Overall, Manning leaked more than 700,000 documents and other material, including about a quarter million State Department diplomatic cables. Even so, the initial spate of leaks did not compromise intelligence sources or practices, though it might still cause damage to US security interests in the future, a 2010 Pentagon report concluded.
Whatever its future impact might be, Manning’s massive leak of secret documents has in the present catalyzed the Obama administration to act vigorously – some critics say harshly – to curb leaks of classified information as a matter of policy, several observers say.
“WikiLeaks was such a shock to the Obama administration that it triggered an intense reaction and determination to squelch future leaks,” says Steven Aftergood, director of the Federation of American Scientists’ Project on Government Secrecy. “Security officials were determined to prevent a breach of that scale from occurring again. Part of that was a new zero-tolerance policy toward leakers.”
Beginning in 2011, the Obama administration launched an “Insider Threat Program” across the federal government, including non-intelligence agencies like the Department of Agriculture, according to a report by McClatchy Newspapers. Around the same time, cybersecurity experts observed moves in key government agencies and in the Pentagon to implement technology to block leaks.
“The military has taken very significant action in a number of key ways to prevent such a mass disclosure again,” says Paul Williams, executive director of security services for White Badger Group, a cybersecurity company in Breinigsville, Pa., that has worked with the Pentagon. “Some of these ways are technical, some are procedural. A number of other initiatives are aimed at getting at the root cause of why people sometimes become an insider threat in the first place.”
Defending the administration’s criminal investigations of classified leaks, Mr. Obama has said that the leaks pose genuine national-security concerns.
“Leaks related to national security can put people at risk,” the president told reporters at a press conference May 16. “They can put men and women in uniform that I’ve sent into the battlefield at risk. They can put some of our intelligence officers, who are in various, dangerous situations that are easily compromised, at risk. I make no apologies, and I don’t think the American people would expect me as commander in chief not to be concerned about information that might compromise their missions or might get them killed.”