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U.S. Afghanistan War Secrets Leaked

Aired July 26, 2010 - 21:00   ET




LARRY KING, HOST (voice-over): Tonight, Afghanistan bombshell, leaked documents rip the lead off of the war. America's failures and mistakes and a growing threat of the Taliban exposed in 92,000 secret reports.

The man whose Web site, WikiLeaks, published the classified documents for the world to see is here. Did his actions damage national security? Will they change the course of the war? Could someone be charged with treason?

It's all next -- on LARRY KING LIVE.



KING: Good evening.

We welcome from London, Julian Assange. He is the editor and chief of WikiLeaks.

The leaked documents cover the period from January 2004 to December 2009. CNN has not independently confirmed their authenticity.

We'll talk with Julian in a moment. First, let's check in with our own Nic Robertson. He's CNN's senior international correspondent, also in London.

Give us some of the key takeaways, if you will, Nic, from this massive release?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Larry, some of the things indicate that perhaps the war is going worse, or grimmer than officials would often tell us. For example, Taliban have been firing heat-seeking surface-to-air-missiles at NATO and U.S. helicopters. We hear that the civilian death toll is often higher than is reported by military troops in the field.

There is a shadowy covert operation going on to kill Taliban leaders - -a shoot-to-kill by a group called Task Force 373. That's something we had a lot of details about before as well. And strong, damning allegations in these documents that Pakistan's intelligence services, the ISI, has been helping the Taliban in Afghanistan kill U.S. troops and others, Larry.

KING: Is all this new to you, Nic?

ROBERTSON: You know, a lot of this we've heard before. One analyst put it this way to me -- he said, "This is old bad news at a new bad time." What he means is: we've heard a lot of this before, but it comes at a very, very difficult moment.

Some of these allegations -- the allegations of Pakistani intelligence services aiding the Taliban, we've heard details about that before. We've heard details -- speculation that the civilian death toll is much higher than has been initially reported. But it's the timing that it comes at, when there are so many questions about the war in Afghanistan, and it is in the granular detail in all these documents that people are only now just beginning to go through that you learn and see the real detail and contrast between what we're told and heard publicly, and what is apparently going on behind the scenes. That granular detail that says a number of civilians were killed unaccounted before killed

KING: Yes.

ROBERTSON: -- in operations. There's no follow-up for. It's in those details that perhaps are the most striking things that we learned, Larry.

KING: Also in London is Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks.

Julian, in a nutshell, what is WikiLeaks?

JULIAN ASSANGE, FOUNDER, WIKILEAKS: WikiLeaks is an international public service that helps whistleblowers and journalist get the press material out to the public. Over the past 4 1/2 year, we've published an enormous range of sensitive documents from different countries around the world, which have gone on to have significant political effects.

KING: Do you just get it and put it out or do you authenticate it?

ASSANGE: No, we authenticate everything that's coming. To our knowledge, we' never been wrong. And there's no allegation by the rest of the press that we've been wrong. We've never lost a source through the process that we go through. We go through a high minimization process to try and notify affected parties or to slightly redact.

KING: What was the goal? What do you hope to accomplish?

ASSANGE: In general, we have seen from the human rights community and from the best journalism that lasting reforms that tend to push human rights come about as a result of finding material that is being kept secret by organizations, because they fear exposure. So by selectively looking for material that is being kept secret, we're able to selectively induce reforms that tend to have a positive human rights effect.

KING: The U.S. national security adviser, General James Jones, calls this irresponsible. According to him, "The disclosure could put the lives of Americans and our partners at risk and threaten our national security."

How would you respond to that?

ASSANGE: Well, we're used to dealing with organizations that have been exposed as a result of our publishing efforts, and, you know, whenever we hear something like that, how could this be incorrect? I mean, a Martian may land on the Pentagon at any moment in time. That doesn't mean that it's correct.

KING: So, you don't take this seriously, this criticism? Any fear -- any conscious about possibly what you did cost a life?

ASSANGE: When you're talking about any and possibly, of course, all sorts of things can happen in political affairs that are not -- that are not predictable. But insofar as we can understand the material, we see material that's at least 7 months old. We have withheld approximately 15,000 reports for a further minimization process, and we don't see anything here that is of tactical significance.

