JEFFREY BROWN: The huge document dump on the war in Afghanistan opened questions today about Pakistan’s role, the Afghan government, and U.S. military actions. It also put the U.S. debate on the war back on the front page.
It’s one of the largest disclosures of classified military information in U.S. history. Last night, the whistle-blowing Web site WikiLeaks.org released secret U.S. military documents on the Afghan war. The nonprofit organization gave the information to The New York Times, the British newspaper The Guardian and the German magazine “Der Spiegel” several weeks ago. Each did additional reporting and agreed to withhold publication until WikiLeaks released it first.
Speaking to The Guardian, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange defended the decision to release the material.
JULIAN ASSANGE, founder, WikiLeaks: In this case, it will show the true nature of this war. And then the public from Afghanistan and other nations can see what is really going on and take steps to address the problems.
JEFFREY BROWN: The enormous cache of files spanned a period from January 2004 to as recent as December 2009, before President Obama committed to a further buildup of troops.
The New York Times reported new evidence that Pakistan’s intelligence service, the ISI, helped the Taliban. One example, Hamid Gul, former head of the ISI, was said to urge Taliban leaders to focus inside Afghanistan in exchange for Pakistan turning a blind eye to the presence of Taliban forces on its territory.
Gul spoke to the “NewsHour” in a 2002 report after he had retired from the ISI.
HAMID GUL, former head, Inter-Services Intelligence Agency, Pakistan: Ninety-five percent people of Pakistan, according to CNN survey, hate America now because of what America has done and what America is doing, FBI milling around, midnight knocks at various doors, and under the pretext of hunting for al-Qaida.
JEFFREY BROWN: Today, Gul called the new allegations absolute nonsense.
Other files in the WikiLeaks probe suggested insurgents had fired heat-seeking missiles at allied aircraft, something never publicly acknowledged. And The Guardian and “Der Spiegel” said there was evidence of numerous unreported attacks of coalition troops killing hundreds of Afghan civilians. The documents were mostly low-level field reports.
JULIAN ASSANGE: They don’t include top-secret reports. They don’t include most reports from U.S. special forces. They don’t include reports by the CIA.
JEFFREY BROWN: Assange also likened the leak to the opening of secret police archives in East Germany. A number of reports have linked the leak of the information to Bradley Manning, a 22-year-old U.S. Army enlisted intelligence analyst. He was arrested in late May after leaking helicopter cockpit video from a 2007 Baghdad firefight.
In the meantime, this latest leak dominated today’s White House briefing. Spokesman Robert Gibbs warned, there will be fallout.
ROBERT GIBBS, White House press secretary: Whenever you have the potential for names and for operations and for programs to be out there in the public domain, that it, besides being against the law, has the potential to be very harmful to those that are in our military, those that are cooperating with our military and those that are working to keep us safe.
JEFFREY BROWN: Also today, Pakistan’s ambassador to the U.S. insisted his country is committed to fighting al-Qaida and the Taliban. He said the leaked information doesn’t reflect the current situation.
And a spokesman for Afghan President Karzai had this to say:
WAHEED OMAR, Afghan presidential spokesman: By the fact that a certain number, a huge number of documents were leaked, that was shocking news. But so far as the substance of these leaked documents were, the president’s immediate reaction was that most of this is not new. Most of this is what has been discussed in the past.
JEFFREY BROWN: Even as the document debate heated up, President Karzai said 52 Afghan civilians had died in a NATO rocket attack last Friday. But a NATO spokesman today could not confirm any civilian deaths.