Wikileaks has just published The Iraq War Logs, described as "the largest classified military leak in history."
The 391,832 reports document the war and occupation in Iraq, from 1st January 2004 to 31st December 2009 (except for the months of May 2004 and March 2009) as told by soldiers in the United States Army. Each is a 'SIGACT' or Significant Action in the war. They detail events as seen and heard by the US military troops on the ground in Iraq and are the first real glimpse into the secret history of the war that the United States government has been privy to throughout. The reports detail 109,032 deaths in Iraq, comprised of 66,081 'civilians'; 23,984 'enemy' (those labeled as insurgents); 15,196 'host nation' (Iraqi government forces) and 3,771 'friendly' (coalition forces). The majority of the deaths (66,000, over 60%) of these are civilian deaths.That is 31 civilians dying every day during the six year period.
The Guardian is among the first news orgs to publish analysis, and leads with the statement that the files show how the US turned a blind eye to torture in Iraq, and "expose serial abuse of detainees, 15,000 previously unknown deaths, and a full toll of Iraq's five years of carnage."
The archive is alleged to have been sourced from Pfc. Bradley Manning, the same US army intelligence analyst who is believed to have also leaked a smaller cache of 90,000 logs chronicling incidents in the Afghan war. According to the Guardian's early analysis, the new logs detail how:
• 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.
• A US helicopter gunship involved in a notorious Baghdad incident had previously killed Iraqi insurgents after they tried to surrender.
• More than 15,000 civilians died in previously unknown incidents. 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.
As of 1:46pm PT, Al Jazeera's coverage is live online and on-air. Here is their inforgraphic/data-mapping effort. A statement regarding redactions ends with an indication of which other news orgs were granted early access by Assange: "But working alongside the New York Times, The Guardian, Der Spiegel, and the UK's Channel 4 TV, Al Jazeera is clear that releasing the Iraq files – despite their secret nature – is vital to the public interest."
In a tweet posted around 145pm PT today, @wikileaks (presumably Julian Assange) wrote, "Al Jazeera have broken our embargo by 30 minutes. We release everyone from their Iraq War Logs embargoes."
So, which other news organizations had embargoed access to the documents? Again, from @wikileaks: "TBIJ, IBC, Guardian, Spiegel, NYT, Le Monde, Al Jazeera, Chan4, SVT, CNN, BBC and more in the next few hours. We maximise impact."
Update, 2:05pm PT: The New York Times coverage is now live in multiple parts. An A-1 placement story is due in Saturday's paper edition, and a profile of Assange is due out over the weekend as well. From the NYT overview:
A close analysis of the 391,832 documents helps illuminate several important aspects of this war:
¶ The deaths of Iraqi civilians — at the hands mainly of other Iraqis, but also of the American military — appear to be greater than the numbers made public by the United States during the Bush administration.
¶ While the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by Americans, particularly at the Abu Ghraib prison, shocked the American public and much of the world, the documents paint an even more lurid picture of abuse by America's Iraqi allies — a brutality from which the Americans at times averted their eyes.
¶ Iran's military, more than has been generally understood, intervened aggressively in support of Shiite combatants, offering weapons, training and sanctuary and in a few instances directly engaging American troops.
¶ The war in Iraq spawned a reliance on private contractors on a scale not well recognized at the time and previously unknown in American wars. The documents describe an outsourcing of combat and other duties once performed by soldiers that grew and spread to Afghanistan to the point that there are more contractors there than soldiers. [An article on this topic is scheduled to appear in The New York Times on Sunday.]
Update, 2:08pm PT: Le Monde's infographic and full coverage is now live.
Update, 215pm PT: Swedish television network SVT's data visualization effort goes live.
Update, 230pm PT: BBC items are going up now. Blog coverage at the BBC about Pentagon reaction here. And Der Spiegel's infographic package is now up, here. Notably, nothing of substance is up yet at CNN, Fox News, Washington Post, or Wired; all were presumably left out of early access by Wikileaks.
Update, 3:10pm PT: In a press release pre-dated for tomorrow, Amnesty International demands that the US investigate how much military commanders knew of torture documented in the leaked secret documents.
Update, 3:17pm PT: CNN publishes an "exclusive interview" with Assange, in which the Wikileaks founder says the leaks contain "compelling evidence of war crimes" committed by U.S.-led coalition and Iraqi government forces.
Update, 414pm PT: Wired News analysis is here.
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