What we see is a lot of reports that are sort of evidentiary significance that describes the sort of cut and thrust of the entire war over a period of the last six years, former sort of initial evidentiary basis for getting up, say, prosecutions or understanding how this war has progressed. We say that --

KING: Do you --

ASSANGE: -- who, the where, the what, the when, and the how of each one of these attacks.

KING: Do you always know the sources?

ASSANGE: We usually always do not know the sources. We are specialized in, in fact, not knowing who our sources are. You know, we specialize in instead of verifying sources, verifying the documents themselves. That is how we've been able to protect our sources over the past four years is by trying to not understand who they are but rather just concentrating on the material that they bring to us.

KING: Do you at all care about why somebody is leaking? What is the motivation? Does that concern you at all if they -- they may have a dog in the hunt?

ASSANGE: Yes. Now (ph), it does as part of a broader journalistic process, because that can throw an angle on the material. But in the end, provided the material is true and it is significant, that's enough for it to be of important consequences to the public. That's our first consideration. Why they're doing it can, you know, add some light or shine of light to the material itself. It's not our primary concern.

KING: We'll be right back with Julian Assange and Nic Robertson. Is there evidence of war crimes from what we know about Afghanistan now? That's next.


KING: Before we continue with Julian -- Nic Robertson, one other thing for you, do you consider this good journalism, or do you consider it -- as the national security adviser says -- irresponsible?

ROBERTSON: I think this is a new avenue in journalism. It's putting nit a public forum. It's putting a vast wealth of information that Mr. Assange says has been scrutinized by his team to make sure that nobody is put in danger. He says that nobody has died from some of their earlier reports over the last four years, that it's changed policy, that it's even -- there are reports that even changed governments.

Good journalism is all about presenting the facts, not putting people in harm's way, but presenting the facts so that the citizens of different countries can make up their minds about their own government, about the actions of their government, about the actions of other governments, and then, when it comes to elections or moments of putting political pressure on those governments, they're free to do that. And this appears to provide information at face value, as far as we know now, in that context.

If you don't mind, Larry, I like to Mr. Assange a question here if I may.

KING: Sure.

ROBERTSON: What I find interesting is, journalists often turning, Mr. Assange, to the Internet, to social networking sites, to get answers to their questions about current issues. But here, you're almost turning to the professionals, the journalists to pick their brains to pass on documents and say, OK, over to you. Is this some radical change? Is this -- is this something that you see as new?

ASSANGE: (INAUDIBLE) our sources that we're trying to get maximum possible impact for the risks that they have undertaken in getting us material. And this material, we saw -- how could -- how could we best sort of have it fleshed out? There's 91,000 reports and some of them are quite technical. It really does need a good team to go through it.

So, our organization and small organizations are very successful, but we just needed more people who are experts, people who have been stationed in Afghanistan, people who have been stationed in Karachi. So, we put together this coalition between "The New York Times," "Der Spiegel" and "The Guardian" -- three, sort of, top respected print publications in the West. And yes, we spent a month in going through it. That is something that we have done before on an individual basis, with individual journalist, or with an individual newspaper in the past to try and get, sort of, through the difficult parts of our material.

But without a doubt, this has been the single biggest coalition of journalists, of talent, we've assembled together. It's quite a difficult task to sort of keep these three very independent organizations all in the same room working together happily.

KING: Nic, thanks as always for your contributions.

Julian, you said that these leaked documents contain evidence of war crimes by United States forces. What kind of evidence?

ASSANGE: Yes. So, what I say is evidence of all kinds. We see events that are very suspicious. I mean, in the end, it will take a court to really look at the full range of evidence to decide if a crime has occurred.

We see events like a Polish melee (ph). It has actually started to be conceded by the Polish courts and by the Polish military where an IED explodes in a town and the next day, the Poles come and shell the town -- you know, revenge attack.

We see an incident in August 2006 where U.S. forces in one report killed 181, what they say are insurgents. There's one wounded and zero captured. And those sorts of reports that have this sort of flavor of a lot of people killed, but no people taken prisoner and no people left wounded, gives some sort of deeply suspicious feeling about what happened in these events.

And we can look at the secretive Task Force 373, which I discovered, which is a sort of a Special Forces assassination squad called in kill or capture missions, working down through a list of people to be usually killed, sometimes captured.

