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WikiLeaks defends its release of classified documents on Iraq War

WikiLeaks released nearly 400,000 classified reports detailing more than 100,000 deaths in the Iraq War, some 60 percent of which were of civilians. WikiLeaks also intends to release thousands more documents on the war in Afghanistan.

By Staff writer / October 23, 2010

Julian Assange, founder of the WikiLeaks website, at a press conference in London, Saturday, Oct. 23. WikiLeaks revealed previously secret files on the Iraq war, which in the biggest leak of classified information in US history suggest that far more Iraqis died than previously acknowledged.

Lennart Preiss/AP


WikiLeaks – the controversial classified information clearinghouse – is defending its release of what it calls “The Iraq War Logs” against charges that it is undermining the security of American and coalition forces. In addition, the organization intends to release thousands more classified documents dealing with the war in Afghanistan.

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The most recent WikiLeaks disclosure covers the Iraq War for the period from the beginning of 2004 through 2009.

Based on “SIGACT,” or “Significant Activity” reports by US military personnel, the 391,832 individual reports (the largest such release of classified documents in US history) “detail events as seen and heard by the US military troops on the ground in Iraq and are the first real glimpse into the secret history of the war that the United States government has been privy to throughout,” according to WikiLeaks.

Related: Five bombshells from WikiLeaks' Iraq war documents

The reports detail 109,032 deaths in Iraq. These include 66,081 “civilians,” 23,984 “enemy” insurgents, 15,196 “host nation” (Iraqi government forces), and 3,771 “friendly” (coalition) forces. Some 60 percent of the total is civilian deaths.

“For comparison, the 'Afghan War Diaries', previously released by WikiLeaks, covering the same period, detail the deaths of some 20,000 people,” states WikiLeaks on its web site. “Iraq during the same period, was five times as lethal with equivalent population size.”

Pentagon officials and US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton have condemned the release of such information.

“Our fear here is that the release of this classified information will give our enemies the opportunity to mine that database, to look for how we respond to certain situations,” Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell told CNN. “If they can see patterns of behavior, our tactics, our techniques and our procedures, the capabilities of our equipment, response times, how we cultivate sources, this is all information which should never be in the public domain.”

“We know in the aftermath of the Afghan document leak, the Taliban and others spoke publicly, encouraging their members to mine that database,” Mr. Morrell said. “Our intelligence confirmed that fact. Now you will have virtually half a million classified secret documents in the public domain which our enemies clearly intend to use against us and that could threaten the lives of American forces not just in Iraq or Afghanistan but around the world.”