Sen. John McCain demanded today that top brass be disciplined for the massive security breach of classified documents that are now spilling out of the Wikileaks website, but former Washington officials said that is unlikely that anyone will be held accountable beyond the lowly private who is now in jail.
"Let's go back to the principle of need-to-know. Why would a private first class have access to all of this information? Somebody is responsible for that and it isn't just the private first class. They should be held accountable for a change," McCain, R- Ariz, told ABC News today.
Wikileaks' latest release Tuesday will no doubt continue to strain already sensitive relationships and add pressure on the military to hold someone accountable.
For the third day in a row Wikileaks released a raft of secret diplomatic cables, many of them focusing on tenuous relationship with Pakistan, an essential, but often frustrating ally in the U.S. war against the Taliban in Afghanistan.
In one cable, former U.S. Ambassador Anne Patterson expressed Washington's fears that Pakistan was not doing enough to secure its nuclear arsenal and keep weapons out of the hands of terrorists.
The cables shed light on the relationship between Pakistan's democratically elected president and its powerful army chief. According to diplomats, both men believed that Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani could depose President Asif Zardari if he chose to. Zardari even admitted to Vice President Joe Biden, "Kayani will take me out."
One cable back to Washington also voiced the grim conclusion that "no amount of money" will stop the Pakistani army's support of the Taliban that the U.S. is battling across the border in Afghanistan.
Since the first tranche of cables was released Sunday federal agencies have launched investigations, promised improved regulations, and vowed to prosecute Army Private Bradley Manning and Wikileaks' director Julian Assange.
Manning has been held in a Quantico, Va., brig awaiting court martial since July, but no senior officials or military officers have taken responsibility for the historic security breach and none have been threatened with losing their jobs.
"We probably are not going to see heads roll," said Gen. Jack Keane, a retired four star general and former Acting Army Chief of Staff. "The supervisors in this case will likely get a pass because this is a major deception."
The military says it will not comment on who, if anyone else might be held responsible until it completes an ongoing investigation.
In his first comments about the leak, Defense Secretary said efforts to share information after 9/11 had gone too far.
"That aperture went too wide," he told reporters. There's no reason for a young officer at a forward operating post in Afghanistan to get cables having to do with the START negotiations. And so we've taken a number of mitigating steps in the department. "
Manning is alleged to have downloaded vast numbers of secret diplomatic cables and military documents while working as an intelligence analyst, committing the greatest security breach in U.S. history using little more than a memory stick and a Lady Gaga CD.
"No one suspected a thing," Manning told a confidante afterward, according to a log of a computer chat published by Wired.com. "I didn't even have to hide anything."