In one event, we see the lobbers as sort of secretive missile system at a house that is -- has a suspected Taliban-al Qaeda commander in it, and the result is that seven children are killed. And the report for that says that the top explicitly to keep this information from U.S. allies, to keep it from the British, to keep it from Australian forces.

So, those sort of events do look quite suspicious.

KING: Julian remains. We'll be joined by Daniel Ellsberg in a moment. Mr. Ellsberg ignited that firestorm in the early '70s, leaking a top secret story about the course of the war in Vietnam, leaking top secret documents.

Daniel Ellsberg joins us after this.



NARRATOR: It was the evening of October 1st, 1969, when I first smuggled several hundred pages of top secret documents out of my safe at the Rand Corporation. The study contained 47 findings, 7,000 pages. My plan was to xerox the study and reveal the secret history of the Vietnam War to the American people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The FBI was trying to find out who gave "The New York Times" a copy of a Pentagon secret study.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pow! Like a thunder clap, you get "The New York Times" publishing the Pentagon papers, and the country is panicking.


KING: And we are joined by Daniel Ellsberg. He started that firestorm in 1971 by leaking to "The New York Times" and other newspapers, a top secret study of U.S. decision-making in Vietnam. His story is the focus of the Oscar-nominated documentary you just saw a clip, "The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers." It is now out on DVD.

All right, Daniel, what do you make of Julian Assange? He has said that the nearest analog to what WikiLeaks has done is your release of the Pentagon papers. Do you agree?

DANIEL ELLSBERG, LEAKED "PENTAGON PAPERS" DURING VIETNAM: I see the same -- I see what he sees. There hasn't been an unauthorized disclosure of this magnitude since the Pentagon papers 39 years ago. I've been waiting for it for a long time.

There should have been the Pentagon papers of Iraq and a lot of other places. And I wish there had been Pentagon papers of Afghanistan earlier than this. But better late than never, the war is still on. The Congress is just being challenged now to vote $33 billion more to a war that's cost $300 billion, in a war where the opponent we're fighting is stronger than it's ever been before. So the analogy to the war I was helping to expose is very close.

KING: How do you respond to the White House's assertion that this leak puts U.S. forces in danger?

ELLSBERG: You know, the people who put U.S. forces in harm's way, 100,000 men and women are -- in Afghanistan, are the last two administrations, but particularly this one -- the last administration, particularly this one, with a decision to escalate the war. It's -- I think it takes a lot of -- I don't know what to say, chutzpah (INAUDIBLE) for people who made the reckless, foolish, and I would say, irresponsible decisions to escalate a war that I'm sure they know internally is as hopeless as these new revelations reveal it to be.

And yet, they're preferring to send men and women into harm's way to die and to kill civilians and others -- in a war that I think they perceive is endless and hopeless, rather than to face the accusations of generals that they have, these politicians have lost a war that the generals claimed is winnable, they claimed that very foolishly.

I'd say that was exactly the same as the boss I served in 1965, Lyndon Johnson. He didn't want the General Johnson, the chief of staff of the Army, and others to resign if he didn't give them enough of what they were asking for. I think President Obama has made the same terrible error.

KING: Julian, in June, Daniel Ellsberg told "The Daily Beast" that he believed you, Julian, were in some danger of bodily harm. Do you believe that, Julian? Do you think you're in danger?

ASSANGE: Well, we've taken certainly security precautions to make sure I'm not in danger of bodily harm, or our other volunteers or employees. But there was a period early on where some private signals coming out of the U.S. administration were not too pleasant. The public messages were not so bad. There does people to have been a merger in the private and public rhetoric.

So, what we're hearing now, at least last week, just before this material came out, is a bit more reasonable. We're having quite a few surveillance events. There was -- according to a "Canberra Times" national security report and a former diplomat, a request by the United States, formal request to -- by the government, the government of Australia, to try and seize or aggressively investigate us in Australia, that our request was largely rejected.

So, there is some sort of significant pressure coming on us as an organization. However, I think it's being seen now in part, thanks to statements like the one from Daniel that it is not politically feasible to interfere with us at a high level.

KING: Julian, thanks.


