U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld confirmed Monday that he has ordered a criminal investigation to uncover whether someone at the Pentagon leaked plans for a possible U.S. invasion of Iraq to the New York Times.
Rumsfeld called on Pentagon workers to help investigators catch and prosecute whoever provided classified information published in a July 5 story detailing plans for a massive air, land and sea invasion of Iraq.
“I am old-fashioned. I think that anyone who has a position where they touch a war plan has an obligation not to leak it to the press or anybody else, because it kills people; people’s lives will be lost,” Rumsfeld said.
“If people start treating war plans like they’re paper airplanes and they can fly them around this building and throw them at anybody who wants them, I think it’s outrageous, it’s inexcusable and they ought to be in jail.”
A source familiar with the war plan told the New York Times it was prepared by planners at the U.S. Central Command in Tampa, Florida.
Rumsfeld said he could not confirm the existence of the plan, because neither he nor his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, nor General Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had seen it. He said Central Command head General Tommy Franks had not seen the document either.
However, he said even the possibility that classified information may have leaked to the news media justified the investigation by Air Force officials.
“I think it is so egregious, so terrible that I decided to have a leak investigation notwithstanding the cost,” he said. “And I am pleased I did.”
Rumsfeld has kept tight control of information since taking over at the Pentagon last year, provoking clashes with journalists, lawmakers and senior military leaders.
Earlier this month, Rumsfeld called on Pentagon officials in a memorandum to stop leaks of classified information, emphasizing his point with an unclassified CIA assessment that unauthorized leaks have tipped off al-Qaida militants to U.S. intelligence capabilities, hurting the U.S.-led war against terrorism.
“The disclosure of classified information is damaging our country’s ability to stop terrorist acts and is putting American lives at risk,” the secretary said in his July 12 memorandum.
Following his lead, military press officers have kept reporters covering the ongoing war in Afghanistan under tight control. Access to U.S. troops is limited to those who agree in writing not to reveal specific locations, strengths and war plans of coalition forces.