Shelton: Source of leaked U.S. documents should be prosecuted
Retired Gen. Hugh Shelton, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called the release of classified State Department documents reckless, saying the information could damage foreign relations.Posted — Updated
More than 250,000 documents were published over the weekend by the whistle-blower website WikiLeaks. Some of the documents included unflattering assessments of world leaders that embarrassed the administration of President Barack Obama.
Shelton, who was at Fort Bragg to sign copies of his memoir, "Without Hesitation," said the documents have no compelling public interest and shouldn't have been publicized.
"We don't need to know everything. Otherwise, we wouldn't have any need for top-secret information," he said. "It's almost a national tragedy because this is the type of information that not only damages our national security or hurts our national security but damages our reputation worldwide."
A North Carolina native who served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1997 until his retirement in 2001, Shelton said he has been in the office of political leaders in a violence-prone corner of the globe, so he knows the ins and outs of diplomacy.
"If he appears to be too close to the United States, there's a potential that ... (his government) could overthrow him," Shelton said. "What he says publicly is not always what he tells you behind the scenes, and when you leak that information, who will he trust the next time they're in his office?"
Shelton acknowledged that his 554-page memoir includes some unflattering behind-the-scenes moments in the White House under former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. Still, those revelations don't impact U.S. relationships the way the WikiLeaks documents do, he said.
“When you start leaking classified information, under today’s laws, individuals should be prosecuted to the fullest (extent possible),” he said.
The general also wasn't diplomatic when discussing North Korean President Kim Jung Il, who launched a artillery attack on South Korea last week, killing four people.
"Kim Jung Il is a lunatic who we have to be concerned about what he might do," Shelton said. “I think it goes to show that we need to have a very strong national military that’s ready to respond."