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Associated Press, Published October 23 2010

WikiLeaks: US didn’t investigate Iraqi war abuses

LONDON – U.S. forces often failed to follow up on credible evidence that Iraqi forces mistreated, tortured and killed their captives as they battled a violent insurgency, according to accounts contained in what was purportedly the largest leak of secret information in U.S. history.

The documents are among nearly 400,000 released Friday by the WikiLeaks website in defiance of Pentagon insistence that the action puts the lives of U.S. troops and their coalition partners at risk.

Although the documents appear to be authentic, their origin could not be independently confirmed, and WikiLeaks declined to offer any details about them. The Pentagon has previously declined to confirm the authenticity of WikiLeaks-released records, but it has employed more than 100 U.S. analysts to review what was previously released and has never indicated that any past WikiLeaks releases were inaccurate.

The 391,831 documents date from the start of 2004 to Jan. 1, 2010, mostly by low-ranking officers in the field. In terse, dry language, they catalog thousands of battles with insurgents and roadside bomb attacks, along with equipment failures and shootings by civilian contractors.

The United States went to war in part to end the brutality of Saddam Hussein’s regime, but the WikiLeaks material depicts American officers caught in a complicated and chaotic conflict in which they frequently could do little but report to their superiors when they found evidence that their Iraqi allies were committing their own abuses.

WikiLeaks offered The Associated Press and other news organizations access to a searchable database of redacted versions of the reports three hours prior to its general release Friday. A few news organizations, including the New York Times, Le Monde, The Guardian and Der Spiegel, were given access to the material far earlier.

WikiLeaks describes itself as a public service organization whose mission is to “protect whistle-blowers, journalists and activists who have sensitive materials to communicate to the public.” In July, despite objections by the U.S. government, it posted almost 77,000 documents from the Afghan conflict on its website.

Following that release, WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange drew controversy for comments that he wished to expose war crimes. He also became the target of allegations of sexual misconduct in Sweden that he has denied.

The military has a continuing investigation into how the documents were leaked. An Army intelligence analyst stationed in Iraq, Spc. Bradley Manning, has been arrested in connection with the earlier release.

In Friday’s release, names and other pieces of identifying information appeared to have been redacted, but it was unclear to what extent WikiLeaks withheld names in response to Pentagon concerns that people could become targets of retribution.

Allegations of torture and brutality by Shiite-dominated security forces – mostly against Sunni prisoners – were widely reported during the most violent years of the war when the rival Islamic sects turned on one another in Baghdad and other cities. The leaked documents provide a ground’s-eye view of abuses as reported by U.S. military personnel to their superiors and appear to corroborate much of the past reporting. They appeared to mostly be contemporaneous – routine field accounts that junior officers in units deployed across Iraq sent to headquarters within Iraq during the course of the war.

The leaked documents include at least 300 reports from across Iraq with allegations of abuse.

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