As promised by a Twitter posting on Friday afternoon, the whistleblower site WikiLeaks is about to release a large number of documents related to hostilities in Iraq, and analysis of the documents by selected news sources has already begun to appear.
"See TBIJ, IBC, Guardian, Spiegel, NYT, Le Monde, Al Jazeera, Chan4, SVT, CNN, BBC and more in the next few hours," the brief notice boasts. "We maximise impact."
At 4:47 EST, however, the site noted that Al Jazeera had broken the embargo on the documents by 30 minutes and that all other news sources were being released from the embargo as a result. So far, BBC, the Guardian, the New York Times, and Der Spiegel have English-language reports on various aspects of the release. There is also more detailed analysis at iraqwarlogs.com.
According to Der Spiegel, the release consists of "391,832 field reports from US soldiers from a Pentagon database. ... They show the everyday aspects of the campaign as US soldiers experienced it. The thousands of threat analyses, attack reports and arrest records allow a very precise reconstruction of the escalation of the sectarian battle between the Shiites and Sunnis, how it brutalized Iraqi society and how kidnappings, executions and the torture of prisoners became routine practices. The reports also provide some evidence that neighboring countries including Syria and Iran were involved in the war."
"The documents included in the WikiLeaks database aren't of the highest level of classification," the German paper continues. "At most, they are 'secret,' but not 'top secret.' As such, many of the most sensational events in the Iraq war don't make an appearance, including the torture scandal at Abu Ghraib. ... However, they have the cumulative effect of painting a precise picture of an asymmetrical war, one in which a superpower equipped with state-of-the-art weaponry often stands helpless on the battlefield against individual fighting units, as brutal as they are nimble. The material shows how the constant state of fear paralyzed the world's last remaining superpower."
The BBC story is headlined "US forces 'ignored Iraq torture'." It notes that "a new batch of secret US military records being released by Wikileaks shows commanders did not investigate torture by the Iraqi authorities. The documents also suggest 'hundreds' of civilians were killed at US military checkpoints after the invasion in 2003." The Guardian story is similarly headlined "secret files show how US ignored torture."
The Times currently has three front-page stories on the documents, but the accounts appear to be phrased in less critical terms than those at the British sources. The headline on the torture story, for example, states, "Detainees Fared Worse in Iraqi Hands." The Times also focuses on intelligence reports indicating that Iran was involved in training and supplying Iraqi insurgents.
The latest WikiLeaks saga has already been beset by high drama. Earlier on Friday, a blogger at Forbes.com pointed to a Wednesday posting on the group's Twitter feed, reading, "WikiLeaks communications infrastructure is currently under attack. Project BO move to coms channel S. Activate Reston5."
"A Wikileaks source who asks to remain anonymous now says that the organization’s XMTP server in Amsterdam, used to host its encrypted instant messaging communications, was compromised earlier this week by an unknown attacker, and the chat service had to be relocated to another server in Germany," the Forbes blogger explains. "'The server got attacked, hacked, and the private keys got out,' says the source. ... The source added that the attack represented the first breach in Wikileaks’ history, and that 'the people who are behind it are very skilled,' declining to comment further on the details of the hack."
A major press conference on the document release is forthcoming, and Daniel Ellsberg -- the Vietnam War era whistleblower who released the Pentagon Paper in 1971 -- spoke to Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez of Democracy Now! before flying to London on Friday night to take part.
"I’m glad to express my support of what WikiLeaks is doing and its sources, in particular," Ellsberg stated. "Whoever gave this information to WikiLeaks obviously understood that they were at risk of being where Bradley Manning is now: accused, in prison. We don’t know—I don’t know who the source was. And if Bradley Manning is shown by Army, beyond a reasonable doubt, to have been the source, he’ll have my admiration and thanks for doing that. I’ve faced that kind of risk myself forty years ago, and it always seemed worthwhile to me to be willing to risk one’s life in prison, even, to help shorten a war, like Afghanistan or Iraq.