Five Times Julian Assange’s Wikileaks Exposed Dirty Secrets of US Military


The Australian whistleblower’s extraordinary methods have divided opinion for over a decade, but many believe he did a great service to society by exposing the misdeeds of the American army

Whistleblower and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange returned to Australia this week, capping a 14-year-long legal battle that gripped global attention and laid bare some of the worst secrets of the US government.

WikiLeaks has been a controversial organisation known for publishing a wide range of classified documents. Supporters view it as a vital tool for uncovering government and corporate secrets, while others whose information has been made public, such as the US government, see it as a harmful and irresponsible entity.

Here are some of the offences committed by the US military that WikiLeaks has brought to light and which may not have been disclosed otherwise:

Apache helicopter attack in Baghdad

In April 2010, one of the most significant WikiLeaks disclosures came out. It published video footage of a US Apache helicopter attack on unarmed civilians in Baghdad.

Twelve people were reportedly killed in the July 12, 2007 assault, including two Reuters journalists — Namir Noor Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh.

The aerial video, accompanied by audio conversation, showed a small group of people in a neighbourhood, where US pilots in the helicopter identified the journalists’ cameras as weapons before opening fire.

Afterwards, when a van approached to offer assistance to the wounded, the helicopter pilots could be heard, almost too eagerly, requesting permission to attack.

“Come on, let us shoot,” one voice said. Permission was granted, and the pilots once again opened fire, killing several people in and around the van. “Oh yeah, look at that. Right through the windshield! Ha ha!”

In an interview with Al Jazeera in 2010, Assange said the video demonstrates how war can corrupt pilots and the military, especially in the context of modern warfare.

“So you see these young pilots acting like they’re playing video games, only the high scores they are getting are with real human lives,” Assange said.

Guantanamo Bay prisoner abuse

In April 2011, WikiLeaks released thousands of pages of documents to select US and European media outlets detailing the treatment of detainees at the now notorious Guantanamo Bay detention camp, a US military prison also known as Gitmo, in Cuba.

According to The New York Times, which was one of the outlets the documents were released to, the records provide detailed information about the detainees, from the personal belongings they had in their pockets when they were captured to their health conditions, history of interrogations, disciplinary issues, and comments made by the detainees about each other.

The classified documents, dating from February 2002 to January 2009, also revealed the abuse of nearly 800 prisoners and breaches of international humanitarian law.

At least 150 Afghans and Pakistanis, who were hastily detained and imprisoned for years, were later found innocent because they were mistaken for someone else or simply for being at the wrong place at the wrong time, showcasing some of the detrimental consequences of President George W. Bush’s “war on terror” campaign.

The Bush administration opened the military prison 22 years ago to detain suspected terrorists after September 11. Today, it still holds 30 men, many without criminal charges, nor has there been a trial for the 2001 attacks, NPR reported.

Civilian torture, killings in Afghanistan and Iraq

WikiLeaks published an extensive collection of files concerning the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, providing crucial insights into previously classified information.

In July 2010, WikiLeaks shared Afghanistan war files with certain publications, including the Guardian, the New York Times, and Der Spiegel.

These records, totalling over 90,000 incidents and intelligence reports, brought attention to US military operations and revealed how coalition forces were responsible for numerous unreported civilian casualties, which were much higher than the numbers reported.

The papers showed a different side of the war and the US fight against the Taliban compared to what Washington publicly conveyed, including how the US hid evidence of the group’s access to deadly surface-to-air missiles. Taliban bomb attacks had also increased significantly, according to the Guardian.

Further documents from the Iraq war revealed that US authorities had neglected to investigate hundreds of reports of seemingly systematic abuse, torture, rape, and even murder by Iraqi forces.

More than 15,000 civilians died in previously unknown incidents despite US officials saying that no official record of civilian casualties exists. The Iraq files recorded over 66,000 non-combatants who were killed out of a total of 109,000 deaths.

Violent confrontations involving US soldiers at Iraqi checkpoints

The Iraq war files also suggested that hundreds of civilians were killed or injured by US soldiers for getting too close to checkpoints or not slowing down to stop and be searched.

These sometimes deadly encounters or “escalation of force” incidents included Iraqi men transporting pregnant wives or family members and people who had mental illness, according to Al Jazeera.

The documents released by WikiLeaks recount nearly 14,000 “escalation of force” incidents, which had unintended consequences like accidental killings of civilians. The US Department of Defence (DOD) states that the “escalation of force” mission module is supposed to minimise casualties and collateral damage.

“The modules consist of multi-functional non-lethal weapons systems and force protection equipment needed to apply non-lethal force during escalation-of-force situations,” according to the DOD.

However, between 2004 and 2010, some 680 civilians were killed in these incidents, and more than 2,000 were wounded. Most of the time, bullets intended as warning shots at checkpoints would ricochet off of pavements or other surfaces, harming civilians in the vicinity.

Incidents at checkpoints have turned deadly, too. In 2007, the New York Times reported an incident from two years earlier, in September 2005, when US soldiers fired 200 rounds at a car as it approached a checkpoint, apparently too quickly, near an Iraqi town called Musayyib. They killed a man and his sister who were in the vehicle.

Blackwater in Iraq

Documents from WikiLeaks about the Iraq war reveal disturbing information about the actions of private military contractor Blackwater in Iraq.

More than a dozen files detail instances in which Blackwater guards opened fire on civilians, resulting in the deaths of 10 people and injuries to seven others.

According to the WikiLeaks files, Blackwater contractors, who were part of a State Department contract worth $465 million, were allegedly involved in the unlawful killing of civilians while protecting US diplomats in one-third of the reported cases, as reported by German broadcaster DW.

The files also mention that Blackwater personnel fired at civilian vehicles that approached their convoys too closely. The US military contractors even shot at an ambulance after the vehicle rushed towards the scene of a bomb attack, its driver killed by “uncontrolled small arms fire.”

Blackwater is most notorious for its deadly attack in Baghdad’s Nisour Square. During the 2007 assault, Blackwater agents killed close to 20 civilians and injured 24 others. Although five Blackwater contractors were charged with murder, a US judge dismissed the case due to prosecutorial misconduct.

Blackwater rebranded to Xe Services in 2009 to distance itself from the negative publicity it received before changing its name again in 2011 to Academi. In 2014, Academi became Constellis after merging with another American private security firm, Triple Canopy.


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