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Leaks Put Americans in Danger, Rumsfeld Says

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 16, 2002 – Military and civilian personnel who leak classified data are putting national security at risk and the practice must stop, said Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in a memo to all members of the department.

"I have spoken publicly and privately countless times about the dangers of leaking classified information," the secretary wrote. "It is wrong. It is against the law. It costs the lives of Americans. It diminishes our country's chances for success."

Rumsfeld amplified his remarks during an interview on CNBC July 15. "Every once in a while, there are people in the United States government who decide that they want to break federal criminal law and release classified information, and they ought to be imprisoned," he said. "And if we find out who they are, they will be imprisoned."

He said the leaks are making it more difficult to track down terrorists globally. "Why people do it, I do not know," he said. "They obviously want to make themselves look important, and they have favorite reporters and press people that they think they can curry favor with. And they go to them and hand them things that ought not to be given to the public, and they then appear in a public press."

An unclassified CIA report says a growing body of evidence indicates al Qaeda pays attention to the U.S. and foreign press and has gleaned valuable information about U.S. counterterrorism activities from the press.

"Information obtained from captured detainees has revealed that al Qaeda operatives are extremely security conscious and have altered their practices in response to what they have learned in the press about our capabilities," the reports states.

"Disclosures of classified information also reduce the willingness of potential allies, volunteers and other sources in foreign countries to work with us out of fear of having their cooperation publicized in the press," the report says.

Rumsfeld's memo is just the latest reminder to military and civilian personnel on the dangers leaking classified information poses not only to American troops, but the American population. The day after the attacks in New York and Washington, Rumsfeld asked Defense Department personnel to safeguard classified information.

"This is a message really for all the men and women in the United States government who have access to classified information," he said during a Pentagon briefing Sept. 12, 2001. "It seems to me that when they see or learn of someone who is handling classified information in a way that is going to put the lives of the men and women in uniform at risk, they ought to register exactly what kind of a person that is. It's a person who's willing to violate federal criminal statutes, and willing to frustrate our efforts to track down and deal with terrorists, and willing to reveal information that could cost the lives of men and women in uniform.

"I think it's time for all who deal with that information to treat it with the care and respect that it merits."

 

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