The War Logs
The Iraq Documents
New York Times
October 22, 2010
The archive is the second cache obtained by the independent organization WikiLeaks and made available to several news organizations. The Iraq documents shed new light on such fraught subjects as civilian deaths, detainee abuse, and the involvement of Iran.
THE STRANDS OF WAR
New York Times
October 22, 2010
A huge trove of secret field reports from the battlegrounds of Iraq sheds new light on the war, including such fraught subjects as civilian deaths, detainee abuse, and the involvement of Iran.
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.
A close analysis of the 391,832 documents helps illuminate several important aspects of this war:
¶ The deaths of Iraqi civilians -- at the hands mainly of other Iraqis, but also of the American military -- appear to be greater than the numbers made public by the United States during the Bush administration.
¶ While the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by Americans, particularly at the Abu Ghraib prison, shocked the American public and much of the world, the documents paint an even more lurid picture of abuse by America’s Iraqi allies -- a brutality from which the Americans at times averted their eyes.
¶ Iran’s military, more than has been generally understood, intervened aggressively in support of Shiite combatants, offering weapons, training, and sanctuary and in a few instances directly engaging American troops.
¶ The war in Iraq spawned a reliance on private contractors on a scale not well recognized at the time and previously unknown in American wars. The documents describe an outsourcing of combat and other duties once performed by soldiers that grew and spread to Afghanistan to the point that there are more contractors there than soldiers. [An article on this topic is scheduled to appear in the *New York Times* on Sunday.]
The Iraqi documents were made available to the Times, the British newspaper the Guardian, the French newspaper Le Monde, and the German magazine Der Spiegel on the condition that they be embargoed until now. WikiLeaks has never stated where it obtained the information, although an American Army intelligence analyst, Pfc. Bradley Manning, has been arrested and accused of being a source of classified material.
As it did with the Afghan war logs, the Times has redacted or withheld any documents that would put lives in danger or jeopardize continuing military operations. Names of Iraqi informants, for example, have not been disclosed. WikiLeaks said that it has also employed teams of editors to scrub the material for posting on its Web site.
WikiLeaks has been under strong pressure from the United States and the governments of other countries but is also fraying internally, in part because of a decision to post many of the Afghan documents without removing the names of informants, putting their lives in danger. A profile of WikiLeaks’s contentious founder, Julian Assange, will appear in Sunday’s newspaper.
The New York Times told the Pentagon which specific documents it planned to post and showed how they had been redacted. The Pentagon said it would have preferred that the Times not publish any classified materials but did not propose any cuts. Geoff Morrell, the Defense Department press secretary, strongly condemned both WikiLeaks and the release of the Iraq documents.
“We deplore WikiLeaks for inducing individuals to break the law, leak classified documents and then cavalierly share that secret information with the world, including our enemies,” he said.
“We know terrorist organizations have been mining the leaked Afghan documents for information to use against us and this Iraq leak is more than four times as large. By disclosing such sensitive information, WikiLeaks continues to put at risk the lives of our troops, their coalition partners and those Iraqis and Afghans working with us.”
A GRIM PORTRAIT OF CIVILIAN DEATHS IN IRAQ
By Sabrina Tavernise and Andrew W. Lehren
New York Times
October 22, 2010
The reports in the archive disclosed by WikiLeaks offer an incomplete, yet startlingly graphic portrait of one of the most contentious issues in the Iraq war -- how many Iraqi civilians have been killed and by whom.
The reports make it clear that most civilians, by far, were killed by other Iraqis. Two of the worst days of the war came on Aug. 31, 2005, when a stampede on a bridge in Baghdad killed more than 950 people after several earlier attacks panicked a huge crowd, and on Aug. 14, 2007, when truck bombs killed more than 500 people in a rural area near the border with Syria.
But it was systematic sectarian cleansing that drove the killing to its most frenzied point, making December 2006 the worst month of the war, according to the reports, with about 3,800 civilians killed, roughly equal to the past seven years of murders in New York City. A total of about 1,300 police officers, insurgents, and coalition soldiers were also killed in that month.
The documents also reveal many previously unreported instances in which American soldiers killed civilians -- at checkpoints, from helicopters, in operations. Such killings are a central reason Iraqis turned against the American presence in their country, a situation that is now being repeated in Afghanistan.
