WikiLeaks’ Redaction Doesn’t Remove Danger, Official Says

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.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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