As promised, on Friday Wikileaks released almost 400,000 classified US documents about the war in Iraq.
Julian Assange, the founder of the whistleblowing website defended the release, arguing that the “intimate details” of the conflict were made public in an effort to reveal the truth about the conflict.
The “war logs” suggest evidence of torture was ignored, and detail the deaths of thousands of Iraqi civilians.
According to Iraq’s PM the release amounts to political interference in his country.
Nouri al Maliki’s office released a statement accusing Wikileaks of trying to sabotage his bid to form a new government by stoking up anger “against national parties and leaders, especially against the prime minister”.
Maliki is a Shia and he is struggling to keep his job after inconclusive general elections in March.
His Sunni opponents say the Wikileaks documents highlight the need to establish a power-sharing government, rather than one in which all the power was in Maliki’s hands.
It is the largest leak in US military history. Both the US and the UK condemned it, with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the UK’s Ministry of Defence suggesting the disclosures put lives at risk.
A Pentagon spokesman dismissed the documents as raw observations by tactical units, which were only snapshots of tragic, mundane events. He called their release a “tragedy” which aided enemies of the West.
Assange defended the release of the documents during a news conference in London. He said there were no reports of anyone coming to harm following the release of 90,000 documents on the war in Afghanistan earlier this year.
He added that the documents had been edited in order to remove any information that could harm individuals, saying that the snapshots of everyday events offered a glimpse at the “human scale” of the conflict.
The deaths of one or two individuals made up the “overwhelming number” of people killed in Iraq, Assange said.
Prof John Sloboda of Iraq Body Count, which worked with Wikileaks to analyse the material, added that the new documents and new deaths contained within them showed the range and frequency of the “small, relentless tragedies of this war”.
There were more than 109,000 violent deaths between 2004 and 2009, the logs showed.
They included 66,081 civilians, 23,984 people classed as “enemy”, 15,196 members of the Iraqi security forces, and 3,771 coalition troops.
The figures appear to contradict earlier claims that the US did not keep records of civilians killed.
Iraq Body Count collates civilian deaths using cross-checked media reports and other figures such as morgue records. Based on an analysis of a sample of 860 logs, it estimated that around 15,000 previously unknown civilian deaths would be identified.
On Friday, Wikileaks published 391,831 US army Sigacts (Significant Actions) reports. They describe the apparent torture of Iraqi detainees by the Iraqi authorities, sometimes using electrocution, electric drills and in some cases even executing detainees.
The documents suggest that US military knew of the abuses, however reports were sent up the chain of command marked “no further investigation”.
Under a “frago” – or fragmentary order, which changes an existing order – discovery by US staff of “Iraqi on Iraqi abuse” required no further investigation.
Iraqi Interior Minister Jawad Al-Bolani said the Baghdad government would “follow up” reports of human rights violations by Iraq’s security forces.
“Regardless how long the investigations will take there are courts and legal procedures that will bring to justice those who are involved in violations against any Iraqi.”
One of the documents released by Wikileaks show the US military was given a video apparently showing Iraqi Army (IA) officers executing a prisoner in the northern town of Talafar.
“The footage shows the IA soldiers moving the detainee into the street, pushing him to the ground, punching him and shooting him,” states the log, which also names at least one of the perpetrators.
Another document suggests that US soldiers suspected army officers of cutting off a detainee’s fingers and burning him with acid.
A Pentagon spokesman told the BBC that US military personnel were instructed to inform their commanders if abuse by the Iraqi security forces was witnessed, or reports of it were received.
The documents also reveal many previously unreported instances in which US forces killed civilians at checkpoints and during operations.
There are also new indications of Iran’s involvement in Iraq, with reports of insurgents being trained and using weapons provided by the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC).
Asked to remove the documents from the web and return them to the Department of Defense, Assange said that media organisations in the US and elsewhere were coming under pressure from the Obama administration not to report on or publish these documents.
July’s Afghan leak is being investigated. Bradley Manning, a US army intelligence analyst is in custody and has been charged with providing Wikileaks with a video of the July 2007 attack by a helicopter with the callsign Crazyhorse 18.
US military are getting ready to withdraw its 50,000 remaining troops from Iraq by the end of 2011.
Although over the past two years violence in the country has declined sharply, near-daily bombings and shootings continue.