ELLSBERG: Larry, could I comment on that?

KING: Yes, Daniel, you're staying with us. We'll have you comment.

Julian Assange is the founder of WikiLeaks. We thank him for being with us.

Has national security been compromised? We'll talk about it next with the panel and Daniel Ellsberg will remain. Don't go away.



ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think there's no doubt this is a concerning development in operational security, and as we said earlier, it is -- it poses a very real and potential threat to those that are working hard every day to keep us safe.


KING: We're back with Daniel Ellsberg.

And joining us: Peter Bergen, CNN national security analyst and best-selling author. His books include "The Osama bin Laden I know." And Michael Hastings, contributor editor of "Rolling Stone." His article, "The Runaway General," led to the ouster of General Stanley McChrystal as commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

We'll have Daniel Ellsberg make the point he was going to make in a moment. But, first, Peter Bergen, what do you make of all of this?

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I think there's been a lot of hype about all of this. If you think about 92,000 so- called secret documents in which there's almost no new information, I think that, you know, do the thought experiment, Larry, where these are all unclassified documents. It's merely because the word "secret" has been put around them that there's all this excitement.

But there's only really one item that's really new, which is the Taliban using heat-seeking surface-to-air missiles. But, you know, the other big story, the Taliban is being supported by Pakistan's military intelligence service, well, that story has been true since 1994. What's really the headline in that?

So, to me, this is sort of a storm in a teacup mostly. I mean, it's interesting. There are interesting details, but there's really nothing new. Compare this to the Pentagon papers, that was seismic, Larry, there was a huge disconnect between what the American government was saying officially and what they were saying internally. Here, in the Afghan war, all sorts of American government officials saying the war is not going very well. No one is disagreeing with that.

KING: Michael, what are your thoughts?

MICHAEL HASTINGS, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, ROLLING STONE: Well, I think the question is, in terms of the national security issue -- in the long term, what's the worst for national security, WikiLeaks or bad U.S. policy? And I think the answer is bad U.S. policy. And in so much as this WikiLeaks disclosure sparks debate about some of the obvious flaws in our Afghan policy, I think that's a positive development.

KING: All right, Daniel Ellsberg, you were going to say at the end of the last segment when you wanted to tack on to what the --

ELLSBERG: Larry, if I could follow on --


KING: Yes.

ELLSBERG: Let me rather follow on to what Peter Bergen said for a moment there. The Pentagon papers actually did reveal a number of things, but one of the major lessons of that I think is very comparable to what we're hearing -- what we're seeing in the reports that have come out so far and what we're going to see.

And that is, what was not in those 7,000 pages of top secret documents, high-level decision-making estimates, what there was not was a good reason for being in Vietnam or for escalating or for continuing the war, or if any reason to believe that we'd do better in the future than we've been doing for the past 23 years.

I suspect from what we've seen so far, and the correspondence of that with leaks from the General Eikenberry, the ambassador there, whose secret cables were leaked in January and revealed that his vision was pretty much what these Pentagon -- these papers are showing for the last six years.

I think you won't find in those 92,000 pages any reason, any basis for believing that we're going to be more successful in the next nine years or nine months or whatever --

KING: Peter --

ELLSBERG: -- than we were in the last nine months. And that's something for the Congress, I think, to consider very strongly before they vote for money for this war.

KING: Peter, is that true? And Peter, do you have concerns about WikiLeaks?

BERGEN: No, I don't. I mean, I think the more information we have about these very important matters the better. But, you know, first of all, Danny Ellsberg did the nation a tremendous service by leaking the Pentagon papers to "The New York Times."

But, you know, we're not reliving history in Afghanistan. The North Vietnamese army was 500,000 men strong. It was supported by the Soviet Union and Maoist China. The Taliban is maybe 25,000 fighters on a good day. They're relatively small insurgency.

It's not that the Afghan -- you know, it's not that they're so strong, it's that the Afghan government and the Afghan military are relatively weak. And, you know, there are many other differences. Sixty-three percent of Afghans, in a recent poll, said they were in favor of U.S. military. So a pretty high number for a Muslim country that's been occupied by a group of non-Muslims.

And you know, I -- you know, there are so many differences between Vietnam and Afghanistan. To sort of say that they're similar I don't think is particularly helpful. We're not reliving history over time.

