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WikiLeaks Defends Release of US Iraqi War Documents

Founder of the Wikileaks website Julian Assange speaks to the media on  during a press conference at the Park Plaza hotel in central London, 23 Oct  2010
Founder of the Wikileaks website Julian Assange speaks to the media on during a press conference at the Park Plaza hotel in central London, 23 Oct 2010

The international whistle blowing organization Wikileaks has released some 400,000 secret U.S. documents on the Iraq war out into the public domain. At a London news conference Saturday, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange defended that huge release saying it was in the public's right to know.

Justifying the massive release, Wikileaks' Julian Assange said that "truth" is often the first casualty of war and therefore the public, in the U.S. and in the wider international context, had a right to know.

"In our release of our 400,000 documents about the Iraq war, the intimate detail of that war from the U.S. perspective, we hope to correct some of that attack on the truth that occurred before the war, during the war and which has continued on since the war officially concluded," he said.

One headline coming out of this huge release concerns Iraqi casualties. According to Assange, the documents show in great detail, the extent of civilian deaths as compiled by the U.S. Army.

"The deaths of some 109,000 people are documented, internally declared, 66,000 civilians. Working with the Iraq Body Count [Project] we have seen that there are approximately 15,000 never previously documented or known cases of civilians who have been killed by violence in Iraq," he said.

Another important aspect of the release concerns allegations that U.S. and other coalition soldiers on occasion chose not to intervene in some cases when prisoners were tortured or abused at the hand of Iraqi forces.

British lawyer Phil Shiner says this U.S. documentation has direct legal relevance in places like Britain where he says legal action will be launched and pursued.

"U.S. and U.K. forces cannot turn a blind eye on the basis it was not their soldiers doing the torturing and that is what has happened as revealed in these logs," he said. "Both states have the clearest of international obligations to take definite and effective action to stop the torture by the Iraqis. That they did not makes them complicit."

Wikileaks has strongly defended its decision to go public with this disclosure and it has rebuffed claims from Washington that such leaks can endanger U.S. forces and others.

The whistle blower says that did not happen in its recent release of similar material concerning the war in Afghanistan.

Wikileaks says its censorship process is very thorough and ultimately it is U.S. taxpayers who have a right to know what it is being done in their name by their democratically-elected government.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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