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Wikileaks founder defends Afghan War Diary files at the Frontline

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The founder of whistle-blowing website Wikileaks today described the release of more than 90,000 classified US military documents on the war in Afghanistan as the equivalent to the East German Stasi secret police opening up its files after the collapse of communism.

Julian Assange was speaking at the Frontline Club, the club at a press conference in front of many British and international print and broadcast journalists about the documents, which were released to the world last night.

The files detail US military action in Afghanistan - including many unreported civilian casuatles - since between 2004 and 2010. Many documents contradict allied armed forces' official account of specific incidents.

If you couldn't be at this event, you can watch the whole thing here, divided into two parts

Asked what was the most damaging part of the disclosures, he said that was not the point.

"I get asked that a lot... But that is not the real story - it's that war is one damn thing after another. The continuous small events, the continuous deaths of children, civilians and armed forces.

"Most of the deaths in this war are as a result of the everyday squalor of war, not the big events."

The documents were released in partnership with The Guardian, the New York Times and German paper Der Spiegel and chronicle in minute detail US military operations between 2004 and late 2009.

The trio of newspapers assisted in collating and measuring the vast amount of data - though Assange admitted that Wikileaks and its partners had only read as many as 2,000 of the documents and that a further 15,000 files remain unpublished. A redacted version of the unreleased documents will be released soon, Assange said.

Assange rejected the idea that the disclosure may put civilillians or soldiers at risk in Afghanistan. "We have tried hard to make sure that this material does not put innocents at harm... all the material is more than seven months old," he said.

But his own personal safety and that of Wikileaks' supporters and collaborators is another matter: "From time to time we have threat warnings form our sources and we take those seriously... In the US we haven't felt a threat to our personal safety." Assange alleges that American security agencies asked the Australian state to begin surveillance of him, but the request was turned down.

A new openness

For journalists, the release of this data is seismic in its importance. As Assange puts it, journalists now "have exactly the same information the US military has to prepare its reports." The only problem is finding the time and resources to read, collate and make sense of the rest of the War Log disclosures.

Assange admitted that while it may be very revealing, the information within the files is not always correct: "Those are legitmate reports but it doesn't mean the content is true," he said, pointing out that different kinds of reports tend to emphasise different things. "When units report on other military units, they tend to be more frank.... and when they are reporting on the Taliban then all the evil comes out."

This is the equivalent of opening the Stasi aarchives. No one particular Stasi file has the ability to change the country, to change Germany. It is a history, an enormous compendium of information... We really have just scratched the surface - we've only read about 1,000 to 2,000 files. It will take the world's press to look at this, as well as the soliders, the refugees, and the Taliban.

The Frontline Club runs a series of panel discussions, training and events for members and non-members. The Frontline is controlled by a charitable trust which aims to support independent journalism.

To see a list of other upcoming Frontline events, go to www.frontlineclub.com.


Michael S. Mitchell | July 28, 2010 7:51 AM

The fact that we are in a war of areas that are far from home lands with our countries.

The fact that these lands do produce large amounts of money, in saudi arabia, oil countries, drug countries, etc.

This money may very well be sent back to our countries while we are focused over there to buy our infrastructure

like Vieola for instance that has bought all the water departments of the world and the transportation of all

airports of the world that are not islamic for instance, and this infrastructure could be used as a weapon to

kill us all. No one knows who owns the infrastructure of USA, UK, Canada, New Z. Aus. etc. They have bought here in

the USA all tour companies, rail ways, bus companies for cities, airport contracts, water departments and all these are

all capable of being used in a bio-war project that could kill us all in one day all over the world now! I have proof that

most all the tour companies is owned in the usa by ben ladens lawyer daniel boulange a Saudi construction lawyer

CEO of Gray Line through Baines Pickwick LTD of ireland.... put (rig bids vieola) in google. They own everything in the

world and growing. If this is an evil war tool, it is a big one! Keep an eye on it~ 310 514-0010 mickey :-)

7/27/2010 disneyland usa - They have contributed to every political possible event to get what they have and growing.

Michael S. Mitchell | July 28, 2010 6:51 PM

Sorry i miss spelled Veolia - companies now a days try and make names hard to talk about due to spelling etc.

With the new technology we seem to be getting some - where. I must say front line club is a great place.

I worked with bucky fuller for many years and suggest everyone read Critical Path by him. thank you for your time.

Damien @ BlatantWorld.com | August 2, 2010 5:13 AM

Thanks so much for getting this video up on viddler. I suspect looking back at these vids in 6 months or a year might add another dimension to how they may be viewed, and what it all meant.

We've added both vids to our site over the w/e, to hopefully do our bit to help spread the word>