Iraq War documents leak
The Iraq War documents leak is the disclosure to WikiLeaks of 391,832 United States Army field reports, also called the Iraq War Logs, of the Iraq War from 2004 to 2009 and published on the Internet on 22 October 2010. The files record 66,081 civilian deaths out of 109,000 recorded deaths. The leak resulted in the Iraq Body Count project adding 15,000 civilian deaths to their count, bringing their total to over 150,000, with roughly 80% of those civilians. It is the biggest leak in the military history of the United States, surpassing the Afghan War documents leak of 25 July 2010.
The logs contain numerous reports of previously unknown or unconfirmed events that took place during the war.
- According to the Iraq Body Count project, a sample of the deaths found in about 800 logs, extrapolated to the full set of records, shows an estimated 15,000 civilian deaths that had not been previously admitted by the US government. 66,000 civilians were reported dead in the logs, out of 109,000 deaths in total. The IBC has so far added a total of 3,334 of these previously unrecorded civilian deaths to its database from their ongoing analysis of the war logs. A list of these incidents, added as of 2 January 2013, has been published on the IBC website.
- The Guardian stated that the logs show "US authorities failed to investigate hundreds of reports of abuse, torture, rape and even murder by Iraqi police and soldiers"; the coalition, according to The Guardian, has "a formal policy of ignoring such allegations", unless the allegations involve coalition forces.
- Sometimes US troops classified civilian deaths as enemy casualties. For example, the July 12, 2007, Baghdad airstrike by US helicopter gunships which killed two Reuters journalists along with several men thought to be armed suspected to be insurgents. They, including the journalists, were all listed as "enemy killed in action".
- Wired Magazine said that even after the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse incident came to light in 2004, abuse of prisoners or detainees by Iraqi security forces continued; in one recorded case, US troops confiscated a "hand cranked generator with wire clamps" from a Baghdad police station, after a detainee claimed to have been brutalized there.
- One report analyzed by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism seems to show that "the US military cleared an Apache helicopter gunship to open fire on Iraqi insurgents who were trying to surrender".
- According to Wired Magazine, "WikiLeaks may have just bolstered one of the Bush administration’s most controversial claims about the Iraq war: that Iran supplied many of the Iraq insurgency’s deadliest weapons and worked hand-in-glove with some of its most lethal militias. The documents indicate that Iran was a major combatant in the Iraq war, as its elite Quds Force trained Iraqi Shiite insurgents and imported deadly weapons like the shape-charged explosively formed penetrator bombs into Iraq for use against civilians, Sunni militants and U.S. troops."
- It was reported in the Boston Globe that the documents show Iraqi operatives being trained by Hezbollah in precision military-style kidnappings. Reports also include incidents of US surveillance aircraft lost deep in Iranian territory.
- A number of the documents, as defined by Al Jazeera English, describe how US troops killed almost 700 civilians for coming too close to checkpoints, including pregnant women and the mentally ill. At least a half-dozen incidents involved Iraqi men transporting pregnant family members to hospitals.
- The New York Times said the reports contain evidence of many abuses, including civilian deaths, committed by contractors. The New York Times points out some specific reports, such as one which says "after the IED strike a witness reports the Blackwater employees fired indiscriminately at the scene." In another event on 14 May 2005, an American unit "observed a Blackwater PSD shoot up a civ vehicle" killing a father and wounding his wife and daughter.
- A document from December 2006, as defined by The Australian, describes a plan by a Shia militia commander to kidnap US soldiers in Baghdad in late 2006 or early 2007." Also, The Australian reports that "detainee testimony" and "a captured militant's diary" are cited among the documents, in order to demonstrate "how Iran provided Iraqi militias with weapons such as rockets and lethal roadside bombs."
- According to The New York Times, the trove of documents released by WikiLeaks in October 2010 "portrays the long history of tensions between Kurds and Arabs in the north of Iraq and reveals the fears of some American units about what might happen after American troops leave the country by the end of 2011."
- According to Dagbladet Information, which has been looking through the documents for information on the actions of soldiers from Denmark in Iraq, Danish soldiers "passed on responsibility for a much higher number of prisoners to Iraqi police than has previously been made public. The practice continued even though the coalition witnessed, and was continually warned of widespread torture and mistreatment of prisoners in the hands of the Iraqi police."
- An analysis published by The Jerusalem Post argues the leaked documents indicates a double standard in the international community views of human rights towards Israel's military policy:
- According to an editorial in The Washington Post, the leak "mainly demonstrates that the truth about Iraq 'already has been told', while it 'has at least temporarily complicated negotiations to form a new government'". The editor also charged that "claims such as those published by the British journal The Lancet that American forces slaughtered hundreds of thousands are the real 'attack on truth.'"
