WikiLeaks’ 400,000 Iraq War Documents Reveal Torture, Civilian Deaths
The secret-spilling website WikiLeaks released almost 400,000 U.S. Army reports from the Iraq War on Friday, marking the largest military leak in U.S. history.
The database covers events from the Iraq War dating from 2004 through 2009, with the vast majority of entries classified at the “secret” level. WikiLeaks’ War Logs page includes a sophisticated search engine that makes it easy to browse and search through the documents. Unlike its Afghan release last July, WikiLeaks does not appear to have made the Iraq database available for bulk download as an SQL or CSV file.
News outlets who’d been provided advance copies of the massive database — including the Qatar-based Al Jazeera network, the U.K. newspaper Guardian and The New York Times — have already published detailed analysis. They’ve found previously unreported civilian death counts in the files, rampant brutality by Iraqi police and a report of a separate shooting incident involving the same Apache helicopter unit that was involved in the now-famous 2007 “Collateral Murder” video that WikiLeaks published last April. In the second incident, the unit reportedly shot and killed insurgents who were trying to surrender.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has scheduled a press conference in London on Saturday at 10:00 a.m. local time (5:00 a.m. EDT) to discuss the release.
Threat Level reported last month on WikiLeaks’ plans to publish the Iraq database of 392,000 documents, and the role the publication schedule played in creating internal strife at the organization.
Last week the Pentagon said it had already assembled a 120-person task force to prepare for the Iraq database dump.‘If you had free reign over classified networks for long periods of time … say, 8-9 months … and you saw incredible things, awful things … things that belonged in the public domain, and not on some server stored in a dark room in Washington DC … What would you do?’ – Bradley Manning
The Iraq release comes at a crucial time for the four-year-old WikiLeaks. In addition to suffering internal conflict, the organization has experienced technical issues and has been shaken by outside criticism and knocked off-message by a lingering sex-crime investigation of Assange in Sweden. At least half-a-dozen staffers have resigned from the organization in recent weeks, including key technical staff, according to four ex-staffers interviewed by Wired.com. A “scheduled maintenance” of the WikiLeaks website that began September 29 stretched to weeks.
The publication of the database could jolt the pending court martial case against Army Pfc. Bradley Manning. Manning, a 23-year-old former Army intelligence analyst, was arrested last May after confessing to a former hacker that he’d supplied WikiLeaks with classified videos and documents.
It was Manning’s online chats with former hacker Adrian Lamo — who turned him in to authorities, and gave the government logs of the chats — that provided the first indication that WikiLeaks possessed the Iraq database. In May, Manning told Lamo that he leaked a database of half-a-million reports from the Iraq War dated from 2004 to 2009. Though the database published by WikiLeaks on Friday has fewer documents than described by Manning, it matches his claims in every other respect, according to a record of the chats provided by Lamo to Wired.com following Manning’s arrest.
“[H]ypothetical question: if you had free reign over classified networks for long periods of time… say, 8-9 months… and you saw incredible things, awful things… things that belonged in the public domain, and not on some server stored in a dark room in Washington DC… what would you do?,” Manning wrote.
“[O]r Guantanamo, Bagram, Bucca, Taji, VBC for that matter… things that would have an impact on 6.7 billion people,” he continued. “[S]ay… a database of half a million events during the iraq war… from 2004 to 2009… with reports, date time groups, lat-lon locations, casualty figures… ?” (ellipses original)
In a later exchange with Lamo, Manning said an “Iraq war event log” was among the items he’d passed to WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange.
The Iraq release follows other high-impact, U.S.-focused leaks from WikiLeaks, beginning in April with the controversial classified “Collateral Murder” video of a 2007 Army helicopter attack in Baghdad, that Manning also claimed to have leaked to the organization. The attack killed two Reuters employees and an unarmed Iraqi man who stumbled onto the scene and tried to rescue one of the wounded. The man’s two children suffered serious injuries in the hail of gunfire. WikiLeaks titled the video “Collateral Murder,” and raised $150,000 from supporters in two days following its release.
Then in July, the site published 77,000 documents from a 92,000-entry database of events from the Afghan War, similar to Friday’s Iraq database.
The Army has formally charged Manning under the Espionage Act for the “Collateral Murder” leak, and the Pentagon describes him as a “person of interest” in the Afghan War log leak, though Manning did not mention leaking a database of events from the Afghan War in his chats with Lamo. Manning is also charged with exceeding his lawful access to the Secret-level SIPRNET to collect 150,000 diplomatic cables. WikiLeaks has denied receiving those cables.
Manning’s attorney did not respond to phone calls or e-mail queries about the Iraq release. Assange doesn’t comment on sources, but he has vowed to contribute $50,000 to Manning’s legal defense fund.
Updated 18:30 EDT
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