White House tries to shrug off secret-document leak 

The White House condemned the leak of about 92,000 secret documents on the war in Afghanistan as a "breach of federal law," while shrugging off their contents as nothing new.

"I don't see broad new revelations that we weren't either concerned about or working through this time a week ago," said White House press secretary Robert Gibbs. "We didn't exactly have a cloistered evaluation of our policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan."

Even so, the disclosure comes at a difficult time for the White House, with its latest, $33 billion war funding request pending in Congress, among growing doubts about the U.S. involvement in Afghanistan.

It also raises questions about the security of sensitive information. Gibbs said an investigation is under way to find the source of the documents posted by Wikileaks.org.

The White House had hoped to spend this week talking about financial reform, the economy and other campaign-themed topics.

To keep the volume down on the matter, President Obama did not comment publicly on the leak, and ignored shouted questions at an unrelated event on a campaign contributions bill.

The administration's effort to dismiss the contents of the documents as old news while simultaneously depicting the leak as a threat to national security created some awkwardness.

"Whenever you have the potential for names and for operations and for programs to be out there in the public domain, that is besides being against the law, has the potential to be very harmful to those that are in our military," Gibbs said.

The documents spanning 2004 to 2009 -- shortly before Obama announced his Afghanistan surge and pullout strategy -- paint a bleak picture of the war and the setbacks U.S. forces face in getting the region under manageable control.

Independent analyses of the documents said they raise questions about Pakistan's commitment to routing out terrorists, specifically the Taliban, and the usefulness of the U.S. alliance with that country.

At the State Department, officials also were downplaying the significance of the document release and any effect the incident could have on U.S. relationships with Pakistan and Afghanistan.

While the documents "create a snapshot of what might have been the case in 2005 and 2006 and 2007, we think that we have put in place over the past several months a strong foundation of working with Pakistan, working with Afghanistan, and the situation that we confront today is different than the one we confronted two, three, four years ago," said spokesman P.J. Crowley.

Still, others found the release more troubling. Sen. Kit Bond, a Missouri Republican and ranking member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, called the matter "shocking."

"The damage to our national security caused by leaks like this won't stop until we see more perpetrators in orange jumpsuits," Bond said.

Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called for a review of the administration's policy in the region.


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