THE PENTAGON - US Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced the "immediate departure" of Douglas B. Wilson, his Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs, over a series of classified data leaks that wound up on Mr. Gates' official website.
"It's bad enough that I've got Secretaries who release photos of themselves in classified environments," Mr. Gates fumed at a press conference. "Now I've got secret data splashed all over my OSD.MIL web servers. This cannot be allowed to continue."
The classified leaks occurred when Mr. Gates' "Early Bird" website reprinted news stories related to a recent Wikileaks scandal. Some of the articles contained excerpts of highly classified information.
"There has been a rumor in public affairs offices that the information is no longer classified since it resides in the public domain," Mr. Gates explained. "This is not true. Reading this information, even in a news story, constitutes the unauthorized processing, disclosure, viewing, and downloading of classified information onto an unauthorized computer system not approved to store classified information."
Mr. Gates expressed that Mr. Wilson "willingly committed a security violation" by allowing news stories containing classified information to be reprinted on the unclassified "Early Bird" website that is hosted on servers run by the Office of the Secretary of Defense.
Mr. Gates refused to identify which news stories reprinted by "Early Bird" contained classified information.
It is not clear what charges may be filed against Mr. Wilson. Congressman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) suggested that Mr. Wilson could face the death penalty if the release of classified information is found to have resulted in the death of a US soldier.
Mr. Wilson did not return calls and emails requesting comment.
Mr. Gates has not yet named a successor to the job Mr. Wilson held. "I want to pick someone who knows not to reprint stories in the 'Early Bird' that contain classified information," he assured reporters.