2010-01-21 Debunked: "WikiLeaks Has Blood On Its Hands"

The Falsehood:

During its War Log Releases, Wikileaks carelessly/wantonly/maliciously failed to redact the names of soldiers/informants. As a a result, NATO/Allied troops and/or Afghan/Iraqi informants and/or their families were endangered/killed.

The Explanation:

This allegation has been made in various forms since Wikileaks released the Afghanistan War Logs, and with renewed intensity after the Iraq War Logs.

The Source:

The particular phrase, "Wikileaks has blood on its hands," can be traced to the press release statements of high ranking US officials. Both Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen, in the days following the release of the Afghanistan war logs, made highly publicized statements to this effect.

The quote was quickly seized by news outlets. Glenn Greenwald, in an excellent article, has documented the process of whispers by which the press eventually came to report that Wikileaks indeed does have blood on its hands. The phrase "Wikileaks has blood on its hands" received approx. 2,650,000 search results in Google, at the time of publishing this article.

The Truth:

To date, no name of any casualty directly or arguably attributable to the War Log releases has been mentioned. Overwhelming evidence abounds, and has been reported in the mainstream press, that nobody has been either hurt or killed because of the disclosures. The officials who made the allegations themselves have acknowledged the falsehood of these claims.

  • Robert Gates' Memo

2010-10-17: CNN reported that the Department of Defense had concluded that the "online leak of thousands of secret military documents from the war in Afghanistan by the website WikiLeaks did not disclose any sensitive intelligence sources or methods."

The assessment, revealed in a letter from Gates to the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. Carl Levin (D-Michigan), comes after a thorough Pentagon review of the more than 70,000 documents posted to the controversial whistle-blower site in July. The letter, provided to CNN, was written August 16 by Gates in response to a query by the senator regarding the leak of classified information. Gates said the review found most of the information relates to "tactical military operations." "The initial assessment in no way discounts the risk to national security," Gates wrote. "However, the review to date has not revealed any sensitive intelligence sources and methods compromised by the disclosure." The defense secretary said that the published documents do contain names of some cooperating Afghans, who could face reprisal by Taliban. But a senior NATO official in Kabul told CNN that there has not been a single case of Afghans needing protection or to be moved because of the leak.

The above story can be verified in any other major news source.

  • No Evidence of Any Casualties

2010-08-17: The Associated Press reported that "there is no evidence that any Afghans named in the leaked documents as defectors or informants from the Taliban insurgency have been harmed in retaliation."

Some private analysts, in fact, think the danger has been overstated. "I am underwhelmed by this argument. The Pentagon is hyping," says John Prados, a military and intelligence historian who works for the anti-secrecy National Security Archive. He said in an interview that relatively few names have surfaced and it's not clear whether their present circumstances leave them in jeopardy.

  • Geoff Morrell's Statement

2010-08-11: The Washington Post reported a statement by Pentagon Spokesman Geoff Morrell clarifying that no harm has come as a result of the disclosure. Morrell can be heard to make the statement in the video of the Pentagon press conference.

"We have yet to see any harm come to anyone in Afghanistan that we can directly tie to exposure in the WikiLeaks documents," Morrell said. But, he asserted, "there is in all likelihood a lag between exposure of these documents and jeopardy in the field."

If Morrell's latter statement is to be believed, the lag continues to grow. All of these statements, and the substantive truths they evidence, can be verified for anyone who cares to look.

See also this article from June 2011.


The prominent and mainstream rebuttal of the claim has not prevented the falsehood being conveniently treated as if it were well known fact. It remains as a ready-to-hand premise for far reaching and radical arguments on the part of journalists and politicians hostile to Wikileaks.

Marc Thiessen:

Beyond getting people killed, WikiLeaks' actions make it less likely that Afghans and foreign intelligence services (whose reports WikiLeaks also exposed) will cooperate with the United States in the future. And, as former CIA director Mike Hayden has pointed out, the disclosures are a gift to adversary intelligence services, and they will place a chill on intelligence sharing within the United States government. The harm to our national security is immeasurable and irreparable. And WikiLeaks is preparing to do more damage. Assange claims to be in possession of 15,000 even more sensitive documents, which he is reportedly preparing to release. On Sunday, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates told ABC News that Assange had a "moral culpability" for the harm he has caused. Well, the Obama administration has a moral responsibility to stop him from wreaking even more damage.Assange is a non-U.S. citizen operating outside the territory of the United States. This means the government has a wide range of options for dealing with him. It can employ not only law enforcement but also intelligence and military assets to bring Assange to justice and put his criminal syndicate out of business.

This is one of the more pernicious falsehoods surrounding the Wikileaks releases, and serves to discredit it in, particularly, the eyes of the American public. A rigorous review of the evidence, however, exposes it as one of the more obvious falsehoods.

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