The U.S. armed services are issuing internal messages to all personnel barring them from visiting the WikiLeaks website, which recently posted 77,000 classified diplomatic and military messages on the long war in Afghanistan.
Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman confirmed Thursday for The Washington Times that all four services “have put out such messages” after The Times had obtained copies of Navy and Marine Corps messages banning troops from accessing WikiLeaks.
Mr. Whitman later told The Times that the Army and Air Force had not yet issued such statements.
The orders seem to be the most far-reaching effort by the Pentagon in its ongoing effort to stop the release of classified information. The military is telling the troops they cannot even view what is publicly available, even though the WikiLeaks documents are on hundreds of websites.
In addition, the Pentagon is demanding that WikiLeaks return the classified documents it posted on the Internet, as the whistleblower website apparently is preparing another huge document dump.
A July 29 message from the National Security Litigation Division of the Navy’s Judge Advocate General’s Corps tells all sailors that:
“[Department of the Navy] personnel should not access the WikiLeaks website to view or download the publicized classified information. Doing so would introduce potentially classified information on unclassified networks.”
“There has been rumor that the information is no longer classified since it resides in the public domain. This is NOT true,” said the internal message, a copy of which was obtained by The Times.
Titled “Wikileaks Website Guidance,” the Navy message further states:
“Government information technology capabilities should be used to enable our war fighters, promote information sharing in defense of our homeland, and to maximize efficiencies in operations. It should not be used as a means to harm national security through unauthorized disclosure of our information on publicly accessible websites or chat rooms.”
A similar message from the Special Security Office of the Marine Corps Intelligence Department addressed to ALCON (all concerned) threatens to discipline offenders:
“By willingly accessing the WIKILEAKS website for the purpose of viewing the posted classified material - these actions constitute the unauthorized processing, disclosure, viewing, and downloading of classified information onto an UNAUTHORIZED computer system not approved to store classified information, meaning they have WILLINGLY committed a SECURITY VIOLATION.”
“Not only are these actions illegal, but they provide the justification for local security officials to immediately remove, suspend ‘FOR CAUSE’ all security clearances and accesses. Commanders may press for Article 15 or 32 charges, and USMC personnel could face a financial hardship as civilian and contractor personnel will be placed on ‘Administrative Leave’ pending the outcome of the [criminal] investigation,” the message states.
An Army intelligence analyst is suspected of leaking the classified materials - Pfc. Bradley Manning, 22, of Potomac, Md., who is being held in a military detention center at Quantico, Va.
Pfc. Manning had been arrested in May and charged with providing to Wikileaks a classified video showing a U.S. airstrike killing civilians and two Reuters news agency workers in Iraq in 2007.
Days before WikiLeaks posted the classified documents, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates sent out a memo threatening personnel with criminal prosecution if they leaked secrets.
Now the Pentagon is turning its attention to WikiLeaks, whose founder, Julian Assange, is seeking to expose all sorts of government secrets. His website also has released e-mails by climate specialists that suggested collusion and misinformation in the formation of climate change policies.
At a news conference Thursday, Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said the Defense Department is asking WikiLeaks to “do the right thing” and return the classified documents it posted. However, Mr. Morrell did not say how the Pentagon would make the website do that.
Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported that WikiLeaks had posted a large encrypted file named “Insurance” to its website, sparking speculation that it was preparing another huge dump of classified documents.
Bloggers noted that the file, which consumes 1.4 gigabytes, is 20 times larger than the batch of 77,000 secret messages about Afghanistan that the website released last month.
WikiLeaks and Mr. Assange had no comment about the file, the AP reported.