U.S. Had to Help Afghans Manning|Left Vulnerable, Witness Testifies

     FT. MEADE, Md. (CN) – The publication of the Afghanistan battlefield reports by WikiLeaks resulted in a nine-month operation to notify people and villagers at risk, a Navy admiral said Friday, saving key details for closed-court session.
     As prosecutors are wrapping up their case against Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, the military is trying to pin down instances in which his massive intelligence disclosures led to “actual harm” to soldiers and sources on the ground.
     When WikiLeaks published its “Afghan War Diary” in July 2010, even the nonprofit group Reporters Without Borders raised alarm people could be put at risk if their names appeared in the exposed documents.
     Three years after its publication, however, the military has not discovered an instance in which a U.S. soldier or contact has died as a direct result of the leaks. Neither has any journalist found such a case.
     Prosecutors attribute this to the government’s “mitigation efforts,” a catch-all phrase referring any efforts to inform or protect people whose names appeared on the documents.
     Navy Rear Adm. Kevin Donegan, the director of warfare integration at U.S. Central Command, issued the fragmentary orders, known as fragos, detailing how the mitigation efforts should be conducted. He said that the inspection of the documents uncovered a “significant number” of names.
     “This was not a small operation,” he said. “We issued the initial order to Afghanistan in 2010. We didn’t get the final report until May of ’11.”
     Donegan told the court that the specific number was classified.
     In some cases, the operations went beyond informing individuals, he said.
     “The villages, each area of Afghanistan has a shadow Taliban governor associated with it,” he said. “In some cases, we had to notify villages.”
     Nonetheless, evidence has showed that no “human intelligence,” or HumInt, sources were compromised as a result of the leaks. Typically, these sources are identified by a number rather than a name, and appear on a different database than the one that Manning released, testimony has shown.
     Manning’s military defender, Maj. Thomas Hurley, pressed Donegan about the distinction.
     Agreeing in principle, Donegan noted that an individual need not have been a direct source to be made vulnerable by the leaks. “It’s that they [were] identified as cooperating with the United States that put them in danger,” he said.
     Manning’s attorneys have played down the risk of releasing these documents by pointing out that the names often appeared in botched transliterations of Arabic names. They have repeatedly noted, for example, that there are many ways of spelling the name Mohammed.
     Donegan countered that these identities could also be uncovered by other information that appeared in the battlefield reports, such as location, data and time. But he acknowledged that this process is not easy in the Afghan countryside.
     Notifying an Afghan would be more complicated than walking up to an address and saying, “Hey, Mr. Smith, we just wanted to let you know that your name’s on that list,” Donegan said.
     In addition, performing a risk assessment is a tricky endeavor because “there’s an inherent risk just being in Afghanistan,” he said.
     After the court finished taking testimony from Donegan in a classified session, the government’s sentencing case ended with a brief session by Maj. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, a representative to the Quadrennial Defense Review for the U.S. Marine Corp.
     His threadbare examination in open court led to a lengthy closed-court session where he was expected to comment on the effect that the release of the State Department cables had on Gulf State nations.
     The Military District of Washington estimates that the court record consists of 35,000 unclassified pages and 5,000 sealed pages.
     In the sentencing part of the case, all testimony related to specific diplomatic cables has been held in closed-court session, as has all evidence related to alleged impact the disclosures had on specific individuals, nations, diplomats or foreign officials.
     The defense will present their sentencing case on Monday.

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