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State Department begins interviews in Eikenberry leak investigation

State Department begins interviews in Eikenberry leak investigation

The investigation into who leaked Amb. Karl Eikenberry’s secret cables opposing the U.S. troop surge in Afghanistan is heating up.

It’s been more than four months since the Washington Post published a sensational scoop, reporting that Eikenberry had warned Washington, in strong language, against committing more American forces to the war-torn country unless Afghan President Hamid Karzai cracked down on corruption and demonstrated a greater capacity to govern. And it’s been more than two months since the New York Times published the text of the two memos.

Now, the State’s Diplomatic Security service has begun interviews of several key officials, department spokesman P.J. Crowley confirms to The Cable.

There are two identifiers on the documents, one that shows a leaked copy as having been initially designated for "SRAP" — Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke — and one designated for "S" — the office of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

But that doesn’t mean that either Holbrooke or Clinton was the leaker. On the contrary, these particular copies were bandied about among several senior officials and staffers during the president’s Afghanistan strategy review late last year.

"They were the original recipients," Crowley said, referring to Holbrook and Clinton, "but during the course of the deliberations last fall that led to the president’s decision, those cables were distributed to other participants who were involved in the review."

Actually, the fact that Holbrooke and Clinton’s names were on the documents probably indicates they are in the clear. After all, who would be clumsy enough to leak his or her own copy, right? What’s more, the Times story was written by Eric Schmitt, who primarily covers the Pentagon — though that doesn’t rule anyone out or in.

As Mother Jones noted, the documents, or copies of the documents, were given to the Times by an "American official" who believed Eikenberry’s assessment is " important for the historical record."

One source told The Cable that the Eikenberry cables were passed around at one of Obama’s now-famous principals’ meetings, where top officials from a range of entities could have pocketed a copy. But Crowley declined to specify the range of people who had access.

"That’s why we’re doing the investigation. Highly sensitive, classified cables found their way into the hands of a very good and respected journalist. Notwithstanding our appreciation for a vigorous press, that shouldn’t happen," Crowley said. "The release of classified information to those not authorized to have it is a crime."

Either way, it seems that predictions of Eikenberry’s removal following the revelation, especially since his views ultimately did not win the day or convince President Obama, have not borne out. Eikenberry remains at his post and even spoke with Karzai last week following Karzai’s rant about a Western conspiracy against him.