Top US senator: Don't 'overhype' Afghan war leak

WASHINGTON — A top US senator warned Tuesday against reading too much in a massive leak of Pentagon documents on the Afghan war and flatly rejected any comparison to the Vietnam-era "Pentagon Papers" disclosure.

"I think it's important not to overhype or get excessively excited about the meaning of those documents," Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman John Kerry, a Democrat, said at a hearing on the nearly nine-year-old conflict.

Kerry underscored that the leaked trove, made public by the whistleblowing Web site Wikileaks, comprised mostly raw intelligence field reports, some of them "completely dismissable," others "unreliable," and some trustworthy.

"People need to be very careful in evaluating what they read there," he said, notably underscoring that charges Pakistani intelligence officials backed Afghan insurgents were "not new allegations."

"This is something we have been dealing with and many people believe we have made some progress," he said.

Kerry explicitly rejected efforts to paint the leak as being as damaging as the "Pentagon Papers" disclosure that revealed that the US government -- from the president on down -- had misled the public on the Vietnam war.

"There is no relationship whatsoever to that event or to those documents," said the senator, who said the new leak showed "a very different pattern of involvement by the US government from that period of time."

Kerry blasted any disclosure of classified information as "unacceptable," stressing that "it breaks the law and equally importantly it compromises the efforts of our troops in the field, potentially."

He also underscored that the disclosure covered documents leading up to December 2009, when President Barack Obama unveiled a new strategy of boosting US force levels to pursue a counterinsurgency strategy in response to the problems in the leaked files.

"All of us, however, are concerned that after nine years of war ... the Taliban appear to be as strong as they have been," said Kerry.