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Leaks show hidden Afghanistan war details

Tuesday, July 27, 2010 05:03:00 PM, Agencies

An Afghan child watches from a car as US soldiers patrol in the Dand district of Kandahar Province.

(Photo: AFP)

Washington: Two newspapers are reporting that 90,000 leaked US military records amount to a blow-by-blow account of six years of the Afghanistan war, including unreported killings of Afghan civilians as well as covert operations by special operations forces against Taliban figures.

The New York Times and The Guardian of London say the documents were made available to them, as well as the German weekly Der Spiegel, by the online whistle-blower organisation Wikileaks.

A US official it may take days to comb through all the documents. The source of the leak is believed to be a US Army analyst who was arrested in Iraq and has been charged with leaking classified information.


The White House reacted strongly within hours of the release. National Security Advisor General James Jones said in a statement that the U.S. "strongly condemns the disclosure of classified information by individuals and organisations which could put the lives of Americans and our partners at risk, and threaten our national security".

'Wikileaks founder defends'
The founder of Wikileaks says that angry reactions to his release of tens of thousands of US military documents on the Afghan war show the whistleblower website is succeeding in its mission.

Julian Assange, 39, an Australian former hacker and computer programmer, told the Guardian newspaper: "If journalism is good it is controversial by its nature.

"It is the role of good journalism to take on powerful abuses, and when powerful abuses are taken on, there is always a back reaction.

"So we see that controversy and we believe that is a good thing to engage in."

The site, which styles itself "the first intelligence agency of the people", was founded in December 2006 and invited would-be whistleblowers from around the world to make anonymous contributions.

It attained international fame in 2009 when it published internal documents from multinational shipping company Trafigura implicating the firm in toxic waste dumping in the Ivory Coast.

Until the Afghan dossier, Wikileaks' most prominent scoop was a video posted in April this year showing a US Apache helicopter strike in Baghdad in 2007. Around a dozen civilians were gunned down, including two Reuters employees.

A US soldier, Private First Class Bradley E. Manning, was charged earlier this month with misconduct over the leak.

The site has also hosted a copy of the US Army's operating procedures for the detention centre at Guantanamo Bay, and emails from the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia implying scientists had hidden flaws in their data.

Assange says the site operates from servers in countries including Sweden and Belgium, whose laws help to protect its information.

It has about half a dozen full-time volunteers and can call on 800 to 1,000 people for expertise in areas such as encryption, programming and writing news releases, the New York Times said.

In May this year Assange's passport was briefly confiscated by Australian authorities and he said in June that lawyers had advised him not to travel to the United States.

The US government has repeatedly criticised the site, saying its disclosures threaten national security and endanger lives, and may present a biased picture.

The White House denounced the leak of the Afghan papers and a US official said the site was "not an objective news outlet but rather an organisation that opposes US policy in Afghanistan".

But Assange said he believed publication was in the public interest, and told the New York Times that Wikileaks had withheld the documents from release until it could redact the names of individuals whose safety might be at risk.

"It shows not only the severe incidents but the general squalor of war, from the death of individual children to major operations that kill hundreds," he told The New York Times from London.




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