Afghanistan has got its own set of problems. But they're very different. And one final point, you know, in 1968, about 150 American soldiers were dying every day -- every four days in the war. Too many American soldiers are dying in Afghanistan right now but about 150 Americans died in an entire year in 2008 during the war.

We're looking at very different kinds of conflicts.

KING: All right, Michael Hastings, does the leak put forces at risk? Michael?

HASTINGS: I don't think so. I think, you know, WikiLeaks made a smart move by going to "The New York Times" and other media outlets who have established reputations with dealing with high-level security issues on things like this.

I think one of the most interesting things about this is something that Peter said. Many of these secrets are not really secret. In fact, they -- they confirm a narrative that many journalists and others have been talking about for years.

So the question is, well, then why is it secret to begin with? The Afghans know about civilians being killed in Afghanistan. The Pakistanis know about ISI involvement in Afghanistan. The American soldiers on the ground know about civilians killing and the Pakistanis' involvement across the border.

So the question is, why is this secret? Who's being kept in the dark? And I think the answer to that is they're trying to keep the American public in the dark about a lot of this stuff.

KING: Daniel, do you understand why Mr. Gibbs, representing the president, is so upset?

ELLSBERG: Well, he's very upset in part because he's working for a president who has indicted more people now for leaks than all previous presidents put together. And two of those people -- Thomas Drake and Shamai Leibowitz -- have been indicted for acts that were undertaken under Bush, which George W. Bush administration chose not to indict.

So this is an administration that's more concerned about preventing transparency, I would say, than its predecessor which I'm very sorry to hear. As somebody who voted for Obama and expect to vote for him again, despite all this.

KING: Peter --

ELLSBERG: But, you know, in terms of the -- if I may say, in terms of the relation to Vietnam, the crucial thing that I think even these relatively low-level, field-level secret documents, compared to the top-secret ones in the Pentagon papers, what they both reveal is this.

Why it is that despite the fact that the Taliban is not popular in that country, they get stronger every year as we put more troops in? That's a prospect that I think should give Congress a very great reason for sending -- against sending more troops over there, which I think in the civilian casualties and the death squads and everything else will strengthen the Taliban, not weaken it.

KING: Let me get a break. When we come back, I want to ask Peter and Michael and Daniel, what should be secret? In times of conflict, is anything secret? After this.


KING: The Afghan war logs released by WikiLeaks highlights United States concerns about Pakistan's intelligence service being in cahoots with the Taliban. Pakistan's ambassador to the United States addressed that issue earlier on CNN. Watch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HUSAIN HAQQANI, PAKISTANI AMBASSADOR TO THE U.S.: We all know that the Pakistani military, the Pakistani intelligence service, they are losing men as they fight alongside the Americans.

It wouldn't make sense for us to help the Taliban, who are killing our own soldiers and our own intelligence officers.


KING: Before I ask you about secrecy, Peter, doesn't that make sense?

BERGEN: Well, certainly, more Pakistani soldiers have been killed in action against the Taliban than U.S. and NATO countries combined. So, you know, both of these things are true.

I mean elements of the Pakistani intelligence service have been supporting elements of the Taliban, but also the Pakistani military are fighting the Taliban. So unfortunately both of those things are simultaneously true, which is a bit confusing. But life is confusing.

KING: They're contradictory?

BERGEN: They're not necessarily contradictory. Pakistan is a very complex country. And, you know, the Pakistan military has done very large-scale operations in Waziristan and the Swat. And they've handed military defeats to the Taliban.

At the same time, they know the Americans are leaving and Pakistan is going to be attached to Afghanistan for quite some period of time. And they want to influence the future of Afghanistan by keeping certain Taliban elements on the table for the post-American Afghanistan.

KING: Back to secrecy. Michael, what should be secret? Many complain that your story shouldn't have been told. What should be secret in times of conflict?

HASTINGS: Well, I think clearly there are operational details that as a reporter you would never report that are going to actually put U.S. troops in harm's way, but I think unfortunately the government has a tendency to classify things not to prevent Americans from being in harm's way, but to prevent embarrassment for themselves.

I think that's the major issue here. But obviously there's top secret things, operations going on, missions that you'd never want to reveal. At least not while it's happening.