The archive contains reports on at least four cases of lethal shootings from helicopters. In the bloodiest, on July 16, 2007, as many as 26 Iraqis were killed, about half of them civilians. However, the tally was called in by two different people, and it is possible that the deaths were counted twice.
In another case, in February 2007, an Apache helicopter shot and killed two Iraqi men believed to have been firing mortars, even though they made surrendering motions, because, according to a military lawyer cited in the report, “they cannot surrender to aircraft, and are still valid targets.”
The shooting was unusual. In at least three other instances reported in the archive, Iraqis surrendered to helicopter crews without being shot. The Pentagon did not respond to questions from the *Times* about the rules of engagement for the helicopter strike.
The pace of civilian deaths served as a kind of pulse, whose steady beat told of the success, or failure, of America’s war effort. Americans on both sides of the war debate argued bitterly over facts that grew hazier as the war deepened.
The archive does not put that argument to rest by giving a precise count. As a 2008 report to Congress on the topic makes clear, the figures serve as “guideposts,’ not hard totals. But it does seem to suggest numbers that are roughly in line with those compiled by several sources, including Iraq Body Count, an organization that tracked civilian deaths using press reports, a method the Bush administration repeatedly derided as unreliable and producing inflated numbers. In all, the five-year archive lists more than 100,000 dead from 2004 to 2009, though some deaths are reported more than once, and some reports have inconsistent casualty figures. A 2008 Congressional report warned that record keeping in the war had been so problematic that such statistics should be looked at only as “guideposts.”
In a statement on Friday, Iraq Body Count, which did a preliminary analysis of the archive, estimated that it listed 15,000 deaths that had not been previously disclosed anywhere.
The archive tells thousands of individual stories of loss whose consequences are still being felt in Iraqi families today.
Misunderstandings at checkpoints were often lethal. At one Marine checkpoint, sunlight glinting off a windshield of a car that did not slow down led to the shooting death of a mother and the wounding of three of her daughters and her husband. Hand signals flashed to stop vehicles were often not understood, and soldiers and Marines, who without interpreters were unable to speak to the survivors, were left to wonder why.
According to one particularly painful entry from 2006, an Iraqi wearing a tracksuit was killed by an American sniper who later discovered that the victim was the platoon’s interpreter.
The archive’s data is incomplete. The documents were compiled with an emphasis on speed rather than accuracy; the goal was to spread information as quickly as possible among units. American soldiers did not respond to every incident.
And even when Americans were at the center of the action, as in the western city of Falluja in 2004, none of the Iraqis they killed were categorized as civilians. In the early years of the war, the Pentagon maintained that it did not track Iraqi civilian deaths, but it began releasing rough counts in 2005, after members of Congress demanded a more detailed accounting on the state of the war. In one instance in 2008, the Pentagon used reports similar to the newly released documents to tabulate the war dead.
This month, the Associated Press reported that the Pentagon in July had quietly posted its fullest tally of the death toll of Iraqi civilians and security forces ever, numbers that were first requested in 2005 through the Freedom of Information Act. It was not clear why the total -- 76,939 Iraqi civilians and members of the security forces killed between January 2004 and August 2008 -- was significantly less than the sum of the archive’s death count.
The archive does not have a category for the main causes of Iraqi deaths inflicted by Americans. Compared with the situation in Afghanistan, in Iraq aerial bombings seemed to be less frequently a cause of civilian deaths, after the initial invasion. The reports were only as good as the soldiers calling them in. One of the most infamous episodes of killings by American soldiers, the shootings of at least 15 Iraqi civilians, including women and children in the western city of Haditha, is misrepresented in the archives. The report stated that the civilians were killed by militants in a bomb attack, the same false version of the episode that was given to the news media.
Civilians have borne the brunt of modern warfare, with 10 civilians dying for every soldier in wars fought since the mid-20th century, compared with 9 soldiers killed for every civilian in World War I, according to a 2001 study by the International Committee of the Red Cross.
DETAINEES FARED WORSE IN IRAQI HANDS, LOGS SAY
By Sabrina Tavernise and Andrew W. Lehren
New York Times
October 22, 2010
The public image of detainees in Iraq was defined by the photographs, now infamous, of American abuse at Abu Ghraib, like the hooded prisoner and the snarling attack dog. While the documents disclosed by WikiLeaks offer few glimpses of what was happening inside American detention facilities, they do contain indelible details of abuse carried out by Iraq’s army and police.
