AMANPOUR: Secretary Gates, thank you very much for joining us and welcome to "This Week".
Department of Defense
ABC News Interview with Secretary Gates on Wikileaks Release of Classified Records
August 1, 2010
GATES: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: Let's start with WikiLeaks.
How can an ordinary soldier sitting at his computer, apparently listening to Lady Gaga or whatever, spew all this stuff out with nobody knowing?
GATES: It's -- it's an -- it's an interesting question, because had -- had he tried to do this or had whoever did this tried to do it at a -- a rear headquarters, overseas or in pretty much anywhere here in the U.S., we have controls in place that would have allowed us to detect it. But one of the changes that has happened as we have fought these wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has been an effort to put the -- put as much information and intelligence as far forward to the soldiers as we possibly can, so that at a forward operating base, they -- they know what the security risks are to them and they -- and they also have information to help them accomplish their mission.
So -- so we put an enormous amount of information out at a -- at the secret level and push it the furthest forward possible. And so it is this -- it -- it was much easier to do in theater and in Afghanistan or Iraq than it would have been at a rear headquarters or here in the U.S.
AMANPOUR: So do you now have to reassess that -- much less intelligence going to the forward bases?
GATES: I think we have to look at it, although I must say, my bias is that if one or a few members of the military did this, the notion that we would handicap our soldiers on the front lines by denying them information in an effort to try and prevent this from happening -- my bias is against that. I want those kids out there to have all the information they can have.
And so we're going to look at are there ways in which we can mitigate the risk, but without denying the forward soldiers the information.
AMANPOUR: How angry were you -- beyond the fact that classified information is out there -- the substance of it?
GATES: Well, I'm not sure anger is the right word. I just -- I think mortified, appalled. And -- and if -- if I'm angry, it is -- it is because I believe that this information puts those in Afghanistan who have helped us at risk. It puts our soldiers at risk because they can learn a lot -- our adversaries can learn a lot about our techniques, tactics and procedures from the body of these leaked documents. And so I think that's what puts our soldiers at risk.
And -- and then, as I say, our sources. And, you know, growing up in the intelligence business, protecting your sources is sacrosanct. And -- and there was no sense of responsibility or accountability associated with it.
AMANPOUR: You know, you talk about putting your sources at risk, a Taliban spokesman has told a British news organization that they are, indeed, going to go after any of those names that they find in this treasure trove of documents and they will, as they say, they know how to deal with people.
Are you worried?
I mean Admiral Mullen said that this leak basically has blood on its hands?
GATES: Well, I mean given the Taliban's statement, I think it -- it basically proves the point. And my attitude on this is that there are two -- two areas of culpability. One is legal culpability. And that's up to the Justice Department and others. That's not my arena. But there's also a moral culpability. And that's where I think the verdict is guilty on WikiLeaks. They have put this out without any regard whatsoever for the consequences.
AMANPOUR: So let me ask you about a couple of things that came out. One is the possibility that the Taliban may have Stinger missiles.
Do they, do you think?
GATES: I don't think so.
AMANPOUR: At all?
GATES: I don't think so.
AMANPOUR: The other is about Pakistan. Again raising the notion that Pakistan, no matter how much you say they're, you know, moving in your direction, helping with this fight against the Taliban and against al Qaeda, that they still are hedging their bets, that elements in Pakistan continue to hedge their bets or out and out support the Taliban and what they're doing in Afghanistan.
How much of a problem is that for you?
GATES: Well, it -- it is a concern, there's no question about it. But -- but I would say that, again, we walked out on Pakistan and Afghanistan in 1989 and left them basically holding the bag. And -- and there is always the fear that we will do that again. And I believe that's the reason there's a certain hedge.
But what I see is a change in the strategic calculus in Pakistan. As they see these groups attacking Pakistan itself, where they are more and more partnering with us and working with us and fighting these insurgents and 140,000 soldiers in Northwestern Pakistan fighting some of the same insurgents we are.
AMANPOUR: Right. But they're basically fighting the insurgents that are threatening them. They haven't gone into, for instance, these safe havens which still exist, Northern Waziristan. And General Jones, the national security adviser, has told "The Washington Post" that these safe havens are a big question mark in terms of our success rate.
So unless they do that, cut off those safe havens, will you succeed in Afghanistan?
GATES: Well, I think we can but --
AMANPOUR: Even if the safe havens --
GATES: -- but we clearly --
AMANPOUR: -- exist?
GATES: -- we clearly would like for them to go after the safe havens. But they have gone after the safe haven -- some of the safe havens, in South Waziristan and Swat and elsewhere, places where, 18 months ago, I wouldn't have believed the Pakistanis would be actively engaged -- and militarily.
And so the Pakistanis going after any of these groups, I believe, overall, helps us in what we're trying to accomplish, both with respect to Afghanistan and with respect to al Qaeda.