The long-awaited wave of classified U.S. military documents from WikiLeaks crashed ashore Friday afternoon, detailing battlefield tales of Iraqi brutality, higher-than-acknowledged Iraqi civilian deaths, and Iranian perfidy — but no jaw-dropping revelations.
— The documents detail repeated killings and torture by America’s Iraqi allies of fellow Iraqis. The U.S. failed to investigate hundreds of cases of abuse, rape, torture and murder by Iraqis working alongside U.S. troops. Prisoners were hung by their wrists or ankles and whipped, punched, kicked and subject to electric shocks. Six reports detail abused Iraqi prisoners apparently dying in Iraqi custody.
— A pair of Iraqi militants making motions as if to surrender were shot and killed in 2007 because, according to a U.S. military lawyer, “they cannot surrender to aircraft, and are still valid targets.” They were among the 109,000 deaths enumerated in the logs, including 66,081 non-combatant deaths and 15,000 who perished in previously unknown incidents.
— “Iran is gaining control of Iraq at many levels of the Iraqi government,” a 2005 U.S. military report warned. The data detail numerous cases where Iranian-backed militants took anti-U.S. actions during the war and how Tehran allegedly supplied them with rockets, car bombs, IEDs, and portable anti-aircraft missiles, one of which downed a U.S. helicopter in 2007.
While the WikiLeaks website remains down Friday for “scheduled maintenance,” the mysterious cyber outfit had given nearly 400,000 daily reports compiled by U.S. military units to four news organizations under an embargo. The New York Times and British Guardian were the two English outlets; the French newspaper Le Monde and the German magazine Der Spiegel are the other two.
Reports the Times:
The secret archive is the second such cache obtained by the independent organization WikiLeaks and made available to several news organizations. Like the first release, some 92,000 reports covering six years of the war in Afghanistan, the Iraq documents provide no earthshaking revelations, but they offer insight, texture and context from the people actually fighting the war.
The Pentagon was not pleased. “We know our enemies will mine this information, looking for insights into how we operate, cultivate sources and react in combat situations, even the capability of our equipment,” spokesman Geoff Morrell said in a statement. “This security breach could very well get our troops and those they are fighting with killed.”
A Defense Department team of some 120 experts, led by Army Brig. General Robert Carr, an intelligence veteran, is already poring over the documents to determine how serious a blow they could inflict on U.S. national security. Most importantly, U.S. officials are primed to move to counter any revelations, and to prevent any harm from coming to “sources and methods” pinpointed as key suppliers of intelligence to the U.S. in Iraq.
Even as the Pentagon is now grappling with the latest Iraq WikiLeaks data dump involving Iraq, Defense Secretary Robert Gates told the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee that the earlier release of the classified Afghan war files may have led to reprisals against individual Afghans, but didn’t harm broader national security interests of the United States.
“Our initial review indicates most of the information contained in these documents relates to tactical military operations,” Gates said in an Aug. 16 letter to Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat who heads the armed services committee. “The initial assessment in no way discounts the risk to national security; however, the review to date has not revealed any sensitive intelligence sources and methods compromised by this disclosure,” he said in the letter, which was released this week.
E-mails sent recently to WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assanger, have bounced back as undeliverable as he fights sexual assault charges filed against him by two women in Sweden. Both data dumps have been linked to Bradley Manning, a young Army intelligence specialist now in custody and facing court martial for leaking the Afghan documents to WikiLeaks.
Since the Afghan WikiLeaks release, the Army has revised its 17-year old rules on espionage. The new regs, released earlier this month, requires troops to alert authorities for the first time if they suspect someone is leaking classified information to the media. Better late than never.