The six years of reports include references to the deaths of at least six prisoners in Iraqi custody, most of them in recent years. Beatings, burnings, and lashings surfaced in hundreds of reports, giving the impression that such treatment was not an exception. In one case, Americans suspected Iraqi Army officers of cutting off a detainee’s fingers and burning him with acid. Two other cases produced accounts of the executions of bound detainees.
And while some abuse cases were investigated by the Americans, most noted in the archive seemed to have been ignored, with the equivalent of an institutional shrug: soldiers told their officers and asked the Iraqis to investigate.
A Pentagon spokesman said American policy on detainee abuse “is and has always been consistent with law and customary international practice.” Current rules, he said, require forces to immediately report abuse; if it was perpetrated by Iraqis, then Iraqi authorities are responsible for investigating.
That policy was made official in a report dated May 16, 2005, saying that if “if U.S. forces were not involved in the detainee abuse, no further investigation will be conducted until directed by HHQ.” In many cases, the order appeared to allow American soldiers to turn a blind eye to abuse of Iraqis on Iraqis.
Even when Americans found abuse and reported it, Iraqis often did not act. One report said a police chief refused to file charges “as long as the abuse produced no marks.” Another police chief told military inspectors that his officers engaged in abuse “and supported it as a method of conducting investigations.”
It is a frightening portrait of violence by any standards, but particularly disturbing because Iraq’s army and police are central to President Obama’s plan to draw down American troops in Iraq. Iraqi forces are already the backbone of security in Iraq, now that American combat troops are officially gone, and are also in charge of running its prisons.
The archive contains extensive, often rambling accounts of American abuse from Iraqi prisoners, but few were substantiated. The most serious came during arrests, which were often violent when people resisted. In those cases, investigations were opened. In a case reminiscent of Abu Ghraib, in which guards photographed themselves with Iraqis whom they had posed in humiliating positions, a soldier was censured for writing a mocking slur with a marker on the forehead of a crying detainee.
The United States took steps to improve its detention system after the scandal at the Abu Ghraib prison erupted in 2004, tightening rules governing the treatment of prisoners and separating the hardened radicals of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia from other prisoners.
But the documents show that Americans did sometimes use the threat of abuse by Iraqi authorities to get information out of prisoners. One report said an American threatened to send a detainee to the notorious Wolf Brigade, a particularly violent Iraqi police unit, if he did not supply information.
Some of the worst examples of Iraqi abuse came later in the war. In August 2009, an Iraqi police commando unit reported that a detainee committed suicide in its custody, but an autopsy conducted in the presence of an American “found bruises and burns on the detainee’s body as well as visible injuries to the head, arm, torso, legs, and neck.” The report stated that the police “have reportedly begun an investigation.”
Then in December, 12 Iraqi soldiers, including an intelligence officer, were caught on video in Tal Afar shooting to death a prisoner whose hands were tied. The document on the episode says that the reporting is preliminary; it is unclear whether there was a follow-up.
Years of abuse under Saddam Hussein produced an exceptionally violent society. Iraqis used cables, metal rods, wooden poles and live electrical wires to hurt prisoners. One report on a detainee cited “bruises in a roughly boot shape from upper to lower back.” In another, a detainee is said to have bruises from beatings with a board. Another detainee suffered blurred vision, bleeding in his ears and nose, bruises on his back, arms, and legs, and hemorrhaging in his eyes. Americans told the local Iraqi Army commander but did not open an inquiry because no American was involved.
American soldiers, however, often intervened. During a visit to a police unit in Ramadi, an American soldier entered a cell after hearing screams and found two badly dehydrated detainees with bruises on their bodies. He had them transferred out of Iraqi custody.
In August 2006, an American sergeant in Ramadi heard whipping noises in a military police station and walked in on an Iraqi lieutenant using an electrical cable to slash the bottom of a detainee’s feet. The American stopped him, but later he found the same Iraqi officer whipping a detainee’s back.
One beaten detainee said in 2005 that “when the Marines finally took him, he was treated very well, and he was thankful and happy to see them.” »
Early on, space for detainees was limited, and Iraqis would stuff them into makeshift jails, increasing the chances for abuse. In November 2005, American soldiers found 95 blindfolded detainees with sores and broken bones crammed into a police internment center.