KING: You agree, Daniel? Certain-- certain secret things are secret?

ELLSBERG: I certainly -- I agree that there are things that should be kept secret. I think it was a mistaken -- wrong for the Bush administration to reveal the name of Valerie Plame, the covert operator who is working against proliferation during work that required secrecy, and just to punish her husband for telling the truth.

To put her name out was a mistake. I think it was wrong to reveal that we were listening in on Osama bin Laden's communications. I believe Senator Shelby of Alabama was a factor in that.

I think it was wrong for Condoleezza Rice to confirm that we had a mole high up next to Osama bin Laden. Not very good for that double agent's health.


ELLSBERG: And it could be -- it could be that some of these things are yet to come out. It could be that we haven't seen them yet but there could be things in there that I would agree and that others would say shouldn't have been put out. But that remains to be seen.

The fact is that when it comes to judgment as to what should be secret and what should not be secret, Julian Assange's judgment has been pretty good so far. I don't think he's made any mistakes that I've seen so far as in that video of the Apache helicopter that they kept wrongly secret for years.

KING: Yes.

ELLSBERG: And I don't give the benefit of the doubt to the people in the government who decided to keep that video secret and to keep these cables secret. These reports secret.

KING: Peter, as a journalist, are you comfortable with how WikiLeaks operates?

BERGEN: Yes. I mean, they do seem to be acting responsibly. But just, you know, this whole discussion of secretly, you know, where are eight -- according to the "Washington Post's" recent excellent investigation, there are 800,000 Americans with top secret clearances.

The real problem here is this over-classification of everything. It's not just simply the impulse to kind of hide things, but it's also just a bureaucratic impulse to make everything secret.

And the real takeaway from all of this, you've got 92,000 secret documents with almost nothing of any real value in it. Nothing about the location of Osama bin Laden. Nothing about the location of Mullah Omar. A lot of hearsay about maybe the Taliban going to North Korea to buy weapons, which is clearly on its face nonsensical.

And my takeaway from all of this is that how little really interesting information there was in all of this.

KING: Peter, is there --


ELLSBERG: But it also raises the question, why it was so urgent to keep it secret?

KING: Michael, is the administration over reacting?

ELLSBERG: I'm sorry.


KING: Michael?

HASTINGS: Well, I -- I think they have -- I think there must be this sense, in fact there -- I know there is this sense that the war is sort of unraveling before their eyes. It's been a very difficult summer for them.

It's been a very difficult summer for NATO troops in Afghanistan. So I think they feel the need to respond to this. Obviously there's serious issues within their own -- within the Department of Defense or the Army, the fact that individual or individuals were able to leak, you know, 92,000 documents that were supposed to be secret.

So clearly, they have legitimate concerns there. But, yes, I think the sort of attacks on the founder of WikiLeaks Julian Assange were probably uncalled for, but I think they clearly needed to respond somehow.

KING: All right. Michael and Daniel remain. Peter, thanks for joining us. And when we come back, General Wesley Clark and Anthony Shaffer will join us. Don't go away.


KING: Before General Clark and Anthony Shaffer join Daniel Ellsberg and Michael Hastings, let's go to Anderson Cooper who will host "AC 360" at the top of the hour.

What's up?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: We have breaking news tonight, Larry. BP CEO Tony Hayward, remember he said famously that he wanted his life back? Well, he's reportedly about to get his wish.

The board of BP has met. Hayward is said to be losing his job, but walking away with a compensation package worth more than $18 million.

This while lives and livelihoods in the Gulf are teetering on the edge. No golden parachutes for businesses and businessmen there. Just worrying about aggravation. Worrying and -- waiting for compensation claims filed with BP. Those have gone unanswered according to Ken Feinberg, the man now in charge.

We'll talk to all -- we'll all of this with Billy Nungesser, Douglas Brinkley, and Congressman Ed Markey.

Those stories plus the story you're discussing, the secret Afghanistan war documents leaked. We'll talk to the man who leaked them.

And more fallout from the Shirley Sherrod incident. Shirley Sherrod incident.

That's all at the top of the hour, Larry.

KING: That's Anderson Cooper, "AC 360," 10:00 Eastern, 7:00 Pacific.

