Days after the U.S. military announced it had detained Army Specialist Bradley Manning for allegedly releasing classified information, a spokesman for the State Department says it is trying to determine if thousands of diplomatic documents were compromised.
Manning, who had been deployed in Baghdad, had reportedly boasted to a former hacker about providing classified combat videos, as well as 260,000 classified diplomatic cables, to the website WikiLeaks.
As the 22-year-old soldier sits in confinement in Kuwait, agents in Washington are scrutinizing the hard drive of at least one computer Manning used.
U.S. State Department Spokesman P.J. Crowley said one or more hard drives arrived in Washington Thursday.
"Diplomatic Security is assisting in forensic analysis of the hard drives to verify that, in fact, the leak took place," he said.
Crowley said the State Department first learned of the potential breach last month and that it is conducting a damage assessment. He said the next step is to determine if there is any evidence that Manning distributed classified diplomatic documents to unauthorized recipients.
He underscored that it is difficult to determine the potential impact because officials do not yet know what classified information may have been divulged.
"We do cables that provide our analysis of ongoing events in the region," explained Crowley. "But, obviously, of greatest concern is sources and methods which we rely on when providing insight to decision-makers on what is happening around the world."
In April, the website WikiLeaks posted classified video of a 2007 helicopter strike in Iraq that killed two Iraqis who were on assignment for Reuters news agency.
WikiLeaks has not posted, nor has it publicly confirmed receipt of, thousands of State Department cables.
In an interview with VOA last month, WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange said the site takes great pains to protect its sources.
"We deliberately route our material through two jurisdictions, Belgium and Sweden, that have the strongest source protection laws in the world to pick up those protections," Assange told VOA. "We also encrypt everything."
State Department Spokesman Crowley said Friday that no one from the department had reached out to WikiLeaks.
Pentagon and State Department officials say they take the management of classified information very seriously.