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WikiLeaks’ Redaction Doesn’t Remove Danger

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 25, 2010 – Despite WikiLeaks’ attempt to redact the names of Iraqi informants from its recent leak of classified military reports, some of those people are still in danger, a Pentagon spokesman said today.

On Oct. 22, WikiLeaks released more than 400,000 sensitive documents chronicling military operations during the Iraq war from 2004 to 2009.

“We had identified 300 or so people whose names were [mentioned in the documents] that possibly would be put at risk if their names were published,” Pentagon spokesman Marine Corps Col. Dave Lapan said.

Of that group, he added, the names were removed but “in a few dozen cases there’s still information that could identify those people.”

Such remaining information includes job titles, he said.

The U.S. Central Command has the names of those potentially at risk and “is deciding whether they’re going to make notifications or not,” Lapan said.

A joint task force led by the Defense Intelligence Agency is comparing the original with redacted documents, he said, to assess the damage that WikiLeaks’ publication of the classified Iraq significant-activities reports, called the SIGACTS data base, could pose to the U.S. military, Iraqi allies and current operations.

During an Oct. 22 State Department press briefing with Pakistani Foreign Minister Mahmood Qureshi, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton denounced the WikiLeaks release of sensitive military documents.

“We should condemn in the most-clear terms the disclosure of any classified information by individuals and organizations which puts the lives of United States’ and partner servicemembers and civilians at risk,” she said, “threatening our national security and the national security of those with whom we are working.”

The count of civilian war deaths in Iraq –- 15,000 more than reported by the Pentagon, according to some news reports and the nongovernmental organization Iraq Body Count -– is one topic arising from the WikiLeaks’ release.

“We have rejected the premise that … the U.S. has not been tracking civilian casualties. We have. We report that on a regular basis to Congress,” Lapan said.

Also in the reports to Congress, he added, “We note carefully that these are not a complete picture. … We don’t profess to have knowledge about every civilian that’s killed across Iraq. We can only report on the ones that we’re aware of.”

All reports of civilian casualties –- even those that put the number of casualties at 15,000 more than the U.S. has reported -- all come from the same SIGACTS data base, Lapan said.

“The matter of trying to estimate Iraqi civilian casualties in the war has been an ongoing issue,” he said, including a June report by the Congressional Research Service.

“To suggest that there is some kind of precise number that some organization has, I find hard to believe,” he added, “because over the years it has been impossible for any of the various organizations that have tried to come to agreement on a specific figure.”

 

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