The Revelations of WikiLeaks: No. 2 —The Leak That ‘Exposed the True Afghan War’
nThree months after it published the “Collateral Murder” video, WikiLeaks on July 25, 2010 released a cache of secret U.S. documents on the war in Afghanistan. It revealed the suppression of civilian casualty figures, the existence of an elite U.S.-led death squad and the covert role of Pakistan in the conflict, among other revelations. The publication of the Afghan War Diaries helped set the U.S. government on a collision course with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange that ultimately led to his arrest last month. nThe war diaries were leaked by then-Army-intelligence-analyst Chelsea Manning, who had legal access to the logs via her Top Secret clearance. Manning only approached WikiLeaks, after studying the organization, following unsuccessful attempts to leak the files to The New York Times and The Washington Post.nA major controversy surrounding the Diaries’ release were allegations that operational details were made public to the Taliban’s battlefield advantage and that U.S. coalition informants’ lives were put at risk by publishing their names.n Despite a widely-held belief that WikiLeaks carelessly publishes un-redacted documents, only 75,000 from a total of more than 92,201> internal U.S. military files related to the Afghan War (between 2004 and 2010) were ultimately published. nWikiLeaks explained that it held back so many documents because Manning had insisted on it: “We have delayed the release of some 15,000 reports from the total archive as part of a harm minimization process demanded by our source.”nManning testified at her 2013 court-martial that the files were not “very sensitive” and did not report active military operations. n“As an analyst I viewed the SigActs [Significant Activities] as historical data. This event can be an improvised explosive device attack or IED, small arms fire engagement or SAF engagement with a hostile force, or any other event a specific unit documented and recorded in real time.n“In my perspective the information contained within a single SigAct or group of SigActs is not very sensitive. The events encapsulated within most SigActs involve either enemy engagements or causalities. Most of this information is publicly reported by the public affairs office … They capture what happens on a particular day in time. They are created immediately after the event, and are potentially updated over a period of hours until final version is published on the Combined Information Data Network Exchange [CIDNE].nAlthough SigAct reporting is sensitive at the time of their creation, their sensitivity normally dissipates within 48 to 72 hours as the information is either publicly released or the unit involved is no longer in the area and not in danger.nIt is my understanding that the SigAct reports remain classified only because they are maintained within CIDNE … Everything on CIDNE-I and CIDNE-A to include SigAct reporting was treated as classified information.”nManning testified that the data she leaked had been “sanitized” of sensitive information. She further explained in her court martial, her motive for leaking the documents. She said:n“I believe that if the general public, especially the American public, had access to the information contained within the CIDNE-I and CIDNE-A tables this could spark a domestic debate on the role of the military and our foreign policy in general as [missed word] as it related to Iraq and Afghanistan.nI also believed the detailed analysis of the data over a long period of time by different sectors of society might cause society to reevaluate the need or even the desire to even to engage in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations that ignore the complex dynamics of the people living in the effected environment everyday.”nWikiLeaks explained its reasons for publishing Manning’s material:n“The reports do not generally cover top-secret operations or European and other ISAF Forces operations. However when a combined operation involving regular Army units occurs, details of Army partners are often revealed.nFor example a number of bloody operations carried out by Task Force 373, a secret U.S. Special Forces assassination unit, are exposed in the Diary — including a raid that lead to the death of seven children. This archive shows the vast range of small tragedies that are almost never reported by the press but which account for the overwhelming majority of deaths and injuries.”nSignificant Findings:nCovering Up Civilian CasualtiesnBurying Afghan civilians. (Ariana News)nThe Diaries documented cover-ups and misreporting of civilian deaths. The Guardian reported that the files illustrated at least 21 separate occasions in which British troops were said to have shot or bombed Afghan civilians, including women and children. “Some casualties were accidentally caused by air strikes, but many also are said to involve British troops firing on unarmed drivers or motorcyclists who come ‘too close’ to convoys or patrols,” the newspaper reported.n“Bloody errors at civilians’ expense, as recorded in the logs, include the day French troops strafed a bus full of children in 2008, wounding eight. A US patrol similarly machine-gunned a bus, wounding or killing 15 of its passengers, and in 2007 Polish troops mortared a village, killing a wedding party including a pregnant woman, in an apparent revenge attack,” said The Guardian.nThe Diaries revealed a cover-up of civilian casualties and possible evidence of war crimes. “These detailed reports show coalition forces’ attacks on civilians, friendly fire incidents and Afghan forces attacking each other – so-called green on green,” The Guardian said. At least 20 friendly-fire cases were reported. Assange said in a written affidavit given in 2013 that the material documented “detailed records about the deaths of nearly 20,000 people.” nPakistan Backing Terror GroupsnAmong the significant revelations of the Afghan War Diaries is the U.S. belief in the covert roles that Pakistan has played in the war. n“More than 180 intelligence files in the war logs, most of which cannot be confirmed, detail accusations that Pakistan’s premier spy agency has been supplying, arming and training the insurgency since at least 2004,” The Guardian reported.n“Pakistan’s military spy service has guided the Afghan insurgency with a hidden hand, even as Pakistan receives more than $1 billion a year from Washington for its help combating the militants,” wrote The New York Times on the day the Diaries were published.
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