Leaked US documents show 'truth' on Iraq: WikiLeaks founder
WikiLeaks' founder Julian Assange said Saturday that hundreds of thousands of classified US military documents leaked by the website showed the 'truth' on the Iraq war.
"This disclosure is about the truth," Assange told a news conference in London after WikiLeaks released 400,000 documents which give a grim snapshot of the Iraq war, including showing the abuse of Iraqi civilians by Iraqi security forces.
"The attack on the truth by war begins long before war starts and continues long after a war ends," Assange added.
"We hope to correct some of that attack on the truth that occurred before the war, during the war and which has continued on since the war officially concluded."
WikiLeaks' spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson told the same news conference that it would also soon release a further batch of 15,000 secret files on the war in Afghanistan.
The heavily redacted files released Friday contain graphic accounts of torture, civilian killings and Iran's hand in the Iraq war, giving a grisly picture emerges of years of blood and suffering following the 2003 US invasion to oust Saddam Hussein.
The Iraqi government said the documents "did not contain any surprises".
Many of the documents, which span from January 2004 to December 2009, chronicle claims of abuse by Iraqi security forces, while others appear to show that US troops did nothing to intervene to stop the abuse.
The documents comprise the second such release from the controversial website, which accused the United States of "war crimes" and earlier released some 92,000 similar secret military files detailing operations in Afghanistan.
WikiLeaks made the files available to selected newspapers and TV channels and then, just before their publication, invited journalists for a three-hour lock-in preview in London.
In one report, US military personnel describe detainee abuse by Iraqis at a facility in Baghdad that is holding 95 detainees in a single room where they are "sitting cross-legged with blindfolds, all facing the same direction."
It says "many of them bear marks of abuse to include cigarette burns, bruising consistent with beatings and open sores... according to one of the detainees questioned on site, 12 detainees have died of disease in recent weeks."
Other reports describe Iraqis beating prisoners and civilian women being killed at US military checkpoints.
The Guardian newspaper said the leak showed "US authorities failed to investigate hundreds of reports of abuse, torture, rape and even murder by Iraqi police and soldiers whose conduct appears to be systematic and normally unpunished."
It added that "more than 15,000 civilians died in previously unknown incidents," going on to say that "US and UK officials have insisted that no official record of civilian casualties exists but the logs record 66,081 non-combatant deaths out of a total of 109,000 fatalities."
The Guardian said WikiLeaks is thought to have obtained the electronic archive from the "same dissident US army intelligence analyst" who leaked 90,000 logs about the war in Afghanistan this year. WikiLeaks has not revealed its source.
Al-Jazeera concluded that major findings of the leaked papers included a US military cover-up of Iraqi state-sanctioned torture and "hundreds" of civilians deaths at manned American checkpoints.
On Iran's role in the conflict, the secret US files show Tehran waging a shadow war with US troops in Iraq, with a firefight erupting on the border and Tehran allegedly using militias to kill and kidnap American soldiers.
The documents describe Iran arming and training Iraqi hit squads to carry out attacks on coalition troops and Iraqi government officials, with the elite Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps suspected of playing a crucial role, the Times and the Guardian reported, citing the files.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned "in the most clear terms" the leaks of any documents putting Americans at risk, while the Pentagon warned that releasing secret military documents could endanger US troops and Iraqi civilians.
Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said the documents were "essentially snapshots of events, both tragic and mundane, and do not tell the whole story."
A spokesman for the Iraqi rights ministry said: "The report did not contain any surprises, because we had already mentioned many things that happened, including at Abu Ghraib prison, and many cases involving US forces."
© 2010 AFP