Washington: The US Army opened a criminal probe Tuesday into the leak of some 90,000 classified military files on the Afghan war, the Pentagon said, naming a jailed soldier as a “person of interest.”
Bradley Manning, a 22-year-old private charged in an earlier leak to WikiLeaks, was under renewed scrutiny in the latest release to the same whistleblowers’ website, Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said.
“He is obviously a person of interest with regards to this leak but we don’t know at this point,” Morrell told MSNBC, referring to Manning.
The investigation was assigned to the same Army Criminal Investigation Division that has been investigating Manning, who was arrested in May for allegedly leaking a video of a Baghdad air strike to WikiLeaks.
Colonel Dave Lapan, a Pentagon spokesman, said the agency would be taking a “broad look” at the latest leaks, a trove of 92,000 military reports from 2004 to 2009 that together paint an unsettling picture of a troubled war effort.
“The current investigation into the release of the documents to WikiLeaks, this recent release, isn’t focused on any particular individual. It is a broader look,” he said.
The Pentagon is conducting a separate assessment into the potential damage to security caused by the latest Wikileaks expose, Lapan said.
Pentagon officials have expressed concerns that the disclosures may have put US and NATO troops at risk, but the main impact to far appears to have been political, coming at a time of gnawing public doubts about the war.
Manning, who is in a military prison in Kuwait, has been charged with transferring classified information onto a computer, adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system, and passing defense information to an unauthorized source.
A former intelligence analyst, Manning allegedly told a former hacker, Adrian Lamo, that he had passed 260,000 diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks in addition to videos of two air strikes in Iraq.
One video that gained wide attention showed a helicopter gunship attack in Baghdad in 2007 in which two employees of the Reuters news agency were among several people killed.