LEAKED REPORTS DETAIL IRAN'S AID FOR IRAQI MILITANTS
By Michael R. Gordon and Andrew W. Lehren
New York Times
October 22, 2010
On Dec. 22, 2006, American military officials in Baghdad issued a secret warning: The Shiite militia commander who had orchestrated the kidnapping of officials from Iraq’s Ministry of Higher Education was now hatching plans to take American soldiers hostage.
What made the warning especially worrying were intelligence reports saying that the Iraqi militant, Azhar al-Dulaimi, had been trained by the Middle East’s masters of the dark arts of paramilitary operations: the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps in Iran and Hezbollah, its Lebanese ally.
“Dulaymi reportedly obtained his training from Hizballah operatives near Qum, Iran, who were under the supervision of Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force (IRGC-QF) officers in July 2006,” the report noted, using alternative spellings of the principals involved.
Five months later, Mr. Dulaimi was tracked down and killed in an American raid in the sprawling Shiite enclave of Sadr City in Baghdad -- but not before four American soldiers had been abducted from an Iraqi headquarters in Karbala and executed in an operation that American military officials say literally bore Mr. Dulaimi’s fingerprints.
Scores of documents made public by WikiLeaks, which has disclosed classified information about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, provide a ground-level look -- at least as seen by American units in the field and the United States’ military intelligence -- at the shadow war between the United States and Iraqi militias backed by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.
During the administration of President George W. Bush, critics charged that the White House had exaggerated Iran’s role to deflect criticism of its handling of the war and build support for a tough policy toward Iran, including the possibility of military action.
But the field reports disclosed by WikiLeaks, which were never intended to be made public, underscore the seriousness with which Iran’s role has been seen by the American military. The political struggle between the United States and Iran to influence events in Iraq still continues as Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki has sought to assemble a coalition -- that would include the anti-American cleric Moktada al-Sadr -- that will allow him to remain in power. But much of the American’s military concern has revolved around Iran’s role in arming and assisting Shiite militias.
Citing the testimony of detainees, a captured militant’s diary and numerous uncovered weapons caches, among other intelligence, the field reports recount Iran’s role in providing Iraqi militia fighters with rockets, magnetic bombs that can be attached to the underside of cars, “explosively formed penetrators,” or EFP’s, which are the most lethal type of roadside bomb in Iraq, and other weapons. Those include powerful .50-caliber rifles and the Misagh-1, an Iranian replica of a portable Chinese surface-to-air missile, which, according to the reports, was fired at American helicopters and downed one in east Baghdad in July 2007.
Iraqi militants went to Iran to be trained as snipers and in the use of explosives, the field reports assert, and Iran’s Quds Force collaborated with Iraqi extremists to encourage the assassination of Iraqi officials.
The reports make it clear that the lethal contest between Iranian-backed militias and American forces continued after President Obama sought to open a diplomatic dialogue with Iran’s leaders and reaffirmed the agreement between the United States and Iraq to withdraw American troops from Iraq by the end of 2011.
A REVOLUTIONARY FORCE
Established by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini after the 1979 Iranian revolution, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps has expanded its influence at home under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a former member of the corps, and it plays an important role in Iran’s economy, politics and internal security. The corps’s Quds Force, under the command of Brig. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, has responsibility for foreign operations and has often sought to work though surrogates, like Hezbollah.
While the American government has long believed that the Quds Force has been providing lethal assistance and training to Shiite militants in Iraq, the field reports provide new details about Iran’s support for Iraqi militias and the American military’s operations to counter them.
The reports are written entirely from the perspective of the American-led coalition. No similar Iraqi or Iranian reports have been made available. Nor do the American reports include the more comprehensive assessments that are typically prepared by American intelligence agencies after incidents in the field.
While some of the raw information cannot be verified, it is nonetheless broadly consistent with other classified American intelligence and public accounts by American military officials. As seen by current and former American officials, the Quds Force has two main objectives: to weaken and shape Iraq’s nascent government and to diminish the United States’ role and influence in Iraq.
For people like General Soleimani, “who went through all eight years of the Iran-Iraq war, this is certainly about poking a stick at us, but it is also about achieving strategic advantage in Iraq,” Ryan C. Crocker, the American ambassador in Iraq from 2007 until early 2009, said in an interview.
“I think the Iranians understand that they are not going to dominate Iraq,” Mr. Crocker added, “but I think they are going to do their level best to weaken it -- to have a weak central government that is constantly off balance, that is going to have to be beseeching Iran to stop doing bad things without having the capability to compel them to stop doing bad things. And that is an Iraq that will never again threaten Iran.”
