The release of secret documents has endangered the lives of Afghan citizens who have co-operated with the international forces, president Hamid Karzai said today.
Mr Karzai said he has ordered his Cabinet ministers to study more than 90,000 secret US military documents on the Afghanistan war that were posted on the internet by WikiLeaks on Sunday.
He called the release of papers, naming Afghans who side with the Nato-led force, “shocking” and “irresponsible” and said “their lives will be in danger now”.
Mr Karzai said he is particularly interested in the papers that address civilian casualties and militant and terrorist sanctuaries across the border in Pakistan.
Suspicion for the WikiLeaks document leak centres on Bradley Manning, a 22-year-old soldier who is being detained in Kuwait, charged with “mishandling and leaking classified data”.
Manning was blamed for leaking a classified helicopter cockpit video of a 2007 firefight in Baghdad.
Detained after he bragged of providing classified material to WikiLeaks, Manning was later charged with accessing more than 150,000 classified US state department cables, which have yet to surface.
So far, no US official has linked Manning directly to the WikiLeaks documents.
One US official who has examined some of the WikiLeaks documents said everything he had seen could have been obtained by Manning by surfing a US defence department intranet system known as the “SIPRNet,” or Secret Internet Protocol Router Network.
Intelligence analysts such as Manning – and even troops in the field – can access military field reports from Iraq or Afghanistan, state department sites, and even some intelligence sites.
American intelligence experts are blaming changes since the September 11 2001 terror attacks against the United States, which promoted information sharing, as the cause of the government’s loss of control of the nation’s secrets.
Former CIA director Michael Hayden said: “Frankly, we all knew this was going to happen.”
He said many intelligence workers he has spoken to feel burned by the disclosures, and want to return to guarding their data.
The intelligence failures that led to the attacks of 9/11 were blamed on US government agencies hoarding information instead of sharing it, missing crucial clues that could have headed off al-Qaida’s strikes.
Those changes have produced the opposite problem: amassing so much data that officials complain it is hard to make sense of it and, as the WikiLeaks incident shows, keep it secret.
Intelligence officials and outside experts suggested that agency chiefs may push to limit access to electronic “portals” that have provided growing data access to intelligence officers, diplomats and troops around the world.
Others predicted tighter scrutiny by an administration that has already pushed aggressively to investigate and prosecute leakers.
On the other hand, some US politicians worry that the leaking incident will give the 16 US intelligence agencies an excuse to go back to old ways of holding back information as “too sensitive” to be shared.
On the battlefield, the WikiLeaks episode may also cause a new reluctance to share information.
From a sergeant on the ground, writing an after-action report following combat, to a supervisor reading the documents, there could be a new push to leave information out rather than risk having it leaked.
That could make it harder for military headquarters to get an immediate assessment of what is really happening on the battlefield, some officials say.