WASHINGTON – The Pentagon has launched an investigation to find out how thousands of classified military documents were leaked to the group WikiLeaks.org, a Defense Department spokesman said.
The Army's Criminal Investigation Division, also known as CID, is heading the investigation, Marine Corps Col. Dave Lapan told Pentagon reporters Tuesday.
"An investigation has been initiated, (and) Army CID has the lead," Lapan said.
Having the Army take charge of the investigation doesn't suggest that Army personnel are responsible for the leaks, Lapan explained. CID was chosen for its capabilities in such matters, he said.
"(CID) is an investigative agency that has the ability, the capability, to do these types of things," Lapan said. "There are a number of investigative agencies (within the Pentagon), but the decision was made that Army CID takes the lead."
He said Army CID also is investigating the case of Spc. Bradley Manning, who has been charged with leaking a video of a U.S. helicopter attack in Iraq to WikiLeaks. The document leaks investigation is an extension of the existing open investigation on Manning, Lapan said.
However, he added, the document leak investigation is "broader" than the Manning case.
"The current investigation into the leak of the documents to WikiLeaks isn't focused on any one, specific individual," Lapan said. "It's much broader. They're going to look everywhere to determine what the source may be."
In an interview broadcast Tuesday on a segment of MSNBC's "The Daily Rundown" television news show, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said that Manning "is a person of interest with regards to this leak, but we just don't know at this point."
Morrell said the question was posed to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates recently about changing the way the Pentagon shares information with uniformed members. Gates, he said, doesn't believe that that sort of adjustment is necessary.
"What makes our military the envy of the world is that we entrust the most-junior officers, the most-junior enlisted with incredible amounts of responsibility," Morrell said. "(Gates) doesn't want to alter that dynamic, that trust element that exists because of one or two 'bad seeds.'"
The answer, Morrell said, is "to go after the 'bad actors,' hold them responsible, prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law, but don't change the fundamental trusting relationship that makes the military so effective."
The documents, reportedly given to several U.S. and international media weeks ago, are said to detail field reports from Afghanistan, as well as alleged Pakistani partnership with the Taliban. The more than 90,000 documents cover the period from January 2004 through December 2009, according to news reports.
Morrell noted that the Pentagon's investigation of the leaked documents continues.
"To the issue of whether it's damaged operational security or endangered our forces, we're still trying to get our arms around that," he said. "We've got a team working around the clock going through them bit by bit to try to see is there any information in there that could imperil our forces, our coalition partners, the civilians who are on the battlefield with us."
"And are there any things in there that could jeopardize our operations or our nation's security?" he continued. "We just don't know at this point."