POLITICS AND MILITIAS
According to the reports, Iran’s role has been political as well as military. A Nov. 27, 2005, report, issued before Iraq’s December 2005 parliamentary elections, cautioned that Iranian-backed militia members in the Iraqi government were gaining power and giving Iran influence over Iraqi politics.
“Iran is gaining control of Iraq at many levels of the Iraqi government,” the report warned.
The reports also recount an array of border incidents, including a Sept. 7, 2006, episode in which an Iranian soldier who aimed a rocket-propelled grenade launcher at an American platoon trying to leave the border area was shot and killed by an American soldier with a .50-caliber machine gun. The members of the American platoon, who had gone to the border area with Iraqi troops to look for “infiltration routes” used to smuggle bombs and other weapons into Iraq, were concerned that Iranian border forces were trying to surround and detain them. After this incident, the platoon returned to its base in Iraq under fire from the Iranians even when the American soldiers were “well inside Iraqi territory,” a report noted.
But the reports assert that Iran’s Quds Force and intelligence service has turned to many violent and shadowy tactics as well.
The reports contain numerous references to Iranian agents, but the documents generally describe a pattern in which the Quds Force has sought to maintain a low profile in Iraq by arranging for fighters from Hezbollah in Lebanon to train Iraqi militants in Iran or by giving guidance to Iraqi militias who do the fighting with Iranian financing and weapons.
The reports suggest that Iranian-sponsored assassinations of Iraqi officials became a serious worry.
A case in point is a report that was issued on March 27, 2007. Iranian intelligence agents within the Badr Corps and Jaish al-Mahdi, two Shiite militias, “have recently been influencing attacks on ministry officials in Iraq,” the report said.
According to the March report, officials at the Ministry of Industry were high on the target list. “The desired effect of these attacks is not to simply kill the Ministry of Industry Officials,” the report noted, but also “to show the world, and especially the Arab world, that the Baghdad Security Plan has failed to bring stability,” referring to the troop increase that Gen. David H. Petraeus was overseeing to reduce violence in Iraq.
News reports in early 2007 indicated that a consultant to the ministry and his daughter were shot and killed on the way to his office. The March report does not mention the attack, but it asserts that one gunman was carrying out a systematic assassination campaign, which included killing three bodyguards and plotting to attack ministry officials while wearing a stolen Iraqi Army uniform.
The provision of Iranian rockets, mortars, and bombs to Shiite militants has also been a major concern. A Nov. 22, 2005, report recounted an effort by the Iraqi border police to stop the smuggling of weapons from Iran, which “recovered a quantity of bomb-making equipment, including explosively formed projectiles,” which are capable of blasting a metal projectile through the door of an armored Humvee.
A Shiite militant from the Jaish al-Mahdi militia, also known as the Mahdi Army, was planning to carry out a mortar attack on the Green Zone in Baghdad, using rockets and mortar shells shipped by the Quds Force, according to a report on Dec. 1, 2006. On Nov. 28, the report noted, the Mahdi Army commander, Ali al-Sa’idi, “met Iranian officials reported to be IRGC officers at the border to pick up three shipments of rockets.”
A Dec. 27, 2008, report noted one instance when American soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division captured several suspected members of the Jaish al-Mahdi militia and seized a weapons cache, which also included several diaries, including one that explained “why detainee joined JAM and how they traffic materials from Iran.”
The attacks continued during Mr. Obama’s first year in office, with no indication in the reports that the new administration’s policies led the Quds Force to end its support for Iraqi militants. The pending American troop withdrawals, the reports asserted, may even have encouraged some militant attacks.
A June 25, 2009, report about an especially bloody EFP attack that wounded 10 American soldiers noted that the militants used tactics “being employed by trained violent extremist members that have returned from Iran.” The purpose of the attack, the report speculated, was to increase American casualties so militants could claim that they had “fought the occupiers and forced them to withdraw.”
An intelligence analysis of a Dec. 31, 2009, attack on the Green Zone using 107-millimeter rockets concluded that it was carried out by the Baghdad branch of Kataib Hezbollah, a militant Shiite group that American intelligence has long believed is supported by Iran. According to the December report, a technical expert from Kataib Hezbollah met before the attack with a “weapons facilitator” who “reportedly traveled to Iran, possibility to facilitate the attacks on 31 Dec.”
