Pentagon reviewing leaks' risks to Afghans

WASHINGTON, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday the leak of classified documents on the Afghan war could have "severe and dangerous" consequences for U.S. troops.

Gates told reporters at a news conference in Washington the release could have serious diplomatic repercussions for Washington, saying it "may well damage our relationships and reputation in that key part of the world," The Washington Post reported.

"We have considerable repair work to do," he said.

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, went further, saying those responsible for the leak "might already have on their hands the blood of some young soldier or that of an Afghan family."

The Defense Department is reviewing the matter to determine whether any Afghan informants were compromised, U.S. officials said.

Pentagon spokesman Col. David Lapan said an assessment team hasn't reached any conclusions, but explained, "In general, the naming of individuals could cause potential problems, both to their physical safety or willingness to continue support to coalition forces or the Afghan government," The New York Times reported Thursday.

Speaking in Kabul, Afghan President Hamid Karzai called disclosure of Afghans who cooperated with NATO and U.S. forces "extremely irresponsible and shocking."

"Whether those individuals acted legitimately or illegitimately in providing information to the NATO forces, their lives will be in danger now," Karzai said Thursday after discussing the issue with his advisers. "Therefore we consider that extremely irresponsible and an act that one cannot overlook."

A search through some of the documents released by the group unearthed reports that listed names or identifying features of dozens of Afghan informants, possible defectors and others who were cooperating with coalition forces, the Times said.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said the group withheld 15,000 of the approximately 92,000 documents in the archive published Sunday to remove the names of informants. But the documents posted online provide information about possible informants, such as their villages or family members' names, the Times said.

National security officials told the Times they were concerned that disgruntled officials would send classified information to WikiLeaks, which solicits "classified, censored or otherwise restricted material of political, diplomatic or ethical significance" and states "submitting confidential material to WikiLeaks is safe, easy and protected by law."