It happened on a Friday, the anniversary of the first US casualties of the Vietnam War way back in l957. It was also the anniversary, in l964, of French philosopher Jean Paul Sartre's announcement that he was turning down the Nobel Prize. He later sat as a judge on Bertrand Russell's Vietnam War Crimes Tribunal, which indicted that conflict's carnage and lies.
It was the day this year that the often shadowy Wikileaks, chief nemesis of the Pentagon, maybe their worst nightmare -- considered perhaps even more dangerous than the Taliban -- surfaced again with the largest public drop of secret military documents in history. Wikileaks is a public web site run by the Sunshine Press, a non-profit group.
For understandable reasons, the Pentagon is at war with its information war against the war. Literally.
Wikileaks introduced the significance of their immense treasure trove of secrets on their website this way:
The 391,832 reports ("The Iraq War Logs"), document the war and occupation in Iraq, from 1st January 2004 to 31st December 2009 (except for the months of May 2004 and March 2009) as told by soldiers in the United States Army. Each is a "SIGACT" or Significant Action in the war. They detail events as seen and heard by the US military troops on the ground in Iraq and are the first real glimpse into the secret history of the war that the United States government has been privy to throughout.
This time around, and unlike the earlier dissemination of what they called Afghan "war logs," they sanitized these documents to remove names that might become targets for retribution. The gesture did not satisfy the Pentagon that said they would provide aid and comfort to the enemy. Forcibly retired General Stanley McCrystal called the release "sad."
The Los Angeles Times reported, "In addition to the Times, the documents were made available to The Guardian newspaper in London, the French newspaper Le Monde, Al Jazeera and the German magazine Der Spiegel on an embargoed basis.
The New York Times said it had edited or withheld any documents that would "put lives in danger or jeopardize continuing military operations.'' It said it redacted the names of informants, a particular concern of the Defense Department.
The Pentagon had been bracing for the release for months. Fearing more compromises of national security and more embarrassment for practices they wanted hidden, they had set up a Wkileaks war room staffed with 120 operatives in anticipation. The Central Command in Tampa Florida has been fully engaged in trying to get newspapers not to run "stolen" documents.
A special intelligence unit called the Red Cell was involved. The task has been to prod the American spy networks to operate in a more clever and more intelligent manner. (Ironically, Wikileaks had leaked some of their internal reports earlier.)
One report dealt with perceptions abroad that the US supported terrorists. Another was oriented toward how to sell support for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in Western Europe, counseling that "counting on apathy is not enough."
I can testify to their savvy. I met members of the unit at a University of Westminister conference in London in September on war and terrorism. There were three of them. Two stood out because of their crew cuts and military demeanor. A third was a Muslin woman. They were clearly on a reconnaissance mission probably linked to Wikileaks detection since it been reported that English students were helping the covert citizens agency target covert government activities.
I spoke at some length with their leader, an active duty Army Major in plain clothes, who told me that his unit in Iraq handled high value prisoners including Saddam Hussein. (They escorted him to the hangman, he revealed.) He was very friendly, made no secret of his affiliation but clearly was not at a leftist academic conference to collect footnotes.
As we know now, the Pentagon were unable to stop the release but may have pressured Wikileaks not to name names. We may never know what happened until Wikileaks finds some document about their anti-wikileaks operations.
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange accused the Pentagon of more than document editing. CNN reported, "The founder of Wikileaks was denied a Swedish residency permit on Monday and said his whistle-blowing website had been cut off by a company that handled many of its donations. Julian Assange blamed the financial cutoff on the U.S. government, which denied any involvement." Reports of Death Squads have received little pick up even as they were routinely reported during wars in Central America.
He had earlier intimated the US might have been behind the other incidents in Sweden that led to his being accused of sexual harassment, so-called "honey pot" traps used in seduction scenarios have always been part of espionage operations.