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Published: Tuesday, 10/26/2010

Covert insights

WikiLeaks has released to selected media outlets a mass of documents from inside the government, this time for the most part describing U.S. and other activities in the Iraq war.

Most of the 391,832 documents date from 2004 to 2009. Predictably, the government deplored their release, citing the possibility of classified information in the material constituting a threat to national security or to the security of American forces in the field. The New York Times, one of four publications to receive the information, said that it redacted or withheld any documents that would have jeopardized operations or put lives in danger.

The importance of Americans becoming aware of what is being done in their name, by U.S. forces paid for by taxpayer dollars, outweighs the government's claim of any threat.

The most disturbing data in this round of WikiLeaks (the organization released material in July about the war in Afghanistan) are the reports of U.S. troops standing by, not intervening, as Iraqi forces tortured prisoners. The public went down that road with the 2004 reports of U.S. torture of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison. This time it was Iraqis conducting the abuse.

Other information in the newly released documents is that Iraqi civilian casualties in the seven-year-old war may have been much higher than previous figures show. The reports in the WikiLeaks documents provide previously unknown names and incidents that boost the number of Iraqi civilian casualties by at least 15,000.

For the most part, the information from WikiLeaks does not reflect well on the Bush and Obama administrations — neither in what was done, nor in how the material was withheld, to surface to the public only as leaks.

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