[JURIST] Wikileaks [website] founder Julian Assange [Telegraph profile] said Monday that the Afghan War Diaries [materials], a compilation of 91,000 documents leaked to the organization on the US war effort in Afghanistan, may provide evidence of war crimes committed by US forces. The statement comes after the release of the Afghan War Diaries on Sunday, which has been described as the largest unauthorized release of classified documents in US military history. Assange cited thousands of US strikes in Afghanistan [AP report], including a 2007 raid on a compound believed to house a senior al Qaeda [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] leader, which resulted in the death of seven children and the cover-up of civilian casualties as examples of possible war crimes. The leaked documents reportedly suggest that Pakistani government officials have met with members of the Taliban [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] and reveal the extent of civilian casualties due to US air strikes and the frustration of the US government with Pakistani leadership for its ties to Afghan militants. Assange has stated that Wikileaks has thousands more documents [BBC report] that it will be releasing in the future under the direction of the source. In responding to the leak, National Security Advisor James Jones [official profile] emphasized that the period covered by the documents, January 2004 to December 2009, was before the comprehensive review [press release] of US war strategy conducted by the Obama administration in fall 2009. He went on to highlight the strong relationship between the US and Pakistan.
Earlier this month, the US Army formally charged [JURIST report] Pfc. Bradley Manning [advocacy website] for leaking a controversial classified video [YouTube video] of a 2007 US helicopter strike in Iraq and classified State Department documents. Manning faces two charges [charge sheet, PDF] under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) [text] for the transfer of classified information and exceeding his authorized computer access. Manning was detained in Kuwait in May after releasing the video, entitled “Collateral Murder,” on Wikileaks. Wikileaks does not ask sources to identify themselves, but Manning was reported to authorities by former hacker Andrian Lamo, who learned of the leaks after forming an online friendship with the soldier. Due to the gravity of the charges, Manning’s investigation could lead to a court-martial. In May 2009, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] called on the US government to make “fundamental changes to reduce civilian casualties” [JURIST report] in Afghanistan after attacks last week reportedly left more than 140 civilians dead.