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Rumsfeld blasts media leaks on ground foray

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld Monday sharply criticized last week's leaks to news organizations about special operations forces on the ground in Afghanistan, saying the leaks jeopardized the lives of American troops and could have ruined the mission.

"I certainly hope the people who were parachuting in don't find the person" who made the leaks, he said.

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The defense secretary said he believes the leaks emanated from the Pentagon, but is "too busy to run around" and find the source. It is against the law to leak such classified information, and it "just floors me that people are willing to do that," Rumsfeld said.

"They totally disregard the fact that people's lives could be put in jeopardy by giving notice to the al Qaeda and the Taliban that U.S. forces were planning to make an entry into their country," said the defense secretary.

"We cannot and will not provide information that could jeopardize the success of our efforts to root out and liquidate the terrorist networks that threaten our people."

The news leaks that earned Rumsfeld's ire occurred Friday when some newspapers reported U.S. Special Forces were on the ground in Afghanistan. Rumsfeld was asked about the reports while at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, but refused comment.

"I knew that they had not cleared Afghan air space or returned," Rumsfeld said. "As a result, I refused to respond to the questions.

"The fact that some members of the press knew enough about those operations to ask the questions and to print the stories was clearly because someone in the Pentagon had provided them that information."

Rumsfeld also resisted suggestions from reporters that they be allowed to accompany fighters on missions. It makes no sense to have reporters going along on a special operations mission into a hostile environment, he said.

"The idea of embedding a press pool into that group seems to me to be outside of the realm of reasonableness," Rumsfeld said.






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