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DOJ announces WikiLeaks criminal investigation

US Attorney General Eric Holder told reporters Monday that the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Defense (DOD) [official websites] are conducting a criminal investigation of WikiLeaks [website; JURIST news archive] over its release of confidential government communications. Holder condemned WikiLeaks' recent release of government cables [NYT backgrounder], saying that it threatens US national security [CNN report], specifically by risking the safety of those serving the country and straining important diplomatic relationships. Holder said during a press conference, that "there is an active ongoing criminal investigation that [the DOJ] is conducting with the Department of Defense." He added, "there is a basis to believe crimes have been committed, and we are in the process of investigating those crimes." On Sunday, the Obama administration issued a statement [press release] through Press Secretary Robert Gibbs condemning the releases as "reckless and dangerous." Holder did not say when he expected to announce the investigation's results.

Last month, UN Commissioner on Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] and Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] each requested [JURIST reports] that the US investigate alleged human rights abuses committed by US soldiers in Iraq detailed in documents posted on WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said in July that documents posted to the website may tie the US to war crimes in Afghanistan. Also in July, the US Army formally charged [JURIST report] Pfc. Bradley Manning [advocacy website; NYT backgrounder] for leaking a controversial classified video [YouTube video] of a 2007 US helicopter strike in Iraq and classified State Department documents. Manning faces two charges [charge sheet, PDF] under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) [text] for the transfer of classified information and exceeding his authorized computer access. Manning was detained in Kuwait in May after releasing the video, entitled "Collateral Murder," on Wikileaks. Wikileaks does not ask sources to identify themselves, but Manning was reported to authorities by former hacker Andrian Lamo, who learned of the leaks after forming an online friendship with the soldier. Due to the gravity of the charges, Manning's investigation could lead to a court-martial.

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