The leaked documents reveal that U.S. soldiers have mistakenly killed 195 civilians over 6 years.  (Source: War News Updates)

The leak is the masterpiece of ex-computer criminal Julian Assange who runs Wikileaks and who has engaged in a crusade against the U.S., which he believes in acting with malice on a global scale.  (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
Classified materials reveal 195 civilian casualties on U.S. hands, serious allegations against Pakistan

After nearly five months of silence and only 12 leaked documents this year, Wikileaks bellowed to life, releasing 90,000 classified U.S. government documents detailing the U.S. military and aid campaigns to combat terrorism in Afghanistan.

With the release, Wikileaks continues to gun hard for the U.S. government, playing the role of hostile foreign espionage organization-cum-whistleblower.  Funded by shadowy anonymous donors, two-thirds of the site's previous leaked documents targeted the U.S. or close ally Iraq -- and that total has now soared to well over 90 percent.  While Wikileaks has released some important documents from other regions from Africa to Asia, the quantity of those leaks pales in comparison to the site's targeted efforts against the U.S.

The recent leak is the masterwork of site leader Julian Assange, an ex-computer criminal who today lives in Iceland, a nation whose specially designed freedom of speech laws shelter him from prosecution.  Assange was first elevated into the public eye with the release of gun cam footage of a July 2007 U.S. airstrike in Baghdad, which killed civilians, including two Reuters employees.  That video was dubbed "collateral murder" by Assange and required days of supercomputer time to crack the advance encryption protections by the U.S. gov't.

The new documents offer what Assange claims is damning evidence of U.S. wrongdoing and meddling in Afghanistan and Pakistan.  Among the highest profile claims is that the U.S. "murdered" innocent civilians.

In reality, the documents reveal a surprisingly low number of tragic incidents.  Over a six-year military operation plagued with tense situations and suicide bombings, the U.S. Military reports being aware of only 144 incidents in which civilians appear to be killed.  Most of these involve drivers or motorcyclists who were mistaken for suicide bombers and shot.  In total 195 civilians died and 174 were wounded.  The highest profile incident involved 15 passengers being killed or wounded when a U.S. patrol unleashed machine gun fire on a bus.

It's hard to make premature judgements on these incidents.  And any loss of life is certainly tragic and unsavory.  That said, considering that close to 10,000 civilians are estimated to have died from local secular violence and over 1,000 U.S. soldiers are estimated to have been killed in Afghanistan, that total appears remarkably low.

The site is fulfilling its role as a whistleblower at least to some respect, in so much as many of these incidents were previously undisclosed.

The documents also reveal that roadside bombs killed 2,000 civilians in Afghanistan alone – this was over 10 times the total killed by the U.S. in both Afghanistan and Iraq.  The documents also revealed a classified anti-Taliban commando unit dubbed the "black unit".  That unit's objective was apparently to "kill or capture" Taliban leaders without bringing them first to trial in the U.S. or Afghanistan.

Other leaked documents reveal that the U.S. suspects several of its key allies are facing pro-terrorist sentiments from within their own ranks.  Pakistan, which currently receives $1B USD a year to fight terrorism reportedly has high ranking government officials which the U.S. Military claims were supporting the Taliban and seeking to undermine U.S. operations.  

One official in the nation's security services, the ISI, even reportedly plotted to kill pro-U.S. Afghani President Hamid Karzai in 2008.  The report also reveals other ISI operative to be engaged in training and employing a network of suicide bombers, starting in 2006.

There's much to say about the new report.  First and foremost, it comes at a time when the U.S. government is seeking to prosecute Pvt. 1st Class Bradley Manning, the U.S. solider station in Iraq who likely leaked these documents.  Amid that backdrop they appear clearly geared at exposing perceived U.S. wrongdoing and represent a continuation of the site's targeting of the U.S.

There's no real smoking gun in the reports.  Many wouldn't even constitute whistleblowing as they deal with logistics aspects like troop numbers or weaponry -- these releases can clearly be perceived as hostile foreign intelligence engaged by Wikileaks.  That said there is a great deal of compelling material here.  Most of the material -- a relatively small number of civilian casualties and Pakistani government involvement with terrorism -- was already widely known, if some specific details were lacking.  The docs certainly clarify the picture of these issues, as seen through the eyes of the U.S. Military.

The question now becomes what to do.  The leak is likely the largest in U.S. Military history.  It has been condemned by the Obama administration.  But the administration must tread cautiously or it risks being viewed at home or abroad as callous about civilian deaths or unsupportive of its allies.

The Obama administration did blame the previous Bush administration, which masterminded most of the Iraq and Afghanistan military operations as engaging in "under-resourcing", which resulted in many of the tragic loss-of-life incidents.  However, the harder question is what to do about Assange and Wikileaks.  If the Obama administration tolerates the site, it's likely to continue its targeted attack of the U.S -- but if it moves against it, it will likely be accused of conspiracy to undermine journalism and be validated Assange's claims of international hostility towards him, which to this point appeared paranoia.

For Wikileaks, the leak represents both problems an opportunity.  After being down for some time, the site's secure submissions server is now back alive and the site has drawn its most attention grabbing leak yet.  Yet, its biggest source of leaked info about the U.S. is currently sitting in prison and it faces the potential of covert or open action from the U.S. government.  

The biggest opportunity for the site, though, is for it to target wrongdoing worldwide -- not just in the U.S.  China, Russia, and North Korea are just a few of the nations that could benefit from the scrutiny.  However, Wikileaks has to date offered no indication it's interesting in becoming an equal-opportunity whistleblower.  In total it has released only 215 Chinese leaks, versus close to 100,000 U.S. leaks.  Empowered by its new publicity, will the site turn from a crusade against the U.S. towards a crusade against injustice?  It remains to be seen if it will be given that opportunity, and if given, whether it will take it.

The full archive of the new leaked documents is available here.

"What would I do? I'd shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders." -- Michael Dell, after being asked what to do with Apple Computer in 1997

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