Pentagon studies risks to Afghans from documents
WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is reviewing tens of thousands of classified battlefield reports made public this week about the war in Afghanistan to determine whether Afghan informants were identified and could be at risk of reprisals, U.S. officials said Wednesday.
A Pentagon spokesman, Col. David Lapan, said that a Pentagon assessment team had not yet drawn any conclusions but that “in general, the naming of individuals could cause potential problems, both to their physical safety or willingness to continue support to coalition forces or the Afghan government.”
A search by The New York Times through a sampling of the documents released by the organization WikiLeaks found reports that gave the names of dozens of Afghans credited with providing credible information to U.S. and NATO troops.
The Times, the British newspaper The Guardian and the German magazine Der Spiegel posted online only selected examples from documents that had been redacted to eliminate names and other information that could be used to identify people at risk.
The founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, has said that the organization withheld 15,000 of the approximately 92,000 documents in the archive that was released Sunday to remove the names of informants. But the 75,000 documents WikiLeaks put online provide information about possible informants, such as their villages and in some cases their fathers’ names.
Asked on NBC’s “Today” show Wednesday whether the killing of an Afghan as a result of the WikiLeaks disclosure would be considered “collateral damage” in his efforts to make details of the war public, Assange said, “If we had, in fact, made that mistake, then, of course, that would be something that we would take very seriously.”
One U.S. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the continuing investigation, said government lawyers were exploring whether WikiLeaks and Assange could be charged with a crime.