Intelligence officials, past and present, are raising concerns that the WikiLeaks.org revelations could endanger US counterterror networks in the Afghan region, and damage information sharing with US allies.
People in Afghanistan or Pakistan who have worked with American intelligence agents or the military against the Taliban or Al Qaeda may be at risk following the disclosure of thousands of once-secret US military documents, former and current officials said.
Meanwhile, US allies are asking whether they can trust America to keep secrets.
Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said on Tuesday the military doesn't know who was behind the leaks, although it has launched "a very robust investigation.” US analysts are in a speed-reading battle against their adversaries.
They are trying to limit the damage to the military's human intelligence network that has been built up over a decade inside Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Such figures range from Afghan village elders who have worked behind the scenes with US troops to militants who have become double-agents.
Another casualty may be the US attempts to forge cooperation with Pakistan's secretive intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence.
Multiple American cables complain about ISI complicity with the Taliban. And they also tell the Pakistanis "how much we know about them,” said Riegle, who now runs a private intelligence firm. "You're not going to see any cooperation," he said. "People are going to freeze."
The raw data released on Sunday may also prove useful in a wider way to America's "frenemies" — the intelligence services of countries like China and Russia, who have the resources to process and make sense of such vast vaults of data, said Ellen McCarthy, former intelligence officer and president of the Intelligence and National Security Alliance.
Former CIA official Paul Pillar described what he called the coming chill in the US intelligence community, which had been pushed into sharing information across agencies in the aftermath of the intelligence failures that led to 9/11.