Pentagon orders website to return 'stolen' reports


ELEVEN DAYS after the renegade website WikiLeaks publicly disclosed more than 70,000 classified US field reports from the war in Afghanistan, the Pentagon says it wants them back.

Press secretary Geoff Morrell told reporters yesterday the Pentagon was formally demanding – through the news media – that WikiLeaks return the reports, as well as 15,000 additional records the website says it might release soon.

“We are asking them to do the right thing and not further exacerbate the damage done to date,” he said. “If doing the right thing is not good enough for them, we’ll figure out what other alternatives we have.”

He declined to elaborate on whether the defence department was contemplating legal action but said the FBI and the justice department were investigating how the documents were leaked.

Mr Morrell said the demand is a response, in part, to assertions by people affiliated with WikiLeaks that the website was trying to reach out to the Pentagon, in hopes of collaborating with defence officials on a review of the 15,000 or so documents that had not been released. WikiLeaks says it is delaying the disclosure as part of a “harm-minimisation process”.

No one at the Pentagon has been contacted by anyone purporting to speak on behalf of WikiLeaks, Mr Morrell added. He added that defence officials were not interested in reviewing the classified material with the group.

“We’re not getting involved in harm-minimisation conversations,” he said. “We’re asking them to return stolen property.”

Mr Morrell acknowledged that the “genie is out of the bottle” in regard to the more than 70,000 reports that are not only posted on the WikiLeaks site, but have since been copied and downloaded by people all over the world. He said the Pentagon was primarily interested in blocking the release of the 15,000 other documents.

“I don’t know that we’re very confident they’ll have a change of heart,” he added. “I don’t know what to expect from this organisation.” Shortly after Mr Morrell’s remarks, WikiLeaks responded with a statement on its Twitter page: “Obnoxious Pentagon spokesperson issues formal threat against WikiLeaks: Destroy everything, or else.” – (Washington Post service-Bloomberg)