The Pentagon demanded on Thursday that whistle-blower web site WikiLeaks immediately hand over about 15,000 secret documents it had not yet released over the war in Afghanistan and erase material it had already put online. “We are asking them to do the right thing,” said Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell in asking WikiLeaks to hand over the documents and delete material already on the Internet. “We hope they will honor our demands,” he told reporters, adding that the only rightful owner of the classified material was the U.S. government and the material had been stolen. He urged the whistle-blower site, which caused an uproar when it published more than 70,000 documents last month about the war, to expunge those from the Internet.
Morrell said public disclosure of the secret documents, which included names of Afghan informers, had already caused damage and a bid to get the information permanently deleted from the web site was aimed at minimizing further harm. He said about 80 U.S. government intelligence experts were painstakingly combing through the 70,000 or so documents which had already been released and notifying foreign governments and Afghan citizens where appropriate if they could be at risk. Last week, Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. military's Joint Chiefs of Staff, said WikiLeaks may be responsible for the deaths of U.S. troops and Afghan contacts exposed by the leak, one of the largest security breaches in U.S. military history.