Breaking news today -- by WikiLeaks, not old media

Website Releases Secrets on War

By Julian E Barnes, Siobhan Gorman & Nathan Hodge/The Wall Street Journal
WASHINGTON—Thousands of secret military documents were released Sunday by a Web-based organization, a gigantic leak of classified information that appeared to present a bleak view of the Afghanistan war and could
have a profound impact on the public perception of the conflict.
The release of the documents, which were obtained and made public by the website WikiLeaks, evoked the Pentagon Papers, the secret history of the Vietnam War, which when published contradicted the public narrative of that war and played a role in turning public opinion against it.
Coming at a time when President Barack Obama's Afghanistan strategy has come under increasing criticism, the release will likely stoke criticism of the war effort, as well as spark a debate about the manner in which the information was made available.
WikiLeaks allowed three publications, the Guardian newspaper in London, the magazine Der Spiegel in Germany and the New York Times, to have access to the documents for several weeks. Those news outlets released stories in a coordinated manner Sunday.
The documents are mostly raw field reports, some spare, some mundane and others rich with narrative details. Many of the low-level reports are the kind that some intelligence experts consider the equivalent of second-hand rumors, said one U.S. official.
WikiLeaks said it was releasing some 91,000 documents, reports that cover a time period from January 2004 through the end of 2009. On its website, WikiLeaks also said it would delay the release of 15,000 reports at the request of its source. As it reviewed and redacted those documents, they too would be released, the statement said.
The most surprising finding in the reports may be that the Taliban have used sophisticated heat-seeking missiles against aircraft operated by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Afghan resistance fighters used similar weapons, provided by the U.S., to great effect against the Soviet Army in the 1980s. The U.S. military has never publicly acknowledged that the Taliban possess such weapons.
According to the reports, the Pakistani military's Inter-Services Intelligence agency provided the Taliban with safe haven in Pakistan, even as Islamabad was aiding the U.S. war effort. That charge has often been made privately by U.S. officials. Even in public, Gen. David Petraeus, the top commander in Kabul, has said the ISI retains ties with the Taliban.
Other reports detail missions conducted by Special Operation Forces charged with hunting down top insurgent commanders. The reports note that a number of U.S. unmanned aircraft have crashed and collided, undermining the overall success rate. That finding also has been previously reported by news organizations.
The release is sure to put attention on WikiLeaks, a Web-based group devoted to publishing state secrets. In April, the organization unveiled classified footage of a 2007 U.S. helicopter attack in Baghdad that killed two Reuters' employees. In addition to video shot from a helicopter gunship, the group released a package of documents related to the attack; it sent correspondents to Baghdad to track down survivors of the incident and conduct follow-up interviews.
At a news conference in releasing the video, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange called the pairing of investigative reporting with leaked footage a "powerful combination." .
Launched in 2007, WikiLeaks has posted a wide range of leaked documents from the internal correspondence of climate researchers to information on secret sorority rituals. The organization has designs on being seen as a serious newsgathering enterprise. The unusual agreement to team up with the three major news organizations appears to be an attempt to build on those aspirations.
In coming days, as officials and experts review the documents, new revelations are likely to come to light. The most important documents may be those dealing with the activities of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence and its relationship with the Taliban.

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