A Department of Defence Task Force has completed its investigation into the unauthorised release of classified military documents relating to International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) activities in Afghanistan by the organisation ‘WikiLeaks’ on 25 July 2010.
The Task Force conducted a detailed examination of the leaked materials to identify references to Australian interests and Australian personnel. These results were compared with operational reporting and Defence public statements to determine the potential impact on Australian interests and personnel, including the protection and operations of forces deployed in Afghanistan.
The investigation found that the leaked materials were predominantly tactical-level reporting, the majority of which was low-level operational reporting of activities such as patrols, community engagement and routine operational activities. Some of the documents also covered foreign diplomatic reporting.
The Australian Government’s concern, in calling for a review of the materials, was to ensure that as a result of the leaking of the materials, steps were taken by Defence to mitigate any risks to Australians, our partners, those with whom we work including in the local community, and our ongoing operations.
The Task Force found that significant operational issues relating to Australia referred to in the leaked materials had already been publicly reported by Defence and, in most cases, reported in greater detail than in the leaked materials.
Many classified operational reports published by WikiLeaks would not routinely be made public by Defence, for operational security reasons. The investigation found that the leaked documents have not had a direct significant adverse impact on Australia’s national interests. Operational areas of Defence have confirmed that necessary measures have been taken to mitigate against risks to operational security.
The review concluded that no local sources were clearly identified and steps have been taken to mitigate the risk of this occurring.
The investigation also found that current Defence processes for public reporting of significant operational events are appropriate, and that Defence achieves high levels of transparency while protecting information that could put the lives of Australian Defence Force personnel, our ISAF and Afghan National Security Force partners, and Afghan civilians at risk.
The Task Force is now examining the recent publication by WikiLeaks of around 400,000 documents relating to the war in Iraq. The investigation will take some time, given the volume and complexity of the material. The findings of this investigation will also be released in due course.
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