Though this is a little late in the game for fact checking, the Defense Department just fired out an important clarification in the WikiLeaks case:
WASHINGTON, July 30, 2010 – A claim by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange that the U.S. government had an opportunity to review stolen military documents published on the group’s website is untrue, a Pentagon spokesman said today.
“It’s absolutely false that WikiLeaks contacted the White House and offered to have them look through the documents,” Marine Corps Col. David Lapan said.
The website recently published tens of thousands of classified documents spanning the timeframe January 2004 through December 2009 that reportedly were given to several U.S. and international media outlets weeks ago. The documents detail field reports from Afghanistan and an alleged Pakistani partnership with the Taliban. The documents also include names of Afghan informants who work or have worked with the U.S. military.
Assange told “ABC Lateline” in Australia last night that WikiLeaks and several media groups contacted the White House prior to releasing the documents for assistance in reviewing them to make sure innocent names were not released. White House officials declined, he said.
He added that White House officials were not given “veto” power, but were given an opportunity help WikiLeaks minimize potential danger to informants and innocent civilians named in the cables. The New York Times acted on behalf of WikiLeaks, he said.
“We never had the opportunity to look at any of the documents in advance to determine anything,” Lapan said. “The documents were brought to the attention of the White House, but no copies of documents, or opportunities to review were given.”
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said yesterday that Defense Department officials have asked the FBI to assist in investigating the leak of the classified material. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said those responsible for the leak may have the blood of U.S. servicemembers and Afghan civilians on their hands.