US & World

WikiLeaks Begins Exposing 400,000 U.S. Documents About The Iraq War

Australian founder of whistleblowing website, 'WikiLeaks', Julian Assange holds up a copy of The Guardian newspaper during a press conference in London on July 26, 2010.
Australian founder of whistleblowing website, 'WikiLeaks', Julian Assange holds up a copy of The Guardian newspaper during a press conference in London on July 26, 2010.
Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images

Whistleblower site WikiLeaks has released some 400,000 classified U.S. military documents, according to reports.

Whistleblower site WikiLeaks has begun to release what is estimated to be some 400,000 classified military documents related to U.S. operations in Iraq. Media organizations report that the papers offer new details about civilian deaths, as well as the mistreatment of Iraqi insurgents.

So far, the site run by editor-in-chief Julian Assange has given the documents only to certain media outlets -- among them, the Al Jazeera TV network, The New York Times, France's Le Monde newspaper, The Guardian and Germany's Der Spiegel magazine.

Many are what the military calls "significant activity" reports -- essentially raw intelligence papers prepared by U.S. soldiers in the field.

Here's what I've seen so far about the reports on U.S. involvement in Iraq:

The New York Times has several reports which mine the documents for new details about massive civilian deaths, the Iraqis' treatment of detainees, and the revelation that Iran possibly seized three U.S. hikers on the Iraqi side of the border.

Al Jazeera is focusing on revelations about torture, especially the possibility that U.S. personnel were under a "secret US military order not to investigate Iraqi torture." The network will begin airing its reports about the documents tonight.

The Guardian reports similar findings about torture, but with an additional report about 15,000 'unkown' civilian deaths. The British newspaper describes U.S. troops firing upon people who were attempting to surrender, and recounts several episodes in which soldiers fired upon civilian vehicles at checkpoints.

The Guardian also used dozens of log entries to reconstruct a single day in the U.S. occupation of Iraq -- Oct. 17, 2006. Summaries of reports from that day are displayed next to a map that details where each event occurred.

NPR's Rachel Martin is reporting on reactions from the U.S. military, where officials have been bracing themselves for the documents to be released. The Pentagon says that files like the ones released by WikiLeaks don't tell the whole story.

Here's an excerpt from Martin's report for NPR News:

Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell says the documents do expose secret information that could 'make our troops even more vulnerable to attack in the future.'

Wikileaks has never named the source who handed over the secret documents. But an intelligence analyst for the U.S. Army named Bradley Manning has been arrested for allegedly leaking secret information.

An earlier batch of documents exposed by WikiLeaks pertained to the war in Afghanistan. After that release, NPR's Teri Gross spoke to New York Times reporter Mark Mazzetti about what he learned from those papers. Copyright 2010 National Public Radio. To see more, visit