After criticism over the Afghan War documents leak, more material, including certain names and details, were redacted from these documents by WikiLeaks.
- The UN's chief investigator on torture, Manfred Nowak, states that "if the files released through WikiLeaks pointed to clear violations of the United Nations Convention Against Torture the Obama administration had an obligation to investigate them." The Convention, according to Nowak, forbids the US from turning over detainees to the Iraqi government, if doing so meant they might be subjected to torture.
- The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navanethem Pillay said that "the US and Iraq should investigate claims of abuse contained in files published on the Wikileaks website". In addition, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Manfred Nowak called "for a wider inquiry to include alleged US abuses."
- NATO's Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen stated that the release could cause "a very unfortunate situation", and that "such leaks ... may have a very negative security impact for people involved." US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also condemned the leak, saying that it "puts the lives of United States and its partners' service members and civilians at risk." WikiLeaks dismissed these concerns.
- In preparation for the leak, the Pentagon created an Information Review Task Force, comprising 120 people led by the Defense Intelligence Agency. A spokesperson for the Pentagon said the reports were considered to be simple observations and reports by military personnel and civilian informants, but nevertheless called their release a "tragedy," and the US Department of Defense requested the return of the documents. WikiLeaks founder Assange dismissed the Pentagon's concerns that the publication of the documents could endanger US troops and Iraqi civilians, asserting that the Pentagon "cannot find a single person that has been harmed" due to WikiLeaks’ previous release of documents related to the US-led war in Afghanistan.
- The U.S. military responded to the information in the documents about civilian deaths, saying that "it did not under-report the number of civilian deaths in the Iraq war or ignore prisoner abuse by Iraqi forces". Pentagon spokesman Colonel Dave Lapan added that "the U.S. military never claimed to have an exact count of the number of civilians killed in Iraq." He also added that both WikiLeaks and the Pentagon had the same database to collate a civilian death toll and was further sceptical WikiLeaks "made any new discovery." General George Casey, the army chief of staff, said US forces went to morgues to collect data and he did not "recall downplaying civilian casualties."
- In response to the allegations of torture by Iraqi soldiers under US oversight, US General George Casey, in command of the Iraq War between 2004 and 2007, said that "[o]ur policy all along was if American soldiers encountered prisoner abuse, to stop it and report it immediately up the US chain of command and up the Iraqi chain of command."
- Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Nick Clegg also expressed his support for an investigation into the "allegations of killings, torture and abuse" in the documents, having stated, "We can bemoan how these leaks occurred, but I think the nature of the allegations made are extraordinarily serious".
- Prime Minister of Iraq Nouri al-Maliki dismissed the records as politically timed smear and as a series of "media games and bubbles" as a defense against the information contained in the documents, which included "allegations [his administration] had permitted the abuse of prisoners and other misuses of power." This was echoed by Hassan al-Sneid, a "leader of Maliki's governing State of Law coalition", who stated, in terms of the images contained in the documents, "These are all just fakes from the Internet and Photoshop". The Iraqi Government has stated that it plans to investigate the role of private contractors, specifically Blackwater Worldwide, in deaths that occurred during the war and were revealed in the logs.
- The Iraqi News Network stated that "The WikiLeaks documents revealed very important secrets, but the most painful among them are not those that focus on the occupier, but those that reveal what the Iraqi forces, Iraqi government and politicians did against their citizens. Those leaders who returned to remove Iraq from oppression toppled the dictator but then carried out acts that were worse than Saddam himself. If these documents make the US apologise to Iraqis, they should compel Mr Maliki to leave the political arena altogether and apologise to everyone."
- Iranian politician Mohammad-Javad Larijani claimed on Iranian state-owned news network Press TV on 25 October 2010 that the leaks were "made upon the order of the US", and that "The message of Wikileaks documents is that the Iraqi people have been tortured by Iraq's security forces, and the only wrongdoing of Americans is that they witnessed the incidents and remained silent. This is while the US had the main role in these incidents and is the defendant."
- Spokesman for Iran's Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ramin Mehmanparast was quoted as saying, "Serious ambiguity and doubt linger regarding the intentions behind the suspicious release of WikiLeaks documents," and that Iran will "confront this mischievous act".
- During an interview with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on the radio version of Democracy Now!, host Amy Goodman discussed the response from Danish Prime Minister Lars Rasmussen, who had promised that "all allegations according to which Danish soldiers may have knowingly handed over detainees in Iraq to mistreatment at the hands of local authorities are regarded as very serious." However, he also "rejected calls by the opposition to establish an independent commission to investigate the claims." In response to Rasmussen, an investigation by the Danish military was ordered by the minister of defence, Gitte Lillelund Bech. The military also requested the original unedited documents from Wikileaks for their investigation.
