Army secretary faces questions on WikiLeaks scandal

Watertown (N.Y.) Daily TimesMarch 4, 2011 

WASHINGTON — Army Secretary John M. McHugh is still waiting to hear back on an inquiry he ordered into the WikiLeaks scandal — but that's not stopping lawmakers from focusing on the issue as he and other top Army officials make rounds on Capitol Hill.

Democrats and Republicans have asked this week why the compromise of information through Pfc. Bradley Manning, a 10th Mountain Division intelligence analyst who allegedly supplied information to WikiLeaks, did not set off more alarms at the Army and what consequences others in the service might face for the security breach.

"I don't want to suggest that we don't have room for improvement, because it will probably come back that we do," Mr. McHugh told the House Armed Services Committee as he dodged giving many specifics on the Army's assessment. The Army probably needs better controls and training, among other issues, Mr. McHugh said.

Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., the panel's leading Democrat, led the questioning on the issue as Mr. McHugh testified on the proposed budget for fiscal 2012. Mr. Smith asked whether the Army lacked controls or simply did not follow controls that were already in place.

Mr. McHugh said controls were not up to Army standards.

Mr. McHugh ordered the review at the direction of Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates. In the meantime, he said, the Defense Department has ordered new measures and restrictions to prevent such leaks and installed new network protections on computer systems across the service.

The breach was "a real lesson for us, and for DoD at large," Mr. McHugh said.

On Thursday, Sen. John M. McCain, R-Ariz., took the reins on the issue, grilling Gen. Martin Dempsey, the nominee to replace Gen. Casey as chief of staff.

"How did this happen, and who is being held responsible?" Mr. McCain said at Gen. Dempsey's confirmation hearing at the Senate Armed Services Committee.

"This will be a wake-up call for us," Gen. Dempsey said, without delving into specifics. He said he is looking forward to finding out more in the report Mr. McHugh requested.

Gen. Dempsey confirmed that so far, Pvt. Manning is the only person in the Army who has been held accountable in any way for the security breach. Army investigators were reported in February to be considering three officers in Pfc. Manning's chain of command for disciplinary action.

The questioning came as prosecutors filed 22 additional charges against Pfc. Manning. He is accused of leaking more than 250,000 classified cables and other items, many of which Wikileaks has published. He could face the death penalty for aiding the enemy.

News reports earlier this year revealed that the Army dismissed advice not to send Pfc. Manning to Iraq because of disrespectful behavior toward superior officers.

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