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Leaked Reports Paint 'An Unvarnished And Grim Picture Of The Afghan War'

Three newspapers -- The Guardian, The New York Times and Der Spiegel -- have sifted through more than 91,000 secret documents related to the war in Afghanistan, released by WikiLeaks.

At a news conference, Julian Assange, the organization's founder, said that, for the past several weeks, WikiLeaks and the three newspapers worked together, in a "collaborative basement" in London, where they "shared research and computation techniques as equal partners."

(You can watch a video of the news conference after the jump.)

Although he said he will not divulge any information about the source of the leak, Assange told reporters that he is confident the information is genuine, and he explained his organization's publishing standards in some detail:

We have a harm-minimization process. Our goal is just reform. Our method is transparency. But we do not put the method before the goal.

Responding to questions about the significance of the material, Assange said that there is "first-glance evidence" of war crimes:

...it is up to a court to decide really if something in the end is a crime. That said ... there does appear to be evidence of war crimes in this material.

According to Assange, since the organization released video footage of an attack in Iraq, in which American military personnel killed two Reuters employees and several civilians, WikiLeaks has "built up an enormous backlog of whistle-blower disclosures."

He said they plan to go through it as soon as possible, pending a structural redesign of the WikiLeaks website.

You can read analysis of "The War Logs," also known as the "Afghan War Diary," here:

-- "The investigation: leak exposes real war," The Guardian
"A huge cache of secret US military files today provides a devastating portrait of the failing war in Afghanistan, revealing how coalition forces have killed hundreds of civilians in unreported incidents, Taliban attacks have soared and Nato commanders fear neighbouring Pakistan and Iran are fuelling the insurgency."

-- "The War Logs," The New York Times
"A six-year archive of classified military documents offers an unvarnished and grim picture of the Afghan war."

-- "Explosive Leaks Provide Image of War from Those Fighting It," Der Spiegel
"The war logs expose the true scale of the Western military deployment -- and the problems beleaguering Germany's Bundeswehr in the Hindu Kush."

According to NPR's Tom Gjelten, there is "a wide variety of leaked material," from field reports to intelligence reports to embassy memoranda.

"This is the raw, unsanitized, very-detailed version, the behind-the-scenes story of what U.S. commanders were hearing on the ground, day-to-day," he said onMorning Edition.

Reports detail the use of heat-seeking missiles by the Taliban, information about secret raids in Afghanistan, and new insights into the relationship between Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and insurgent forces in Afghanistan.

To learn more about WikiLeaks, check out thisFresh Airinterview with Philip Shenon, ofThe Daily Beast, and this profile of Assange, by The New Yorker's Raffi Khatchadourian.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

David Gura
Based in New York, David Gura is a correspondent on NPR's business desk. His stories are broadcast on NPR's newsmagazines, All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Weekend Edition, and he regularly guest hosts 1A, a co-production of NPR and WAMU.

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