The U.S. government on Sunday condemned the WikiLeaks Internet web site for its release of more than a quarter-of-a-million classified cables sent from American embassies around the world to Washington. It has also announced steps it is taking to prevent the further compromise of sensitive information.
In a statement, the White House said President Barack Obama supports responsible efforts to make government information more accessible. But the president called the Internet posting of diplomatic communications by WikiLeaks "reckless."
The White House warned that the release of stolen and classified documents not only puts the lives of diplomats and intelligence professionals at risk, but also jeopardizes the promotion of human rights around the world.
Although it did not address the content of some of the cables that were released by WikiLeaks, the White House said that diplomatic field reporting is inherently very candid, but incomplete. Such reporting, the White House said, does not always shape final policy decisions.
Speaking on the Fox News Sunday television program, South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham warned that the massive disclosure of sensitive information could damage U.S. diplomatic efforts around the globe. "Leaking the material is deplorable. I agree with the Pentagon's assessment that the people at WikiLeaks could have blood on their hands," he said.
The Department of Defense says it has launched a series of steps to prevent similar incidents from occurring again.
After WikiLeaks released more than 75,000 secret reports on the war in Afghanistan earlier this year, Defense Secretary Robert Gates commissioned two reviews to determine what policy, procedural or technological shortfalls contributed to the unauthorized disclosure.
WikiLeaks has not identified the source of the documents, but suspicion has fallen on Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning, who is in military custody awaiting trial. Manning was arrested earlier this year for allegedly leaking a 2007 video of a helicopter strike in Iraq as well as classified diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks.
The Pentagon notes that in the wake of the 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, the Defense Department and other agencies have taken steps to reduce obstacles to information sharing across the government. Although such efforts are intended to give the military, diplomatic, law enforcement and intelligence specialists greater access to information, the Pentagon says it has made sensitive information more vulnerable.