WASHINGTON (CN) – The White House on Sunday condemned as “irresponsible” the release of more than 91,000 classified documents about the war in Afghanistan made public by the website WikiLeaks.
“The United States strongly condemns the disclosure of classified information by individuals and organizations which could put the lives of Americans and our partners at risk, and threaten our national security,” National Security Adviser General James Jones said in a statement.
The so called “Afghan War Diary,” released Sunday by WikiLeaks, a Sweden-based organization that leaks documents on alleged government and corporate misconduct, reportedly span from January 2004 to December 2009 and cover “every major attack that resulted in someone being detained or someone being killed,” WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said.
“This material doesn’t just reveal abuses,” Assange said. “This material describes the past six years of war.” Assange said it details incidents of civilian casualties, along with plotted attacks and associated weapons systems.
Jones said Wikileaks never contacted the White House to warn them that the documents would be released. He said the White House was instead notified by the media.
Jones insisted that the documents would not impact the administration’s war policy.
“These irresponsible leaks will not impact our ongoing commitment to deepen our partnerships with Afghanistan and Pakistan; to defeat our common enemies; and to support the aspirations of the Afghan and Pakistani people,” he said.
He said the administration is focused on “breaking the Taliban’s momentum.”
“[I]f Afghanistan is permitted to slide backwards, we will again face a threat from violent extremist groups like al Qaeda who will have more space to plot and train,” Jones said.
He added that the United States and Pakistan have “deepened” their relationship since 2009 and are cooperating more closely on issues ranging from security to economic development. He also emphasized that the troop surge ordered by President Obama in December 2009 was designed to address issues raised by a look at the war in Afghanistan up to that point.
Assange defended the decision to release the documents in a press conference Monday.
“Secrecy is sometimes perfectly legitimate,” Assange said. “In some cases, that is not true. This is a matter about whether the coercive power of the state should be used to stop people sharing information who have no direct connection to the source of the information.”
Assange emphasized that the material was seven months old and contained nothing of pressing tactical importance.
Assange said he and his team have read only 1,000 or 2,000 of the documents thoroughly. “We have really just scratched the surface,” he said. “It’s going to require not just the press, but all interested parties, to understand this material.”
He said 76,000 of the reports have been made available to the public in research-friendly formats.
He said he expects people connected to the documented events to come forward and provide additional details. He described the reports as the “raw ingredients” that are posted on boards in war rooms and lead to statements on casualties from the Pentagon.
“You can really see how the war in Afghanistan is going,” Assange said.
He said WikiLeaks wanted the information to “be taken seriously” and investigated by governments, leading to new policies or prosecutions.
When asked if Taliban might use the documents for their publicity, he replied, “That’s possible. … But that said, this material does not leave anyone smelling like roses, especially the Taliban.”
Assange also said there was no commercial arrangement with news agencies and described WikiLeaks as a “small team of overworked people,” with a larger, volunteer-based network of 10,000 people and 70,000 public supporters including journalists and human rights activists.
Commenting on the impact of the release in the United States, Assange said, “In the end, it is the communication of knowledge which regulates the Legislature which creates the Constitution.”