In a statement Thursday night, a spokesman for National Intelligence Director John Negroponte said his office has suspended public access to the Web site "pending a review to ensure its content is appropriate for public viewing."
The action came after The New York Times raised questions about the contents of the government site, called the "Operation Iraqi Freedom Document Portal." The Times' Web site reported Thursday night that weapons experts say documents posted on the government site in recent weeks provide dangerous detail about Iraq's covert nuclear research before the 1991 Persian Gulf war.
"While strict criteria had already been established to govern posted documents, the material currently on the Web site, as well as the procedures used to post new documents, will be carefully reviewed before the site becomes available again," said Negroponte's spokesman, Chad Kolton.
Scientists interviewed by the Times said the documents contained "very sensitive" information that would be helpful to nations hoping to develop a nuclear arsenal. A senior government official said the documents are "a road map that helps you get from point A to point B, but only if you already have a car."
Former White House chief of staff Andrew Card said Friday that top officials knew there were risks when they decided to post the documents.
"John Negroponte warned us that we don't know what's in these documents, so these are being put out at some risk, and that was a warning that he put out right when they first released the documents," Card told NBC's "Today" show.
Pressed by Republican members of Congress, Negroponte's office last March ordered the unprecedented release of millions of pages of Iraqi documents, most of them in Arabic, collected by the U.S. government over more than a decade.
Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich., along with his counterpart in the Senate, Pat Roberts, R-Kan., spearheaded the initiative for the Web site, the Times reported. The pair wrote to Negroponte and asked him to post the Iraqi documents. Hoekstra and Roberts said the intelligence community was overwhelmed by the volume of the data.
Until this week, the information had been posted gradually on public Internet servers, run by the military. In announcing the postings, Negroponte's office said the U.S. government had made no determination regarding the authenticity of the documents, their factual accuracy or the quality of any translations, when available.