Australia vows ‘painstaking’ WikiLeaks probe

SYDNEY — Australia on Sunday vowed a “painstaking” probe of classified documents about the Iraq war published by WikiLeaks, warning they could compromise operational security and put collaborators at risk.

By (AFP)

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Published: Sun 24 Oct 2010, 10:26 AM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 8:27 AM

Defence Minister Stephen Smith said a special taskforce would examine the material — some 400,000 classified US military papers about the conflict in Iraq between 2004 and 2009, in which more than 20,000 Australian troops served.

The heavily redacted logs appear to show that the US military turned a blind eye to evidence of torture and abuse of Iraqis by the Iraqi authorities, with graphic accounts of torture, civilian killings and Iran’s hand in the Iraq war. “The great danger of releasing such unauthorised information is that it does prejudice the security of our operations. It enables people to have an insight into them,” Smith told commercial television.

“It does potentially put people at risk who have assisted us in the past,” he added.

Both Washington and London have warned that the disclosure could endanger the lives of coalition troops and Iraqi civilians.

Smith said Australia was likely to be less impacted than its major partners in Iraq, having formally ended its commitment in the country in July 2009.

“We have no troops or forces or personnel militarily in Iraq, and so therefore the danger is in that respect less,” he said, nonetheless promising a “painstaking” review of the documents.

An inquiry into similar material about the Afghan war released by WikiLeaks in July had found “in substantive terms, fortunately, there has been no prejudice done” to Australia’s collaborators or its interests, he added.

“The substance of the report is that no damage has been done, and thankfully, that’s a good thing,” he said.

Smith said the full defence department review of the Afghan material would be made public in the coming week.

Australia has some 1,550 troops committed to the US-led war against Taliban insurgents — the largest non-NATO contingent.

WikiLeaks has flagged the imminent release of a further 15,000 secret files on the war in Afghanistan which have been held back for line-by-line reviewing and redacting.

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