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Mr. Gates said the information puts “those in Afghanistan who have helped us at risk. It puts our soldiers at risk because our adversaries can learn a lot about our techniques, tactics and procedures from the body of these leaked documents.”

The secretary added that “protecting your sources is sacrosanct” in a war theater.

The Taliban has said it will use the documents to hunt down people who have cooperated with U.S. forces.

WikiLeaks recently posted more than 75,000 secret U.S. military reports. Mr. Gates said the soldier accused of leaking the documents, who was working as an Army intelligence officer in Iraq, wouldn’t have been able to do so if he weren’t stationed in the field.

“Had whoever did this tried to do it at a rear headquarters overseas or pretty much anywhere in the U.S., we have controls in place that would’ve allowed us to detect it,” he said.

Changes in intelligence gathering in recent years that have focused on putting “as much information in intelligence as far forward to the soldiers [in the field] as we possibly can” has created potential security-breach problems, Mr. Gates said.

But he said that while the Pentagon will review the policy, placing too many restrictions on access to classified intelligence could deny front-line troops critical information.

“My bias is against that,” he said. “I want those kids out there to have all the information they can have.”

c This article is based in part on wire service reports.