Call it the Year of the Big Leak.
First it was the BP oil spill in the Gulf.
Now whistle-blowing website Wikileaks has released nearly 92,000 classified military documents on the Afghanistan war from between January 2004 through the end of 2009 to three international news outlets: the New York Times, the Guardian, and Der Spiegel.
Needless to say, the leak doesn’t paint a flattering picture of the war. It’s an ugly, deep guttural rack of a landscape portrait — golf cleats on gravel. But should anybody be surprised? War is about killing and maiming and awful things happen. And when the stakes are life and death, moral compasses crack and altar boys are scarce.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said today that he still has thousands more Afghan files to post online.
The White House, Britain and Pakistan have all condemned Sunday’s release of the classified documents. White House national security adviser Gen. Jim Jones said the release of the documents “put the lives of Americans and our partners at risk.”
Of course, the U.S. would like to keep its dirty little secrets just that. Which is why Mafia dons don’t have email addresses. But in times of war, let’s not be naive. Governments need covert operations and classified information as much as they do missiles and tanks.
The documents cover some known aspects of the troubled nine-year conflict: U.S. special operations forces have targeted militants without trial, Afghans have been killed by accident, U.S. officials have been infuriated by alleged Pakistani intelligence cooperation with the very insurgent groups bent on killing Americans, and the Taliban has obtained heat-seeking missiles for shooting down aircraft. They also included unreported incidents of Afghan civilian killings and covert operations against Taliban figures.
Assange said he believed that “thousands” of U.S. attacks in Afghanistan could be investigated for evidence of war crimes, although he acknowledged that such claims would have to be tested in court.
Just a hunch, but I suspect we haven’t heard the last of this story. Dewy soul-baring has quite the shelf life.