Pentagon Ready for WikiLeaks Release of Iraq War Documents


ABC News' Luis Martinez reports:

The Pentagon is preparing for what it believes to be the imminent release by WikiLeaks of as many as 400,000 classified documents relating to the war in Iraq.

Via Twitter WikiLeaks has indicated that it will hold a press conference tomorrow morning in Europe. The following message was posted this morning, “Major WikiLeaks announcement in Europe at 10am tomorrow.”

Though the Pentagon does not anticipate any big surprises in the anticipated document dump, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said “we strongly condemn the unauthorized disclosure of classified information.” Morrell noted the documents “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.”

Defense Department spokesman Col. David Lapan said this morning that in the past 24 to 48 hours the Pentagon has been contacted by media organizations that have been cooperating with WikiLeaks and had prior access to their documents. Lapan refused to identify the news organizations that had contacted the Pentagon, but said they have been cautioned about the potential damage that might result from the documents publication.

Lapan said the Defense Department does not anticipate any big surprises from the document dump given its prior review of the documents they believe the site may have had to.

After WikiLeaks released 70,000 documents in July relating to the war in Afghanistan, the Pentagon quickly set up a 120 person task force to review the documents for potential damage. Lapan has said that in anticipation of a release of Iraq War documents, that same task force has spent the past few weeks reviewing a database of 400,000 “significant acts” from the war in Iraq.

Lapan said the documents will include tactical reports from late 2003 to 2010 containing brief unit-level observations of what those units saw on a daily basis. They include descriptions of attacks on Iraqi Security Forces and US forces, detainee abuse, civilian casualty incidents, IED blasts, discussions with Iraqis, and inquiries into socio-political relations.

Morrell described the reports as “initial, raw observations by tactical units” which “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.”

Lapan said the information contained in the incident reports did not include any follow-up that may have happened later. He said that any reports of detainee abuse or civilian casualties that might be contained in the reports have been well chronicled by the media over time.

As occurred with the Afghanistan documents, the Iraqi war documents would likely contain the names of Iraqis who cooperated with U.S. Forces. The Pentagon has continued to express concerns about WikiLeaks releasing unredacted information containing such names because of the potential harm they might face by insurgents. "Our concern is mostly with the threat to individuals, the threat to our people and our equipment," said Lapan.

Lapan said the task force looked for names of Iraqi individuals that might be included in the documents and passed this information to US Central Command Centcom, which presumably would pass them on to US Forces-Iraq.

However, Lapan said the Pentagon is not aware of any harm that might have befallen the individuals named in the Afghanistan WikiLeaks documents , “I don’t have any information thatfrom the first 77,000 documents that any individuals were killed. but then again I don’t think we have perfect knowledge either.” Lapan said there are other damaging impacts beyond naming people.

The investigation into the leaked Afghan war documents has focused on Army Specialist Bradley Manning, who worked as an Army intelligence analyst in Iraq. He is now under military detention in the Washington DC area under charges that he a classified video showing an Apache helicopter attack in 2007 that killed civilians and two Reuters news photographers.

Here is the text of the response sent to media organizations cooperating with WIkiLeaks urging them not to publish the materiels they have had access to.

“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 websites as soon as possible.“

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