WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House has set up a special committee to assess the damage from the flood of classified cables leaked by WikiLeaks and organise efforts to tighten security measures in government agencies.
White House officials said President Barack Obama’s national security staff had created an interagency panel to coordinate the response to the leaks and come up with new ways to keep classified documents secret.
The State Department cables, which follow similar document leaks by the WikiLeaks on the Iraq and Afghan wars, cast a glaring, and sometimes embarrassing light on the inner workings of U.S. diplomacy when they were leaked in the last few days.
This prompted concern that, under procedures developed after the September 11 attacks to share intelligence more widely, too much sensitive data was being made available, including to relatively low-level U.S. military analysts.
Bradley Manning, an Army private who worked as an intelligence analyst in Iraq, has been charged by military authorities with unauthorized downloading of more than 150,000 State Department cables, though U.S. officials decline to say whether they are the same ones released by WikiLeaks.
WikiLeaks is under U.S. criminal investigation for the release.
In another move to counter WikiLeaks, Amazon.com Inc has stopped hosting the website, the U.S. Senate Homeland Security Committee chairman Joe Lieberman said.
Lieberman’s staff had earlier approached Amazon after news reports that WikiLeaks had hired the Internet giant to host the website loaded with the secret documents on the Amazon servers because hackers had targeted the WikiLeaks site.
“I call on any other company or organisation that is hosting WikiLeaks to immediately terminate its relationship with them,” Lieberman, an independent, said in a statement.
WikiLeaks had said that since Sunday, when media outlets began to publish its documents, its site was the target of a “distributed denial of service” attack, which is a computer attack meant to overwhelm a website and render it unavailable.
Amazon, widely known for its retail website, also offers various services, including hosting other sites.
The White House said individual government agencies would set up their own security teams and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the most senior U.S. intelligence official, would provide advice.
An earlier draft of the document had said the National Counterintelligence Executive, part of the ODNI, would set up teams of inspectors to “identify existing security policy within each agency” and assess its effectiveness.
That idea appeared to have been dropped, apparently reflecting concern on the part of non-intelligence agencies about excessive interference by intelligence agents.
Michael Leiter, head of the U.S. National Counterterrorism Centre, said the WikiLeaks publication had exposed the risk of providing “excess information to people who really don’t need it.” and added: “We certainly will re-evaluate where the information is going.”
But he said in an appearance at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies thinktank that he was confident that security-related intelligence was being protected.
“I am actually relatively comfortable with the way in which information is being shared and adequately protected within the counter-terrorism community today,” he said.
Additional reporting by Phil Stewart; Editing by David Storey