Reuters | Oct 23, 2010 | 7:18pm IST
WikiLeaks said on Saturday its release of nearly 400,000 classified U.S. files on the Iraq war showed 15,000 more Iraqi civilians died than previously thought. Uploaded on the WikiLeaks’ website, the files detailed gruesome cases of prisoner abuse by Iraqi forces that the U.S. military knew about but did not seem to investigate. In Baghdad, Iraqi officials responded to WikiLeaks’ move by pledging to probe any allegations that police or soldiers had committed crimes and any culprits would be prosecuted.
The whistle-blowing website’s founder, Julian Assange, who was sharply criticised by the Pentagon for publishing the secret reports, said the release should throw light on what had happened in Iraq, thwarting an official "attack on the truth". "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," he told a news conference in London.
Working with Iraq Body Count, a group run by academics and peace activists that estimates Iraq casualties, WikiLeaks had calculated that the documents revealed about 15,000 previously unknown civilian deaths, Assange said. "Adding in the combatant deaths reported in these logs … we are now able to say that more than 150,000 people have been killed in total since 2003, of which about 80 percent were civilians," Iraq Body Count co-founder John Sloboda said. The Pentagon decried the website’s publication of the secret reports — the largest security breach of its kind in U.S. military history, far surpassing the group’s dump of more than 70,000 Afghan war files in July.
PENTAGON DEPLORES LEAK
U.S. officials said the leak endangered U.S. troops and threatened to put some 300 Iraqi collaborators at risk by exposing their identities. "We deplore WikiLeaks for inducing individuals to break the law, leak classified documents and then cavalierly share that secret information with the world," said Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon press secretary. Britain’s Ministry of Defence condemned the release of classified material, saying it could put the lives of British soldiers at risk.
Deutsche Welle | 25/08/2010
German federal prosecutors said Wednesday they have charged three German citizens with supporting groups linked to al-Qaeda. One of those indicted, 28-year-old Filiz G. is the wife of a man convicted in March of planning a series of car bombs targeting Germans and US soldiers. She has been in custody, along with the 21-year-old Alican T., since February. Authorities are still searching for a second male suspect, the 31-year-old Fatih K.
The German authorities say the three allegedly remitted 4,300 euros ($5,458) from November 2009 to February 2010 to Islamic terror groups abroad. They are also accused of spreading radical Islamist videos on the Internet with Filiz G. allegedly making around 1,000 posts to a leading web forum for Islamists in Germany. Continue reading
Alternet.org | FAIR.org | 11/08/2010
For the last few years, the war in Afghanistan seemed to be an afterthought in the U.S. media. That all changed in a hurry with the publication of tens of thousands of classified intelligence documents by the website WikiLeaks. Those files were shared with several newspapers, each of which published extensive reports offering their interpretations of the documents. Suddenly, the chaos and violence of the Afghanistan War was back on the front pages and leading the network newscasts. For some in the media, though, the attention was unwarranted. These documents were not the Vietnam-era Pentagon Papers, we heard everywhere–as if that were the standard for revelations worth paying attention to. The Washington Post boasted headlines like “WikiLeaks Disclosures Unlikely to Change Course of Afghanistan War” and “WikiLeaks Documents Cause Little Concern over Public Perception of War.” A few days later, USA Today reported that indeed the public was concerned–support for the Afghanistan war “plummeted,” according to their new poll.
What people learned from the WikiLeaks documents depended on what they were reading. The British newspaper The Guardian reported that the files are “a devastating portrait of the failing war in Afghanistan, revealing how coalition forces have killed hundreds of civilians in unreported incidents.”The New York Times, like many other U.S. outlets, downplayed the stories of civilian killings, a decision the paper’s executive editor defended by saying those incidents “had been previously reported in the Times.” Even some liberal columnists were sounding a similar note, filling out the media’s “We already knew this” chorus. Some even thought the WikiLeaks documents were proof that civilian killings were a small problem. A Washington Post editorial argued that the 195 deaths mentioned in the WikiLeaks files “do not constitute a shocking total for a four-year period.” This message was seconded by CBS correspondent Lara Logan, who explained that 195 deaths are nothing compared to the 2,000 deaths attributed to the Taliban. Logan actually suggested that the media should pay more attention to that fact. Continue reading
An international Christian aid group on Monday played down claims by the Taliban they had killed 10 members from one of the group’s medical teams, saying it was still unclear who was responsible. Dirk Frans, executive director of the International Assistance Mission (IAM), also told a news conference that an Afghan driver who was with the team was in custody at the Interior Ministry in Kabul. He did did not say if the driver, identified only as Safiullah, was a suspect. “Safiullah is in Kabul at Ministry of Interior facilities,” Frans said, adding he had been able to speak with him briefly. “He sounded quite okay. He is one of the witnesses, he is not the only witness. I know his relatives have had access to him.” An Interior Ministry spokesman was not immediately available to comment.
