The United States military and allied forces face increased risk due to the disclosure of classified documents, according to the Pentagon. Last June Julian Assange, founder of the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks, released 400,000 pages of classified documents pertaining to military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
U.S. personnel are being placed in harm’s way because of Assange’s postings, according to Pentagon spokesman Geoff Murrell. He summed it up during a press conference reported by John F. Burns and Ravi Somaiya of the New York Times on Oct 23. “These documents […] were a gift to ‘terrorist organizations.’” This “gift” provides terrorist groups with patrol tactics, troop strength, specific weapons systems deployment, and other vital information related to how and under what circumstances troops are used.
ROAD MAP FOR THE INSURGENTS
Furthermore, the documents describe what the call signs (i.e. names) of specific U.S. and allied units are and gives enemy personnel a road map of how to defeat the U.S. military, according to Murrell. An example he gave is that enemy insurgents can now better prepare how to ambush U.S. and allied forces. Additionally, insurgents now have an enhanced view of how primary and secondary units respond, thus enabling the enemy to more effectively conduct offensive operations.
I believe that from the moment those documents went public, every Marine and soldier, as well as every mission currently underway in Iraq and Afghanistan, was compromised.
Pfc. Bradley Manning is a former Army intelligence operative currently under detention in Quantico, Va. Manning is suspected of leaking the information to Assange in agreement with Assange’s decision to place the documents in the public domain. The release of secret information introduces the public to a flawed game of “Hide and Seek.” The point of this game is to remain hidden from the person(s) who are doing the seeking. A successful game is one where the person hiding is not found. In Assange’s version of this game, he interjects himself by drawing a map that leads the seeker (insurgents) directly to the persons hiding (coalition forces). “GAME OVER.”
Assange’s decision to leak classified documents places U.S. military personnel in grave danger, consequently putting our allies’ personnel in danger as well. In addition to the harm to our U.S. personnel, our Iraqi and Afghan counterparts are being hunted down because of the postings. Amnesty International and Reporters without Borders have joined the Pentagon in condemning Assange’s postings for placing people’s lives in greater danger.
Burns and Somaiya also reported an illustration of this: “A Taliban spokesman in Afghanistan […] said in a telephone interview that the Taliban had formed a nine-member ‘commission’ after the Afghan documents were posted ‘to find about people who are spying.’ He said the Taliban had a ‘wanted’ list of 1,800 Afghans and was comparing that with names WikiLeaks provided.”
The military relies upon those men and women for information regarding the location of insurgents. Based on military history, the key to winning any campaign in a foreign country is in winning over the hearts and minds of the people that live there. WikiLeaks information compromises our ability to keep our allies out of harm’s way.
Assange says he firmly believes that all the documents should be in the public domain; the world should have equal access to the information released by WikiLeaks.
According to Burns and Somaiya, Assange stated that the release of the documents, “constituted the most comprehensive and detailed account of any war ever to have entered the public record” and, therefore, the public is entitled to have access to this information. Assange defends his decision to leak the records in the interest of “tremendous good and [the] prevention of harm” ignoring the fact that U.S. policy forbids any military personnel from leaking classified documents to the public. Manning is said to have handed over these documents to Assange, who in turn posted them on the World Wide Web, violating national security under the 1917 espionage act. The act states, “any one releasing classified or secret documents with the intent of causing intentional harm can and will be tried.”
If the breach accrues during a time of war, the individual can be executed for treason. Not only does the release of these documents violate national security by leaking classified information, it has also caused a diplomatic embarrassment, eroding our credibility with other world powers by demonstrating the country’s inability to safeguard classified information.
MILITARY’S REPUTATION TARNISHED
The perception of our country becomes one that is not trustworthy, causing the U.S. military’s reputation to be brought into question. The posting of the classified documents is duplicitous on Assange’s part and greatly handicaps our ability to ensure the safety and greater good of all free people.
Furthermore, the information posted by WikiLeaks dramatically compromises our ability to combat terrorist organizations and conduct military operations globally. Most importantly, it further endangers the lives of our military personnel – for no other reason than Assange’s distorted sense of self-righteousness – at revealing this holy grail of classified documents.
Editor’s Note: Inmate Ronald G. Self was a Marine who served in the enlisted ranks as well as the officers corps.