The Pentagon demanded Thursday that Wikileaks hand over classified Afghanistan war documents published leaked to the website.
Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell at Thursday's briefing said "the only acceptable course" is for Wikileaks to turn some 15,000 documents still being reviewed by the website back to the U.S. government and delete all the files from its website pertaining to the original nearly 92,000 documents posted July 25.
Morrell called the site, which publishes a variety of confidential documents for what it says is the public's interest in transparency, is tantamount to a "brazen solicitation to U.S. government officials to break the law."
"We are making a demand of them," Morrell said. "We are asking them to do the right thing."
"We hope they will honor our demands," Morrell said, adding if Wikileaks refuses to comply "we will cross the next bridge when we come to it."
"If doing the right thing is not good enough for them," the Pentagon spokesman said, alternatives will be explored "to make them do the right thing."
The release of the documents — which cover coalition forces' attacks on civilians and friendly fire incidents, reveal American suspicions that Pakistan's intelligence service is aiding the insurgency and show a strengthened Taliban that is using weapons such as heat-seeking missiles against coalition forces — has sparked angry outcry from the White House and lawmakers in both parties.
Army Spc. Bradley Manning, 22, of Potomac, Md., is being held on suspicion of leaking information to WikiLeaks.
While blunting the impact of the information released on the future of the overall mission in Afghanistan, Defense officials have stressed the release of the documents puts lives at risk for, among other things, revealing the names of Afghans assisting coalition forces. A Taliban spokesman claimed the insurgents were studying the documents to root out informers, and reports have surfaced this week of that retaliation starting.
"The concern obviously is for leaking of classified information that is
going to endanger people, operations and potentially, depending on how
serious it is, outcomes," Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen said Sunday on "Meet the Press."