Joining us now, General Wesley Clark, United States Army retired, former NATO supreme allied commander, and senior fellow at UCLA's Burkle Center for International Relations.

And Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer, external communications director for the Center for Advanced Defense Studies and a U.S. Army Reserve officer. He's a military intelligence and operations experts -- expert rather and he served two combat tours in Afghanistan.

All right, General Clark. What do you make of all of this?

GEN. WESLEY CLARK, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Well, a lot of documents, a lot of low-level stuff. Some of it is accurate, some of it is inaccurate. All of it is dated. If you analyze it, maybe you'll learn something about U.S. operational methods and communications techniques.

Maybe a hostile intelligence service could learn something from it. It's the kind of thing that's classified because whenever we're in operations and we're talking about operational matters that are ongoing, it's classified. And it stays classified for a period of years.

So I agree Peter Bergen. This is not exactly like the Pentagon papers. Most of this isn't new. I think the guys that leaked it did something wrong. This is against the law to leak material like this. It's not proper.

The administration, though, at the political level does have to persuade the American people it's got a winning strategy. That's an issue.

KING: Anthony Shaffer, what do you think of WikiLeaks and the whole thing?

ANTHONY SHAFFER, FMR. MILITARY INTELLIGENCE OFFICER: Well, at first off, if you want a good narrative of the war, you can buy my book in 30 days at the end of August, "Operation America" which covers exactly all the issues which we talked about today and was cleared through an Army clearance process.

With that said, I think all we have here is drama for drama's sake regarding WikiLeaks. But think about this for a second, Larry. This is a poke in the eye. They talk about accountability but you've got a young private who's probably going to spend most or the rest of his life in some sort of incarceration, and so he didn't protect him. And when you look on the face of it, nothing is really being accomplished here. There are oversight organizations which are in the business to help bring this thing to the surface. Project and government oversight to name one. My center tries to work with them to bring things to Capitol Hill.

And as you might recall, I was a whistleblower, and I testified in 2005, 2006.

KING: Right.

SHAFFER: And that's where I met Daniel for the first time when I was doing this. There was a process for resolving this. Right now there'll be no accountability which comes out of this, and frankly, Mr. Assange has made an enemy of the best possible hope he has regarding this administration and a very supportive Congress -- very liberal Congress -- who are probably willing to look at all of this had it been presented to them correctly.

So a loss -- there's an opportunity here that been lost. And there's a lot of drama.

KING: Daniel?

SHAFFER: But nothing new.

KING: How do you respond, Daniel?

ELLSBERG: I have to say that we don't know who the source was for sure. The charges have been brought against Private Bradley Manning. And we have secondhand reports of his motives that he revealed to a hacker who turned him in.

Based on those, I do see an analogy to the situation I was in 40 years ago. Yes, there are lots of differences and what I had access to was different from in many ways from what this is.

But what Private Manning, then a specialist, said at that time and what's been repeated in his chat logs was that he was ready to go to prison for life. Even be executed, he said, in order to get out information that he thought was horrific. He's not by the way referring entirely just to what we've been seeing so far.

What he talked then was a great deal more to come, and we have yet to see that. And he said --

KING: General --

ELLSBERG: -- that he thought it was horrific and almost criminal in many ways, and he was willing to go to prison for that.

I hadn't heard anybody --

KING: General --

ELLSBERG: -- in that state of mind that I was in for 40 years, so I think he was acting patriotically.

KING: General --

ELLSBERG: Whether his judgment is confirmed in the end we'll have to see what it comes out --

KING: General, General -- all right, hold it.

ELLSBERG: But so far I admire him and I think that --

KING: We got it.

ELLSBERG: Thank you.

KING: General Clark, what's the fear? What -- what are you worried about in the release of this?

CLARK: What am I worried about? Well, first of all, I think when you trust people with classified documents, they're serving in uniform, they should serve their country loyally. Everybody who serves in the military takes an oath to support and uphold the Constitution of the United States, and the chain of command.

This young man didn't do it. He had maybe the highest ethical and moral principles behind his disobedience. Fine. Put his papers in. Get out. Go to the Congress, go to the press, say everything he's seen, talk about it, but do it in a responsible fashion.

