Spencer Ackerman / WIRED Magazine & BBC News – 2010-10-19 01:11:04
Superbombs and Secret Jails: What to Look for in WikiLeaks’ Iraq Docs
Spencer Ackerman / Danger Room, WIRED Magazine
(October 15, 2010) — â€¨The Afghanistan war logs were just the beginning. Coming as early as next week, WikiLeaks plans to disclose a new trove of military documents, this time covering some of the toughest years of the Iraq war. Up to 400,000 reports from 2004 to 2009 could be revealed this time — five times the size of the Afghan document dump.
It’s a perilous time in Iraq. Politicians are stitching together a new government. US troops are supposed to leave by next December.
Pentagon leaders were furious over the Afghanistan documents, but the American public largely greeted them with yawns. Iraqis might not be so sanguine.
It’s hard to imagine Iraq will fall back into widespread chaos over the disclosures. But they canâ€™t be good for the United States, as it tries to create a new postwar relationship with Iraq, or for the 50,000 US troops and diplomats still over there.
We don’t know what’s in the documents. But here’s what we’ll be looking to find in the trove — and some unanswered questions that the documents might address.
The Rise of Roadside Bombs
Iraq is more a war. It was a proving ground for todayâ€™s signature weapon: the improvised explosive device. Insurgents raided Iraq’s military weapons silos to jury-rig devices set off by a simple cellphone.
Later, they bent bomb casings into cones to form the deadlier Explosively Formed Projectile, essentially a bomb that shoots a jet of molten metal into and through an armored vehicle.
Conflicting reports credited the “superbombs” to Iran, or not. Look to the WikiLeaked documents for supporting evidence either way.
Early on, the military found that its jammers — devices emitting frequencies to block those believed to detonate bombs — didn’t work. Worse, rumor was the jammers actually set the bombs off themselves.
We could be about to learn a lot more about how U.S. forces endured the first new bomb threat of the 21st century.
Abu Ghraib and Missing Jails
The Abu Ghraib detainee-abuse scandal was one of the worst strategic debacles in recent US history. Aides to Gen. David Petraeus candidly said it inspired foreign fighters to join the Iraq insurgency.
Only one prison scandal came to light after Abu Ghraib: torture at the Special Ops facility known as “Camp Nama.” But journalists lost visibility into how the United States ran its detention complex in Iraq. Only in 2007, when Petraeus put Maj. Gen. Doug Stone in charge of rehabbing captured insurgents, did any sunlight return.
What happened for three years in the US jails where tens of thousands of Iraqis were held?
Lost US Guns
The Government Accountability Office reported in 2007 that the military had simply lost nearly 200,000 AK-47s and pistols it intended for Iraqi soldiers and police. Its documentation was a mess in 2004 and ’05, when Petraeus ran the training mission. Many of those guns are believed to have made their way to the black market and to insurgents.
The leaks may shed some light on how thousands of guns fell off the back of a truck.
Ethnic Cleansing of Baghdad
Shiite death squads and Sunni insurgents each preyed on the other side’s civilians in 2005 and 2006. More than a million Baghdadis were displaced from their homes in a massive demographic shift between March 2006 and July 2007.
It’s never been clear how much the US military knew about the cleansing. Low-level units watched it happen. And American psychological-operations troops certainly played on the religious splits to win local support.
But Gen. George Casey, then the top general in Iraq and now the Army’s chief of staff, has never answered questions about it. If the logs document the cleansing, he may have to speak up.
As much as the air war in Iraq became defined by the “Shock and Awe” bombing raids of its opening salvo, from the start there were at least ten types of unmanned planes the United States used for surveillance — from the Marines’ Dragon Eye to the Air Forceâ€™s iconic Predator.
But how did they prove their value to soldiers and Marines in Iraq? Gen. Petraeus says drones were crucial to the spring 2008 battle in Sadr City, finding targets for the troops below. And a secret task force used drone-fired missiles to kill bomb-planting insurgents.
What other spy gear was employed? Bob Woodward claims a “secret weapon” helped turned the war’s tide.
Could we see hints of it in the new WikiLeaks?
The Air War And More ‘Collateral Murders’
WikiLeaks makes no apologies for its antiwar agenda. Its Iraq and Afghanistan disclosures are designed to weaken support for both wars.
That’s why we should expect to see a lot more material like its gruesome April video showing an Apache helicopter killing people — including a Reuters photographer — who didnâ€™t threaten its crew. The video suggests that other combat aircraft in the confusing urban environments of Iraq might have also engaged in similar mistargeting.
If there are accounts of civilian casualties from what used to be an intense, violent air war — including, perhaps, hidden military documentation about the so-called “Collateral Murder” incident — WikiLeaks is going to publish them.
* WikiLeaks Drops 90,000 War Docs; Fingers Pakistan as Insurgent Ally
* Pentagon to Troops: Taliban Can Read WikiLeaks, You Can’t
* Top US Officer: WikiLeaks Might Have “Blood on Its Hands”
* Improvised Bombs: Down in Iraq, Up in Afghanistan; Tech Barely a Factor
* 4 Years Later, Pentagon Lets Allies Onto Anti-Bomb Website
Pentagon Braces for New Iraq War Wikileaks
(October 17, 2010) — The US military has assembled a 120-member team to prepare for the expected publication of some 400,000 Iraq war documents on the Wikileaks website. The documents are thought to concern battle activity, Iraqi security forces and civilian casualties.
The Pentagon said it wants the documents back to avoid potentially damaging information being released.
The timing is unclear but it would dwarf Wikileaks’ July publication of more than 70,000 Afghan war files.
Pentagon spokesman Col Dave Lapan said the team was reviewing the files on the Iraq war to discover what the possible impact of the Wikileaks release could be.
Col Lapan said the files were from an Iraq-based database that contained “significant acts, unit-level reporting, tactical reports, things of that nature”. He said the Pentagon did not know the timing of the leak but they were preparing for it to be as early as Monday or Tuesday. Other sources said it may come later in the month.
Col Lapan said the files should be returned to the Pentagon because “we don’t believe Wikileaks or others have the expertise needed. It’s not as simple as just taking out names. There are other things and documents that aren’t names that are also potentially damaging.”
Wikileaks’ release in July of thousands of documents on the war in Afghanistan prompted US military officials to warn that the whistleblower website might cause the deaths of US soldiers and Afghan civilians because some of the documents contained the names of locals who had helped coalition forces.
But US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said in a letter to the head of the Senate Armed Services Committee that the leak had not revealed any “sensitive intelligence sources or methods”. There have been fears that such leaks could damage US intelligence sharing with other nations as well as intelligence sharing between US agencies.
The investigation into the Afghan leak has focused on Bradley Manning, a US army intelligence analyst who is in custody and has been charged with leaking a classified video of a US helicopter attack in Iraq in 2007 in which a dozen people were killed.
The Wikileaks website is currently offline “undergoing scheduled maintenance”. Founder Julian Assange is being investigated in Sweden over an alleged sex crime. He denies the charge and says the the allegations are part of a smear campaign by opponents of his whistle-blowing website.
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