That same month, American Special Operations forces and a specially trained Iraqi police unit mounted a raid that snared an Iraqi militant near Basra who had been trained in Iran. A Dec. 19, 2009, report stated that the detainee was involved in smuggling “sticky bombs” -- explosives that are attached magnetically to the underside of vehicles -- into Iraq and was “suspected of collecting information on CF [coalition forces] and passing them to Iranian intelligence agents.”
A BOLD OPERATION
One of the most striking episodes detailed in the trove of documents made public by WikiLeaks describes a plot to kidnap American soldiers from their Humvees. According to the Dec. 22, 2006, report, a militia commander, Hasan Salim, devised a plan to capture American soldiers in Baghdad and hold them hostage in Sadr City to deter American raids there.
To carry out the plan, Mr. Salim turned to Mr. Dulaimi, a Sunni who converted to the Shiite branch of the faith while studying in the holy Shiite city of Najaf in 1995. Mr. Dulaimi, the report noted, was picked for the operation because he “allegedly trained in Iran on how to conduct precision, military style kidnappings.”
Those kidnappings were never carried out. But the next month, militants conducted a raid to kidnap American soldiers working at the Iraqi security headquarters in Karbala, known as the Provincial Joint Coordination Center.
The documents made public by WikiLeaks do not include an intelligence assessment as to who carried out the Karbala operation. But American military officials said after the attack that Mr. Dulaimi was the tactical commander of the operation and that his fingerprints were found on the getaway car. American officials have said he collaborated with Qais and Laith Khazali, two Shiite militant leaders who were captured after the raid along with a Hezbollah operative. The Khazali brothers were released after the raid as part of an effort at political reconciliation and are now believed to be in Iran.
The documents, however, do provide a vivid account of the Karbala attack as it unfolded.
At 7:10 p.m., several sport utility vehicles of the type typically used by the American-led coalition blocked the entrance to the headquarters compound. Twenty minutes later, an “unknown number of personnel, wearing American uniforms and carrying American weapons attacked the PJCC,” the report said.
The attackers managed to kidnap four American soldiers, dragging them into an SUV, which was pursued by police officers from an Iraqi SWAT unit. Calculating that they were trapped, the militants shot the handcuffed hostages and fled. Three of the American soldiers who had been abducted died at the scene. The fourth later died of his wounds, the report said, and a fifth American soldier was killed in the initial attack on the compound.
Summing up the episode, the American commander of a police training team noted in the report that that the adversary appeared to be particularly well trained. “PTT leader on ground stated insurgents were professionals and appeared to have a well planned operation,” the report said.
SECRET DISPATCHES FROM THE WAR IN IRAQ
New York Times
October 22, 2010
Below are a selection of the reports from a six-year archive of classified military documents to be published by WikiLeaks. These examples provide an unvarnished, ground-level picture of the war in Iraq. Some names and details have been redacted by The Times to conceal suspects' identities, or because they might put people in danger or reveal key tactical military capabilities. See below for more details on the redactions.
THE DEFENSE DEPARTMENT'S RESPONSE
New York Times
October 22, 2010
Following is the response to the WikiLeaks documents from Geoff Morrell, the Defense Department press secretary:
“We deplore WikiLeaks for inducing individuals to break the law, leak classified documents and then cavalierly share that secret information with the world, including our enemies. We know terrorist organizations have been mining the leaked Afghan documents for information to use against us, and this Iraq leak is more than four times as large. By disclosing such sensitive information, WikiLeaks continues to put at risk the lives of our troops, their coalition partners and those Iraqis and Afghans working with us. The only responsible course of action for WikiLeaks at this point is to return the stolen material and expunge it from their Web sites as soon as possible.
“We strongly condemn the unauthorized disclosure of classified information and will not comment on these leaked documents other than to note that ‘significant activities’ reports are initial, raw observations by tactical units. They are essentially snapshots of events, both tragic and mundane, and do not tell the whole story. That said, the period covered by these reports has been well chronicled in news stories, books and films, and the release of these field reports does not bring new understanding to Iraq’s past.
“However, it does expose secret information that could make our troops even more vulnerable to attack in the future. Just as with the leaked Afghan documents, 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. This security breach could very well get our troops and those they are fighting with killed.”