So that's the first thing. Second thing is, I think that it does make it difficult for the administration, but you know, this is an opportunity also for the administration to readdress this issue, to bring public attention back on it and to build a stronger base of support in -- on behalf of a policy that is being continually worked, revised and updated.

I've got a lot of confidence in General Petraeus and in the administration team that's working this. A lot of the problem is in Pakistan. Pakistan has got responsibilities. Maybe this puts more emphasis on Pakistan's fulfilling its responsibilities in helping us work this problem.

KING: We'll have Michael Hastings and Anthony Shaffer respond right after this.


KING: Michael Hastings, doesn't General Clark have a point? You take an oath, live by it.

HASTINGS: Well, I think if Private Manning turns out to have been motivated by principles and has stood on his principles and has made this -- you know, basically thrown his life away for his principle, that to me is very honorable.

I happen to be joined on this panel with three people who've also made their life standing on their principles in a very honorable way. General Clark, Daniel Ellsberg and Colonel Shaffer.

So, you know -- I understand General Clark's view for sure, but I think -- but I also respect, you know, Private Manning for the decision he made if it turns out his motives were to stand behind a principle he firmly believed in.

KING: Anthony, what comes higher, your oath or a higher morality?

SHAFFER: I agree we all have taken an oath. We all live up to it. I gave away my career bring a clandestine officer to do the right thing. It's one of those choices we all make.

However, WikiLeaks is an outside organization which is not tied to any oversight mechanism within our country. We call it law fair where you actually tie up the adversary system by things like this, and Mark Zaid, one of my attorney, I think, who's been out here before.

Mark and I talk about this today. This event may have the exact opposite effect of chilling whistleblowers coming forward. Because they're going to look at this and say, you know, am I going to end up in jail? There are mechanisms which are there for people to come and make protected disclosures.

And that's the key, Larry. Protected disclosures that protect both the people receiving the information and you for making the disclosure. It's not always easy, but it's something that is tied to a process of resolution which ostensibly begins and ends on Capitol Hill.

KING: Daniel, quickly, does he have a good point?

ELLSBERG: You know, we've been talking about oaths here, actually General Clark and Colonel Shaffer and I and every member of Congress, and every official of the government took an oath not to the secrecy system, not to the commander in chief, not to the president, when we were civilians, but an oath to uphold, support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies domestic and foreign.

And I would say that I didn't observe that higher oath. It's not some lady higher morality in the sky, somehow it's an oath I took to uphold the Constitution which was flaunted by a president that I served to lie to Congress, lied us into a hopeless and endless war.

And I think that many people who kept their mouths shut when we committed aggression, as I see it, in Iraq --

KING: General --

ELLSBERG: -- did not observe that oath as they should have and when I risked --

KING: General Clark -- I got it.

ELLSBERG: -- prison as currently Colonel Manning this time.

KING: General Clark, is there a higher oath?

CLARK: Well, I think, you know, what we're asking is that people support the Constitution of the United States and obey the orders of the officers appointed over them. That's what every soldier says --

ELLSBERG: That's firmly --


ELLSBERG: That's not the oath of office.

CLARK: That's --

ELLSBERG: That is not the oath of office.

CLARK: This was an enlisted man, was it not who released these documents? Didn't you say he's a private specialist?


ELLSBERG: He's an innocent. He's going to pay the penalty.

CLARK: Fine. He can go out at any time, he can tell his boss, I want out, I don't support the policy, I can't serve, and take those consequences. Look. This is crossing the line between the military --

ELLSBERG: The consequences he's facing are going to prison.

KING: One at a time. One at a time.

CLARK: The military -- needs a strong organizational structure to do what the political leadership tells it to do. This is a political issue, this is about the policy of the United States over -- in Afghanistan. Have at it. But as far as the military's concerned, they ought to obey the orders of the officers appointed over them.

KING: Thank you, all.

CLARK: That's the responsibility --

KING: We have not heard the last of this. We promise we'll have them all back.

Daniel Ellsberg, Michael Hastings, General Wesley Clark, Anthony Shaffer -- we look forward to Anthony's book, too.

Michael Moore returns tomorrow night. He is never dull. He's going to have some thoughts on the occurrences surrounding BP and the Gulf.

Time now, Anderson Cooper and "AC 360." Anderson?