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7/26/2010
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Wikileaks Posts Thousands Of Afghan War Documents Online

White House condemns leak, says publishing of classified material could put American lives at risk.

In the latest sign of how social media technologies are giving private citizens or small groups enormous power to directly influence debate on key public issues, the online site Wikileaks on Sunday published more than 90,000 documents containing classified information about the war in Afghanistan.

Interest in the postings quickly spread globally, and Wikileaks' site appeared to be offline early Monday under the strain of all the traffic.

The documents cover developments in the war from 2004 to 2009, and purport to show that the conflict's true course is at odds with statements from the White House and U.S. military commanders.

For instance, Wikileaks claims the files reveal that secret service operators from Pakistan, supposedly a U.S. ally, have been working with Afghan insurgents to sabotage the Western coalition's military and political efforts in the region.

Wikileaks posted the documents directly to its site, and also leaked them in advance to The New York Times, The Guardian, and Germany's Der Spiegel, all of which ran major stories based on the material on Sunday. Wikileaks, founded by Australian hacker and activist Julian Assange, has not identified the source of the documents.

U.S. officials blasted Wikileaks for making the material available. "The United States strongly condemns the disclosure of classified information by individuals which could put the lives of Americans and our partners at risk, and threaten our national security," said National Security Adviser James Jones, in a statement.

"These irresponsible leaks will not impact our ongoing commitment to deepen our partnerships with Afghanistan and Pakistan; to defeat our common enemies; and to support the aspirations of the Afghan and Pakistan people," said Jones.

Wikileaks has drawn criticism from the military in the past for posting documents and videos related to the Afghan and Iraq conflicts that officials said lacked context and were therefore misleading to the public.

Sunday's publication has drawn comparisons to The Pentagon Papers incident, in which former military analyst Daniel Ellsberg leaked a classified study of the Vietnam War to The New York Times in 1971. Had that case occurred today, Ellsberg, like Wikileaks, could have posted the documents online directly.

Experts were divided Monday over whether Wikileaks, as well as the media outlets that published portions of the documents, could face criminal and civil charges.

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