Amid speculation it would release another round of classified documents, whistleblower website WikiLeaks followed through on its promise Sunday, releasing a series of secret government documents to selected media outlets around the world. The documents are merely a preview of what is expected to be a massive document release over the next few days.
Sunday on Fox News, Lieutenant Colonel Tony Shaffer, Director of the Center for Advanced Defense Studies, discussed the damaging effect the documents could have worldwide. Shaffer says the information is "private chatter" and negative reaction is likely to result from people "not liking" the way events or people are depicted. Shaffer describes the classified information as "trash talk in the official system," a sentiment echoed by the White House today, who released a statement saying in part, "when the substance of private conversations is printed on the front pages of newspapers across the world, it can deeply impact not only U.S. foreign policy interests, but those of our allies and friends around the world."
Included in the documents are unflattering depictions of world leaders, including Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who is described as being "driven by paranoia" and of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, described as someone who is "rarely creative."
The White House went on to emphasize "WikiLeaks has put at risk not only the cause of human rights but also the lives and work of [these] individuals. We condemn in the strongest terms unauthorized disclosure of classified documents and sensitive national security information." Earlier this week, U.S. government officials reached out to foreign allies ahead of the document dump in an attempt to minimize damage. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was in touch with leaders in Saudi Arabia, France and the UAE among others.
The U.S. government says it has known for quite a while WikiLeaks was in possession of the documents, the quantity of which is rumored to be seven times larger than the 400,000 documents previously released by the site in October regarding the war in Iraq. Despite sensitive information in the documents, several Obama administration officials say the documents are "Secret", rather than "Top Secret," a classification that would include information more damaging to national security.
No one has been charged in connection with leaking this latest round of documents, although the source is rumored to be Army Intelligence Specialist Bradley Manning, who has previously been arrested in connection to prior document releases. WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, is an internet activist and former computer programmer.