US condemns Irag war leaks
US officials have condemned the leak of about 400,000 classified documents related to the Iraq war, saying it endangers American troops and possibly hundreds of Iraqi collaborators.
The documents, released to Al Jazeera and a number of other media outlets by WikiLeaks, contain details of civilian casualties and allegations that the US turned a blind eye to abuse committed by Iraqi forces.
While declining to discuss the specifics of the documents, Hillary Clinton, the secretary of state, said: “I do have a strong opinion that we should condemn in the most clear terms the disclosure of any classified information by individuals and or organisations which puts the lives of United States and partner servicemembers and civilians at risk.”
Geoff Morrell, the press secretary of the Pentagon, echoed her remarks, saying the details revealed “could potentially undermine our nation’s security”.
“The biggest potential damage here, we think, could be to our forces … because there are now potentially 400,000 documents in the public domain for our enemies to mine, look for vulnerabilities, patterns of behaviour, things they could exploit to wage attacks against us in the future.”
He said about 300 Iraqis mentioned in the documents are “particularly vulnerable to reprisal attacks” because of the documents’ release and that US forces in Iraq are trying to protect them.
Anders Fogh-Rasmussen, the Nato secretary-general, also warned that the release could endanger individuals’ safety.
“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,” he said.
However, aware that releasing data such as names of individuals might raise concerns about their safety, Al Jazeera and its media partners have blanked out all the names of people who appear in the files before publishing.
The US made similar comments about the possible danger to US servicemen and those working with them after WikiLeaks released 90,000 documents about the Afghan war in July.
But so far, the Pentagon has not reported any incidents of reprisals against Afghans named in the leaked documents.
In an assessment outlined in a letter a month after the leak, Robert Gates, the defense secretary, said: “The initial assessment in no way discounts the risk to national security; however, the review to date has not revealed any sensitive intelligence sources and methods compromised by this disclosure.”
A 120-strong pentagon task force was scouring an Iraq war database before media published the documents to prepare for potential fallout from the release.