Frans’s comments, casting doubt about whether the Taliban were behind the attack, were in contrast to a statement by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton which directly blamed the Islamist group for what she described as a “despicable act of wanton violence”. On Saturday, the Taliban claimed responsibility for Thursday’s killings, saying the medical workers had been carrying bibles in Dari — one of Afghanistan’s two main languages — and were killed because they were promoting Christianity. Another Islamist group also said it had carried out the attack. But Frans said local police had initially raised the possibility of bandits, adding the team’s valuables were stolen. “There are very confusing reports,” he said, adding both Afghan and U.S. authorities are investigating the incident. “If armed opposition claims an attack it is (usually) within hours of it happening. That was not the case this time,” Frans said, playing down the Taliban’s claim. Continue reading
NY mosque near Sept. 11 site wins approval – Yahoo! India News | Reuters | 04/08/2010 | 12:47 am IST
A New York city agency on Tuesday cleared the way for construction of a Muslim cultural center near the site of the Sept. 11 attacks. In a case that triggered national debate, the City Landmarks Commission voted unanimously to deny landmark status for an old building on the site of the planned center. Opponents of the Muslim center, which would include a mosque, say it will be a betrayal of the memory of victims of the Sept. 11 attacks, which were carried out by the militant Muslim group al Qaeda with hijacked passenger planes. Critics had hoped to stall the project by having the 1857 Italianate building declared a landmark worthy of protection because pieces from one of the hijacked planes hit it.
Commission members argued the building, set among a row of businesses about a block from Ground Zero, had no historic value and their vote allows the old building to be demolished. At least one more legal challenge looms but the commission’s ruling will clear the way for construction of the Cordoba House, which will include a prayer room and a 500-seat auditorium as part of a 13-story Muslim cultural complex. “We are grateful to the Landmarks Commission,” said Sharif El-Gamal, chairman and CEO of Soho Properties, which owns the building. “It has been a whirlwind for the past four months, during which we have worked tirelessly to realize an American dream which so many others share.” The commission’s vote attracted several people with signs reading “This mosque celebrates our murders” and “Don’t glorify murders of 3,000.”
SURVIVOR GROUP APPROVES
But the September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, founded by family of those killed in the 9/11 attacks, praised the commission for making its decision without caving in to politics and emotion. “We strongly support the establishment of the Islamic Cultural Center as we believe that welcoming the center, which is intended to promote interfaith tolerance and respect, is consistent with the fundamental American values of freedom for all,” the group said in a statement. The American Center for Law Continue reading
The White House is imploring the website WikiLeaks not to release any more classified documents about the Afghanistan war. The self-proclaimed whistleblower organisation says it has another 15,000 documents. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs says the Taliban has declared it is combing the documents for the names of people who have cooperated with international forces. He says the release of any more files will do more damage. “We can do nothing but implore the person that has those classified top secret documents not to post any more,” he said. But the founder of Wikileaks, Julian Assange, says there is no evidence to back up US concerns that any of its informants have been killed as a result of the leaks.
He has accused the Pentagon – which yesterday said Wikileaks had “blood on its hands” – of trying to distract attention from the lives that are being lost in the war. “One must consider why the Pentagon is focusing on the hypothetical blood that it says might be on our hands, although there is no evidence of that, compared to the 20,000 lives that have been lost in Afghanistan that are Continue reading
BBC News | 26 July 2010 | 10:06 GMT
The United States has condemned as "irresponsible" the leak of 90,000 military records, saying publication could threaten national security. The documents released by the Wikileaks website include details of killings of Afghan civilians unreported until now. Three news organisations had advance access to the records, which also show NATO concerns that Pakistan and Iran are helping the Taliban in Afghanistan. Pakistan has denied claims its intelligence agency backed the Taliban. The huge cache of classified papers – posted by Wikileaks as the Afghan War Diary – is one of the biggest leaks in US history. It was given to the New York Times, the Guardian and the German news magazine, Der Spiegel.
In a statement, US National Security Adviser Gen James Jones said such classified information "could put the lives of Americans and our partners at risk". He said the documents covered the period from 2004 to 2009, before President Obama "announced a new strategy with a substantial increase in resources for Afghanistan". Pakistan denied claims its intelligence agency, the ISI, backed the Taliban in the war in Afghanistan. "I think that the American leadership knows what Pakistan is doing," Pakistan’s ambassador in Washington, Husain Haqqani, told the BBC. "We have paid a price in treasure and in blood over the last two years. More Pakistanis have been killed by terrorists, including our military officers and intelligence service officials. "We are not going to be distracted by something like this," he said.
The reports also suggest:
The Taliban has had access to portable heat-seeking missiles to shoot at aircraft.
A secret US unit of army and navy special forces has been engaged on missions to "capture or kill" top insurgents.
Many civilian casualties – caused by Taliban roadside bombs and NATO missions that went wrong – have gone unreported.