pentagon insisted it will not negotiate on a “sanitised version”.
The whistleblower website has already released nearly 77,000 leaked US military documents about the war in Afghanistan and is preparing to publish 15,000 more in the coming weeks, despite criticism that doing so could endanger lives since the files include the names of some Afghan informants.
Kristinn Hrafnsson, an Icelandic spokesman for the website, said the US military had a change of heart this week and told WikiLeaks it was prepared to talk about helping to remove sensitive details from the files.
“I am aware that (the US military) has expressed the willingness to open a dialogue on that,” Hrafnsson told AFP. “It is obviously not the intention of WikiLeaks to put anybody in direct harm so these documents are being reviewed and this process is ongoing.”
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has said the second batch of documents was set aside because they were “more likely to contain personal identifying information,” and therefore required line by line review.
The website says it has repeatedly asked the Pentagon for help analysing the remaining documents, and Assange said at the weekend he wanted to avoid publishing the “names of innocent parties that are under reasonable threat,” but needed help.
The Pentagon, however, said Wednesday that it will not negotiate with WikiLeaks.
“We’ve had no direct contact with WikiLeaks,” said Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman. “We are not interested in negotiating a sanitised version of the classified documents.”
Earlier this month, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates pronounced WikiLeaks “guilty” on moral grounds for releasing the documents and accused the website of recklessness.
General David Petraeus, the top US military commander in Afghanistan, blasted the release on Sunday as “reprehensible” and said they placed people working with the international forces at risk.
“As we have looked through it more and more, there are source names and in some cases there are actual names of individuals with whom we have partnered in difficult missions in difficult places,” he said in an interview Sunday.
The documents were raw data and not top secret, but their release was “beyond unfortunate” and a “betrayal of trust,” added Petraeus, who said he had no knowledge of what might be in the next batch.
Assange, an Australian former computer hacker, had pledged on Saturday to go ahead with the release of the 15,000 new documents, insisting WikiLeaks “will not be threatened by the Pentagon or any other group.”
The first installment included allegations that Pakistani spies met with the Taliban and that deaths of innocent civilians at the hands of international forces were covered up.
But the documents also included names of some Afghan informants, prompting claims that the leaks have endangered lives.
WikiLeaks has never identified the source of the Afghan files but suspicion has fallen on Bradley Manning, a US Army intelligence analyst under arrest for allegedly leaking video of a 2007 US helicopter strike in Baghdad in which civilians died.