- Amnesty International said that the actions taken by American and coalition troops in turning over prisoners from American to Iraqi custody when it was known that the prisoners were likely to be tortured may have broken international law. An Amnesty official said that the organization had "concern[s] that the U.S. authorities committed a serious breach of international law when they summarily handed over thousands of detainees to Iraqi security forces who they knew were continuing to torture and abuse detainees on a truly shocking scale."
- The Iraq Body Count project, commenting on the projected additional 15,000 civilian casualties revealed by the logs, said that "[i]t is totally unacceptable that for so many years the US government has withheld from the public these essential details about civilian casualties in Iraq."
- WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said that the logs were released in an attempt to show "intimate details" about the Iraq War. Referencing the adage that "the first casualty of war is truth", he said that the organization "hope[d] to correct some of the attack on the truth that occurred before the war, during the war and which has continued on since the war officially concluded."
- Retired U.S. General Stanley McChrystal was quoted as saying, "I think it's sad. The decision to leak classified information is something that is illegal, and individuals are making judgments about threats and information they are not qualified to make. There is a level of responsibility toward our people that needs to be balanced with a right or need to know. It's likely that a leak of that information could cause the death of our own people or some of our allies."
- After the documents were released, US Iraq War resisters seeking refuge in Canada, including Joshua Key and the 17-year veteran Chuck Wiley, said that the October 2010 round of military documents released by WikiLeaks offers further support of their claims. Joshua Key, author, with Lawrence Hill, of The Deserter's Tale (a book chronicling his service in Iraq and his subsequent departure from military life), said, "It’s the truth actually being told. These [Wikileaks] documents coming out now are right from the level of the soldiers. I guess (the brass) never realized how much the Internet would take a part in the [Iraq] war."
Wikileaks made the documents available under embargo to a number of media organisations: Der Spiegel, The Guardian, The New York Times, Al Jazeera, Le Monde, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, and the Iraq Body Count project. Upon the lifting of the embargo, the media coverage by these groups was followed by further coverage by other media organisations. The Guardian said that "the New York Times, Washington Post and other papers were accused by web publications and some bloggers of downplaying the extent to which the documents revealed US complicity in torture and provided evidence that politicians in Washington "lied" about the failures of the US military mission". The Guardian had reported that "fresh evidence that US soldiers handed over detainees to a notorious Iraqi torture squad has emerged in army logs published by WikiLeaks", and Glenn Greenwald of Salon.com commented that "media outlets around the world prominently highlighted this revelation, but not The New York Times", calling their coverage of the document leak "subservient" to the Pentagon, and criticising them for what he called a "gossipy, People Magazine-style 'profile' of Assange".
Total death count
While the U.S. tally of Iraqi & US-led Coalition deaths in the war logs is 109,000, a widely quoted 2006 study published in The Lancet used a cross-sectional cluster sample to estimate about 650,000 deaths were due to the Iraq war increasing mortality. Another study by the World Health Organization called the Iraq Family Health Survey estimated 151,000 deaths due to violence (95% uncertainty range, 104,000 to 223,000) from March 2003 through June 2006. The Iraq Body Count reviewed the war logs data in three reports in October 2010 and concluded that the total recorded death toll, civilian and combatant, would be more than 150,000.
An article on the leaked documents in Science magazine commented on these sources, as follows:
- "Taking the WikiLeaks data into account, IBC now estimates that at least 150,000 have died violently during the war, 80% of them civilians. That falls within the range produced by an Iraq household survey conducted by the World Health Organization—and further erodes the credibility of a 2006 study published in The Lancet, that estimated over 600,000 violent deaths for the first 3 years of the war."
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I can't comment on the details of the exact impact on security, but in general I can tell you that such leaks ... may have a very negative security impact for people involved
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- attributed to Aeschylus
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|Wikinews has related news: WikiLeaks releases Iraq War logs|
- Baghdad War Diary. WikiLeaks.
- The War Logs. The New York Times.
- Iraq: The war logs. The Guardian.
- Iraq War Logs. Der Spiegel.
- Secret Iraq Files. Al Jazeera English.
- iraqwarlogs.com. Bureau of Investigative Journalism.
- Warlogs crowdsourcing interface. OWNI.
- WikiLeaks Prepares Largest Intel Leak in US History with Release of 400,000 Iraq War Docs – video report by Democracy Now!, 22 October 2010
- Iraq War Logs Expose US-Backed Torture - video report by Democracy Now!