WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House on Friday implored the website WikiLeaks to stop posting secret Afghanistan war documents and the Pentagon pressed its investigation of the leaks, bringing a soldier charged with handing over classified video back to the U.S. for trial.
Obama administration officials said the investigation into the release of 76,911 documents could extend beyond members of the military. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said posting the war logs on the Web jeopardized national security and put the lives of Afghan informants and U.S. military personnel at risk.
Asked what the Obama administration could do to stop the disclosure of more war secrets, Mr. Gibbs said, "We can do nothing but implore the person that has those classified top secret documents not to post any more."
"I think it's important that no more damage be done to our national security," Mr. Gibbs told NBC's "Today" show Friday.
The Pentagon inquiry has been looking most closely at Pvt. Bradley Manning, an Army intelligence specialist who already has been charged with leaking a helicopter video from Iraq to the WikiLeaks website.
Pvt. Manning, 22, has been moved from Kuwait to Quantico Marine Base in Virginia, where he will be held while awaiting trial on charges stemming from the posting of the video, the Army said in a statement Friday. If a court-martial is convened it will be held in the Washington area, according to Lt. Col. Rob Manning, a spokesman for the U.S. Army Military District of Washington.
The classified helicopter cockpit video showed a 2007 firefight in Baghdad that left a Reuters photographer and his driver dead.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. in an interview aired Thursday that WikiLeaks had contacted the White House — via the New York Times acting as intermediary — and offered to let government officials go through the documents to make sure no innocent people were identified. The White House did not respond to the approach, he said.
A Pentagon spokesman, Marine Col. David Lapan, said Friday it was "absolutely false" that WikiLeaks contacted the White House or other elements of the U.S. government to offer a pre-release review.
Mr. Assange dismissed allegations that innocent people or informants had been put in danger by the publication of the documents.
"We are yet to see clear evidence of that," he said in the Australian Broadcasting interview.
WikiLeaks describes itself as a public service organization for whistleblowers, journalists and activists.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called the release of the documents deeply damaging and potentially life-threatening for Afghan informants or others who have taken risks to help the U.S. and NATO war effort.
Theirs was the most sober assessment of the ramifications of the leak on Sunday of raw intelligence reports and other material dating to 2004.
"Mr. Assange can say whatever he likes about the greater good he thinks he and his source are doing, but the truth is they might already have on their hands the blood of some young soldier or that of an Afghan family," Adm. Mullen said Thursday.
Mr. Gates said the military's investigation "should go wherever it needs to go" and that he has asked the FBI to help. Mr. Gates would not rule out that Mr. Assange could be a target.