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Here in Washington, U.S. officials are waiting anxiously to see whether the Website WikiLeaks will reveal the additional 15,000 secret U.S. military documents it claims to have.
The White House and Pentagon say WikiLeaks' release of 76,000 documents last month endangered U.S. troops and Afghan civilians alike. This week, five human rights groups joined in that criticism.
NPR's Tom Gjelten reports now on the growing pressure on WikiLeaks to reconsider its next move.
TOM GJELTEN: What's new this week is that the Pentagon has begun telling allied governments what's revealed about their forces in the WikiLeaks documents.
Spokesman Geoff Morell.
Mr. GEOFF MORELL (Spokesman, Pentagon): I imagine that our allies are thankful that we are bringing this to their attention so they're aware of whatever exposure they may have in these documents. But frankly, I can also imagine that they are displeased with us right now because this is information that should have been better safeguarded. And now, their troops are potentially at risk as well because of this breach of security.
GJELTEN: The U.S. government has opened a criminal investigation in this case. The Pentagon won't confirm reports that it's now pressing allied governments to launch investigations of their own, focused on the WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange.
But Jeffrey Smith, a former general counsel at the CIA, says such an effort does make sense.
Mr. JEFFREY SMITH (Former General Counsel, Central Intelligence Agency): If I were the U.S. government, I would be trying to make this as difficult as possible for the WikiLeaks founder, frankly, to continue to do business. And the extent to which we can persuade our allies to consider prosecution, I think that's all to the good.
GJELTEN: This could get complicated. Assange is unlikely to spend much time in any country where he could face prosecution. Smith also points out that the government could not go after Assange with the sole intent of putting him out of business.
Mr. SMITH: Under U.S. law, the government needs to be careful about using criminal prosecutions for purposes other than prosecuting someone for violating the law. You can't do it simply to harass somebody, for example.
However, in this case, what he has done is surely a violation of U.S. law, and I think it's entirely appropriate for us to be very aggressive.
GJELTEN: Assange's problems were compounded this week when five human rights groups wrote him, asking that he and his organization go through the unpublished documents more carefully to make sure no more names are revealed. The letter cited, quote: the sometimes deadly ramifications for Afghans identified as working for or sympathizing with international forces.
In fact, just this week, the United Nations mission in Afghanistan reported a sharp increase in the targeted assassination of Afghan civilians by Taliban and other insurgent forces - though there's no known link to the WikiLeaks' revelations.
Sam Zarifi is the Asia Pacific director for Amnesty International.
Mr. SAM ZARIFI (Asia Pacific Director, Amnesty International): There is an order that's come down from the top to target anyone who works with the Afghan government, and works with international groups and increasingly, even with humanitarian aid groups that have a totally non-political, non-military nature.
GJELTEN: Amnesty is one of the groups that signed the letter to WikiLeaks this week. But Julian Assange is still promising to release the rest of his documents.
The Pentagon says it is now pretty sure what those documents include. But there's also an encrypted file of documents on the WikiLeaks website titled insurance. A senior intelligence official notes that the United States has, quote, a very substantial cryptoanalytic capability, so there may be efforts under way to break that file open.
Tom Gjelten, NPR News, Washington.
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