The Pentagon is looking at ways to increase security of its classified files among its own personnel after Wikileaks' release of 400,000 classified documents on Iraq and the expected leak of tens of thousands more.
Visiting Deputy Secretary of Defense William Lynn told a group of reporters late Tuesday that one of the measures being considered were checks that would flag suspicious access to data, similar to the alerts by credit cards companies designed to prevent fraudulent charges.
“If somebody is doing something that doesn’t seem appropriate for where they are – downloading 100,000 documents and they’re out in some obscure corner of the country – why are they doing that? And you go ask,” Mr. Lynn said.
The deputy secretary, on a brief tour of Iraq and Afghanistan, said the Pentagon was trying to reach a balance between giving field officers broad access to useful information and maintaining security of the database. Front-line military units have long complained that although they provide intelligence, they don't get enough back to allow them to form a broad picture.
“We’ve tried to change the way we’ve operated so that the intelligence is available to the war fighter when he or she needs it and we don’t want to change that. That’s an important element in the successes we’ve had that said we probably have to think about how do we better protect the data so we don’t have this kind of massive loss,” he said.
Pentagon official: We're not monitoring access enough
Lynn said he did not believe the Pentagon was currently adequately monitoring access to classified documents.
“It is common sense and we’re not doing enough of it frankly,” he said. “Rather than having people not have access to the data, could we look for things like the credit card companies do – which is look for anomalous behavior?”
The Pentagon has condemned the release of the documents – logs by US military units of incidents across the country over six years of war. The Pentagon had warned their release could put lives in jeopardy but has acknowledged that that has not been the case with 70,000 similar documents leaked in July from the war in Afghanistan.
The Pentagon has charged a low-ranking US soldier, Private First Class Bradley Manning, who was serving as an intelligence analyst, with providing WikiLeaks a video that shows an Apache helicopter firing on Iraqi civilians. Officials have said they believe Manning may have passed other material to Wikileaks as well.
What else does Wikileaks have?
Among the highlights from organizations that combed through the documents weeks before they were publicly released were a much higher civilian death toll than had been previously acknowledged by the US military, which had said it did not keep figures of Iraqi casualties.
Wikileaks is believed to have another 15,000 other classified documents from the Afghan war, up to 260,000 diplomatic cables, and a video of casualties in Afghanistan it has yet to release. The Pentagon said Tuesday that it may have even more.
“We have reason to believe they have other documents as well,” said spokesman Col. David Lapan. “We don’t know exactly everything that Wikileaks has. We believe we know some of what they have.”
UN officials call for investigations
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on Tuesday called for a US and Iraqi investigation in the wake of the latest Wikileaks release. The files from the Iraq war indicated that the US military received numerous reports from its own soldiers that Iraqi prisoners were being tortured by Iraqi security forces but continued to transfer them to Iraqi custody.
The US has said and continues to say that Iraq was a sovereign country that was not under American control.
The UN’s chief investigator on torture allegations said the US should appoint a special investigator or independent panel to investigate the transfer of detainees. He said handing over detainees known to be at serious risk of torture marked a violation of the UN Convention Against Torture.
Translating Wikileaks files into Arabic
The thought that such a large scale of documents could have been obtained by a low-ranking US Army soldier has prompted disbelief among many Iraqis that the documents are real.
“We all know they are fake,” says one university professor. Some Iraqi newspapers have suggested the Iraq documents have been manufactured by neighboring countries to sow political turmoil.
Others says Iraqis have not yet had time to absorb the impact of the hundreds of thousands of documents, all of them in English.
“I think the volume of the information is so big the consequences will be coming up day after day,” says newspaper editor Ismael Zaer.
Mr. Zaer, editor of Sabah al-Jadeed, says he has hired a team of six interpreters working on translating the documents into Arabic.
“We would like to translate it all – we will not let it go,” he says. “We have a lot of assumptions about what happened in the country but now we have facts about what happened.”