A NOTE FROM THE EDITORS
New York Times
October 22, 2010
Like a similar set of articles published in July about Afghanistan, the articles published today are based on thousands of United States military incident and intelligence reports from Iraq -- records of engagements, mishaps, intelligence on enemy activity, and other events. The New York Times, the British newspaper The Guardian, the German magazine Der Spiegel and the French newspaper Le Monde were given access to the material in June, on the condition that the contents not be made public until now.
These reports are used by desk officers in the Pentagon and troops in the field when they make operational plans and prepare briefings on the situation in the war zone. Most of the reports are routine, even mundane, but many add insights, texture, and context to a war that has been waged for nearly nine years.
Over all, these documents amount to a real-time history of the war reported from one important vantage point -- that of the soldiers and officers actually doing the fighting and reconstruction.
THE SOURCE OF THE MATERIAL
The documents -- 391,832 reports in all -- were made available by WikiLeaks, an organization devoted to exposing secrets of all kinds. WikiLeaks said it intended to post the material on the Internet after editing out material that could pose a danger to confidential informants and others.
WikiLeaks was not involved in the news organizations’ research, reporting, analysis and writing. The four news organizations agreed to publish their articles simultaneously, but each prepared its own articles.
Deciding whether to publish secret information is difficult, and after weighing the risks and public interest, we sometimes choose not to publish. But there are times when the information is of significant public interest, and this is one of those times. The documents illuminate the extraordinary difficulty of what the United States and its allies have undertaken in a way that other accounts have not.
Most of the incident reports are marked “secret,” a relatively low level of classification. The Times has taken care not to publish information that would harm national security interests. The Times and the other news organizations agreed that we would not disclose anything likely to put lives at risk or jeopardize military or antiterrorist operations. We have, for example, withheld any names of operatives and informants. We have avoided anything that might compromise intelligence-gathering methods, like communications intercepts.
To establish confidence in the information, the *Times* checked reports against incidents that had been publicly reported or witnessed by our own journalists. Government officials did not dispute that the information was authentic.
It is sometimes unclear whether a particular incident report is based on firsthand observation, on the account of an intelligence source regarded as reliable, on less trustworthy sources or on speculation by the writer. It is also not known what may be missing from the material, either because it is in a more restrictive category of classification or for some other reason.
IRAN SEIZED U.S. HIKERS IN IRAQ, U.S. REPORT ASSERTS
By Michael R. Gordon and Andrew W. Lehren
New York Times
October 22, 2010
Iran has accused three American hikers of illegally crossing into Iranian territory in July 2009 and is still holding two of them in prison. But a classified American military report made public by WikiLeaks, which describes the chaotic day when the hikers were detained, asserts that the hikers were on the Iraqi side of the border when they were seized.
The initial reports of any incident are not always correct. But one American government official who served in Iraq said that the field report was generally consistent with what he had been told by Iraqi officials -- namely, that the hikers were close to the border but on the Iraqi side.
The episode began when four Americans traveled from Syria to northern Iraq, planning to hike up the Ahmed Awa, a mountainous area with a dramatic waterfall. One American, Shon Meckfessel, became ill and stayed behind when his friends -- Shane M. Bauer, Joshua F. Fattal, and Sarah E. Shourd -- set out on July 31.
A July 31 field report states that Mr. Meckfessel learned of the arrests when a “female called him saying they were being surrounded by armed men.”
At first, the American military did not know who was holding the Americans. An intelligence officer at the American Army division based in northern Iraq, the report notes, initially described the event as a “kidnapping” and said the three American tourists “were being taken to the Iranian border.”
The report lists a number of military grids where the Americans were believed to have been hiking or had been detained -- all on the Iraqi side of the border.
As documented in the report, the frenetic effort to locate the American hikers and to interview Mr. Meckfessel appeared to support the claim that they were tourists and not American intelligence operatives, as Iran has alleged. A drone aircraft was sent to look for the missing Americans, and two F-16s jet fighters were alerted. American Special Operations forces were sent to pick up Mr. Meckfessel, so he could be taken to Baghdad for questioning.
As the day wore on, the Americans received a report from an officer with the pesh merga, the Kurdish military force in northern Iraq, that the Iranians had detained three American citizens “for being too close to the border.” The July report reflects some frustration with the hikers for their “lack of coordination” in venturing to northern Iraq and offers some thoughts on the episode’s broader implications.
“The leadership in Iran benefits as it focuses the Iranian population on a perceived external threat rather than internal dissension,” it notes.
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