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Pentagon threatens to 'compel' WikiLeaks to hand over Afghan war data

With WikiLeaks on the verge of publishing another cache of secret Afghan war documents 20 times larger than its original leak, the Pentagon said Thursday that it may 'compel them to do the right thing.'

By Taylor BarnesCorrespondent / August 6, 2010

Founder of the WikiLeaks website, Julian Assange, faces the media during a debate event, held in London July 27.

Max Nash/AP

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With WikiLeaks now threatening to publish thousands more classified documents on the US war in Afghanistan, the Pentagon is demanding that the whistleblower website erase its extensive classified records and hand over all documents in its possession.

"The only acceptable course is for WikiLeaks to take steps to immediately return all versions of all of those documents to the US government and permanently delete them from its website, computers, and records," Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said on Thursday, according to the Guardian.

He added: "If doing the right thing is not good enough for them, then we will figure out what alternatives we have to compel them to do the right thing."

The White House had condemned the leak immediately after it appeared July 25, with National Security Adviser Gen. James Jones issuing a statement at the time that it "could put the lives of Americans and our partners at risk, and threaten our national security."

But now, with WikiLeaks threatening to release more classified documents, the Pentagon is upping the pressure. The New York Times reports:

Mr. Morrell’s appeal is the Obama administration’s latest response to the disclosure, which has set off a criminal inquiry by the Army and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, prompted a sweeping Pentagon review of the documents to hunt for any information damaging to troop safety and national security, and increased pressure on President Obama to defend his war strategy.

Adding to the urgency is that Wikileaks recently posted to its website a massive, encrypted file labeled "Insurance," which is 20 times larger than its last leak. Some speculate this latest file could be the 15,000 intelligence reports that Wikileaks purports to have and says it's holding back for vetting. Other guess they could be 260,000 diplomatic cables accessed by the now-imprisoned Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning, the Associated Press reports.

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