Nelson Mandela: A life in pictures
Nelson Mandela and his wife Winnie in this undated file picture.
The monumental leak of classified Afghan war documents threatened Monday to create new conflict with Pakistan, whose spy agency was a focus of much of the material, and raised questions about Washington’s own ability to protect military secrets. The White House called the disclosures “alarming” and scrambled to assess the damage.
The documents are described as battlefield reports compiled by various military units that provide an unvarnished look at combat in the past six years, including U.S. frustration over reports Pakistan secretly aided insurgents and civilian casualties at the hand of U.S. troops.
WikiLeaks.org, a self-described whistleblower organization, posted 76,000 of the reports to its website Sunday night. The group said it is vetting another 15,000 documents for future release.
Col. Dave Lapan, a Defense Department spokesman, said the military would probably need “days, if not weeks” to review all the documents and determine “the potential damage to the lives of our service members and coalition partners.”
The White House says it didn’t try to stop news organizations who had access to secret U.S. military documents from publishing reports about the leaks. However, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said it did ask WikiLeaks — through reporters who were given advanced copies of the documents — to redact information in the documents that could harm U.S. military personnel.
It was not clear whether Wikileaks’ decision to withhold 15,000 of its files was related.
The Pentagon declined to respond to specifics detailed in the documents, including reports of the Taliban’s use of heat-seeking anti-aircraft missiles.
“Just because they are posted on the Internet, doesn’t make them unclassified,” Lapan said.
The Pentagon says it is still investigating the source of the documents. The military has detained Bradley Manning, a former Army intelligence analyst in Baghdad, for allegedly transmitting classified information. But the latest documents could have come from anyone with a secret-level clearance, Lapan said.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange promised on Monday that the release of documents — one of the largest unauthorized disclosures in military history — was just the beginning.
Assange told reporters in London that he believed that “thousands” of U.S. attacks in Afghanistan could be investigated for evidence of war crimes, although he acknowledged that such claims would have to be tested in court.
Assange pointed in particular to a deadly missile strike ordered by Taskforce 373, a unit allegedly charged with hunting down and killing senior Taliban targets. He said there was also evidence of cover-ups when civilians were killed, including what he called a suspiciously high number of casualties that U.S. forces attributed to ricochet wounds.
The Defense Department declined to respond to specifics contained in the documents, citing security reasons.
But Lapan said that coalition forces have made great strides in reducing the number of civilian deaths in Afghanistan.
White House national security adviser Gen. Jim Jones said the release of the documents “put the lives of Americans and our partners at risk,” while Pakistan dismissed the documents as malicious and unsubstantiated.
Pakistan Ambassador Husain Haqqani said the documents “do not reflect the current on-ground realities.” Islamabad’s ministry of foreign affairs issued a similar statement, defending Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the ISI, against allegations it has supported insurgent networks.
“The people of Pakistan and its security forces, including the ISI, have rendered enormous sacrifices against militancy and terrorism,” the ministry wrote.
NATO refused to comment on the leak, but individual nations said they hoped it wouldn’t harm current operations in Afghanistan.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said there has been significant progress recently in building up the Afghan state “so I hope any such leaks will not poison that atmosphere.”
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle warned about possible “backlashes” and urged all sides in Afghanistan to work toward national reconciliation.
Rep. Ike Skelton, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said the documents reflect his view that U.S. war strategy was adrift last year, before President Barack Obama’s decision to retool the war plan and add tens of thousands of U.S. forces.
Skelton, D-Mo., warned Monday that the documents are outdated and “should not be used as a measure of success or a determining factor in our continued mission there.”
U.S. government agencies have been bracing for the deluge of classified documents since the leak of helicopter cockpit video of a 2007 fire fight in Baghdad. That was blamed on Manning, the 22-year-old Army intelligence analyst who was charged with releasing classified information earlier this month.
Manning had bragged online that he downloaded 260,000 classified U.S. cables and transmitted them to WikiLeaks.org.
Assange on Monday compared the impact of the released material to the opening of East Germany’s secret police files. “This is the equivalent of opening the Stasi archives,” he said.
He also said his group had many more documents on other subjects, including files on countries from across the globe.
“We have built up an enormous backlog of whistleblower disclosures,” he said.
Assange said he believed more whistle-blowing material will flood in after the publicity about the Afghan files.
“It is our experience that courage is contagious,” he said.
Raphael Satter reported from London. AP Writers Kimberly Dozier in Washington, Kirsten Grieshaber in Berlin and Robert Burns in Washington contributed.
Nelson Mandela and his wife Winnie in this undated file picture.
Mandela is accompanied by his former wife Winnie, moments after his release from prison February 11, 1990 after serving 27 years in jail. (Reuters)
In this February, 1990 photo, shortly after his release from 27 years in prison, Nelson Mandela, gives the black power salute to the 120,000 supporters packing Soccer City stadium in Soweto, near Johannesburg. (AP Photo)
Nelson Mandela showed his passport in February 19, 1990, shortly after his release from prison. The South African government authorized an application for himself and his wife Winnie - (Juda Ngwenya / Reuters)
In this July 27, 1991 photo, Cuban President Fidel Castro, and Nelson Mandela gesture during the celebration of the "Day of the Revolution" in Matanzas, Cuba. (AP Photo)
In this July 4, 1993 photo, President Bill Clinton and Nelson Mandela listen during Fourth of July ceremonies in Philadelphia during which Clinton presented the Philadelphia Liberty Medal to the African National Congress president and South African President F.W. de Klerk. (AP Photo/Greg Gibson)
President of the African National Congress Nelson Mandela acknowledges cheers from the crowd as he prepares to unveil the ANC's official election platform in 1994. (AP Photo/David Brauchli)
African National Congress (ANC) leader Nelson Mandela greeted residents of Mmabatho in March 1994, during a visit after the nominal homeland came under South African control following the ousting of the former President Lucas Mangope. (Reuters/Howard Burditt)
South African President Nelson Mandela smiles with actor Sidney Poitier at a press conference in Cape Town in 1996. Poitier played Mandela in the film "One Man, One Vote" (AP Photo / Sasa Kralj)
South African President Nelson Mandela waves to crowds as he sits next to Queen Elizabeth II in a an open carriage on the way to Buckingham Palace.(AP/Louisa Buller)
Chairman of the Constitutional Assembly Cyril Ramaphosa, left, holds up a copy of the country's constitution which was signed by President Nelson Mandela, in December 1996. (AP Photo / Adil Bradlow / POOL)
Nelson Mandela at a news conference in Johannesburg in February 2000. (AP Photo / Denis Farrell)
South African rugby captain Francois Pienaar, right, received the Rugby World Cup trophy from President Nelson Mandela also wearing a South African rugby shirt, after South Africa defeated New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup , in 1995. (AP Photo / Ross Setford)
On July 25, 2010, the international whistle-blower WikiLeaks released more than 92,000 documents related to the Afghanistan War. WikiLeaks had given the "Kabul War Diary" documents several weeks earlier to the New York Times, the Guardian and Der Spiegel, which all released reports that same
day. As the Associated Press put it, the war logs "amount to a blow-by-blow account of six years of the Afghanistan war, including unreported incidents of Afghan civilian killings as well as covert operations against Taliban figures."