BY Meena Hartenstein DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Sunday, July 25th 2010, 6:35 PM
Nearly 100,000 military documents spanning six years of the war in Afghanistan have been made public Sunday, in what is being touted as the "biggest leak in intelligence history."
Called "The War Logs," the massive database of leaked military intelligence was put online on Sunday evening by whistleblower website WikiLeaks in conjunction with Britain's The Guardian, the New York Times, and Germany's Der Spiegel newspaper.
The three major media outlets were given access to the logs several weeks ago to review and verify their authenticity.
The data is overwhelming - 92,201 internal records - and serves to offer a glimpse into the day-to-day struggles, challenges, frustrations and failures of a military on the ground fighting a slippery and violent insurgency.
A mountain of information, the documents reveal that hundreds of civilian casualties have gone unreported.
They also suggest that Pakistan has been aiding the insurgency, allowing its spies to meet and strategize with Taliban leaders, even plotting together to assassinate Afghan leaders.
While those who have reviewed the documents report that they do not explicitly contradict official accounts of the war, the picture that emerges is "in many respects more grim than the official portrayal," the Times reports.
The documents, which were largely classified as "secret" when they were written, are for the most part "no longer military sensitive," according to the Guardian.
But these archives, which span from January 2004 through December 2009, "illustrate in mosaic detail why, after the United States has spent almost $300 billion on the war in Afghanistan, the Taliban are stronger than at any time since 2001," reports the Times.
There are some tactical details that may come as a surprise to the American public, such as the fact that the Taliban have used heat-seeking missiles against allied aircraft – a fact the government has not released.
The reports also reveal that the CIA expanded its operations in Afghanistan, even running the country's spy agency for the bulk of the war essentially as a proxy intelligence arm.
Most of the reports, it seems, give life to the military's struggle against the insurgency, an enemy that has proved increasingly adaptable and deadly as the war drags on.
"The insurgents set the war’s pace, usually fighting on ground of their own choosing and then slipping away," notes the Times after reviewing the reports.
The giant archive of material was released to the three publications by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, whose website specializes in publicizing sensitive information leaked from whistleblowers without being traceable back to the source.
In May, the Pentagon tried to put a stop to the military leaks making their way to WikiLeaks, arresting 22-year-old Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning who had confided to a hacker that he was responsible for sending the website a 2007 video which showed a U.S. army helicopter gunning down a Reuters photojournalist, his driver, and a dozen others.
That video, which went viral, was called “Collateral Murder” and was a great embarrassment to the military.
After Manning’s arrest, the Pentagon began to put pressure on Assange, saying publicly that they would like to find him.
Instead, Assange connected with the Guardian and began the process of sharing the mountain of information he had collected.
According to the Guardian, he feared that if he only released the data in raw form on his website, the significance could be lost in the mass quantities of data.
Ultimately the three media outlets became involved, and the Times, Guardian, and German weekly Der Spiegel agreed to publish the reports simultaneously with WikiLeaks.
The White House lashed out against WikiLeaks for releasing the documents.
Benjamin Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications in the White House, said, “We strongly condemn the disclosure of classified information by individuals and organisations, which puts the lives of the US and partner service members at risk and threatens our national security. Wikileaks made no effort to contact the US government about these documents, which may contain information that endanger the lives of Americans, our partners, and local populations who co-operate with us."
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