Pentagon Scrambles to Protect Sources From Taliban Revenge

Extra Staff Combing Through WikiLeak Documents to Find Sources Who May Have Been Revealed


July 31, 2010—

The Pentagon is adding workers to a team that is working around the clock sifting through the thousands of leaked secret documents on the Afghan war to determine whether sources have been compromised, ABC News has learned.

Sources also told ABC News that measures are being taken in Afghanistan to protect sources who may have been unmasked from Taliban revenge.

Investigators are also reportedly widening their search for suspects amid growing evidence that suspected leaker Pfc. Bradley Manning had outside help leaking the documents. Manning is being held at Quantico Marine Base south of Washington tonight.

According to the New York Times, investigators are trying to learn if any of Manning's friends, including college students in the Boston area, may have helped him or have connections to WikiLeaks, the website responsible for releasing 75,000 secret documents.

The Boston Globe is reporting that a recent MIT graduate has admitted to federal investigators that he met with Manning and exchanged emails with him, but denied helping him leak the intelligence documents.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange told ABC News he was concerned that the press was going to try to pin everything on Manning.

"Manning is the only person publicly alleged to be one of our sources for military material," Assange said. "And we can sort of say, if those allegations are true, then of course the man is a hero. But they may not be true."

Adrian Lamo, the California hacker who turned in Manning, said he believes others may be involved. "He never would have tried to take this kind of action on his own," Lamo told ABC News.

Lamo was an outspoken supporter of WikiLeaks, but how Manning was leaking the data has alarmed Lamo, according to Kevin Poulsen, senior editor for

"Lamo decided that Manning was just a loose cannon and ...rather than a whistle-blower, he was just leaking things because he could," Poulsen said.

Lamo believes Manning was spying partly to boost his ego. "He enjoyed the fact that he received a special account on a special server that allowed his submissions to WikiLeaks to jump to the head of the queue," Poulsen said.

The Pentagon's greatest fear about the leaks could be coming true. A spokesman for the Taliban is quoted by a British broadcaster saying they are combing through the documents looking for names of Afghan informants. "We know how to punish them," Zabihullah Mujahid told Channel 4 News.

ABC News Has Found the Names of Nine Afghans Mentioned in WikiLeak Papers

From just a fraction of the documents, ABC found the names of nine Afghans working with NATO forces. Former CIA Director John McLaughlin says, "By putting those names out, certain people in Afghanistan are now on hit lists."

Some have criticized Assange, saying if Afghans are actually targeted and killed their blood would be on his hands. Assange said, "If we in fact have made that mistake, then of course that would be something that we would take very seriously."

In a clip released by ABC's "This Week with Christiane Amanpour," Defense Secretary Robert Gates says the Taliban statement proves the danger of releasing the documents.

"There are two areas of culpability. One is legal culpability. And that's up to the Justice Department and others. That's not my arena. But there's also a moral culpability. And that's where I think the verdict is guilty on WikiLeaks. They have put this out without any regard whatsoever for the consequences," Gates said.

"Most people who are identified are identified by word of mouth and by eyesight because they're seen with American troops," Michael O'Hanlon from the Brookings Institution said. "I wish this hadn't happened, but I'm not sure it's the greatest travesty to the war effort this summer."