THE US last night implored WikiLeaks to stop releasing secret Afghan war files amid reports the website has many more files in its possession.
Asked on American television what the Obama Administration could do to prevent further damage, Robert Gibbs, the White House spokesman, admitted that the US Government is powerless to prevent further intelligence revelations.
“We can do nothing but implore the person that has those classified top- secret documents not to post any more,” he said in a reference to Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder. “I think it’s important that no more damage be done to our national security,” Mr Gibbs added.
Mr Assange has promised to release more of the 17,000 further files on Afghanistan in his group’s possession that were initially held back when the site published an estimated 78,000 classified documents last Monday. He alleged that the White House had failed to respond to a request by him for officials to go through the documents before they were released this week to make sure that no innocent people were identified.
A Pentagon spokesman, Colonel David Lapan, dismissed that claim overnight as “absolutely false”.
Mr Assange has also continued to dispute the fact, first reported by The Times, that innocent Afghans are identified in the files. “We are yet to see clear evidence of that,” he said on Australian television.
Robert Gates, the US Defence Secretary, has said that the website founder had “blood on his hands” as a result of disclosures that could help the Taleban identify Afghan informants who had assisted or talked to Nato coalition forces.
Mr Assange said that Mr Gates was describing hypothetical blood. He added: “The grounds of Iraq and Afghanistan are covered with real blood. Secretary Gates has overseen the killings of thousands of children and adults in these two countries.”
A Taleban spokesman underlined that the insurgent group would use the papers to track down collaborators. Zabiullah Mujahed told Channel 4 News: “We are studying the report.”
He added: “We knew about the spies and people who collaborate with US forces. We will investigate through our own secret service whether the people mentioned are really spies working for the US. If they are US spies, then we know how to punish them.”
American authorities said that the private charged with leaking military video to WikiLeaks has been transferred back to American soil amid reports that investigators have computer evidence linking him to material disclosed.
Private Bradley Manning, the chief target of a joint Pentagon and FBI investigation, was moved from military detention in Kuwait to a Marine Corps base in Virginia.
His transfer comes as Afghans who were named in documents leaked to the WikiLeaks internet site pleaded for US Government protection from Taleban retribution.
Mr Gates pledged on Thursday to “aggressively investigate the leak”, saying that civilians who may have helped Private Manning could also be liable to prosecution. He did not rule out the possibility of prosecuting Mr Assange.
American and Afghan officials and human rights groups have condemned the disclosure. The Taleban routinely target those suspected of spying. Mr Gates urged WikiLeaks not to release any further documents in its possession.
Private Manning was stationed at a small post outside Baghdad. If he was the source of the Afghan war logs, he would have had to go out of his way to amass information from a different country. He was arrested at a rear base in Kuwait in June.
One former low-ranking government official quoted in one of the leaked documents told The Times in Kabul: “I want ISAF [the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force], especially the US military, to help me or protect me or for the Afghan Government to protect me. If they don’t protect me I have to flee from my country.” The man is quoted in a document giving details of the structures of local Taleban groups.