23 October 2010

Wikileaks madness, Part Deux

They're at it again.  This time, a data-dump of intel reports from Operation Iraqi Freedom, from 2004 to the end of the 2009.

Al-Jazeera TV's British syndicate is running a video that "proves" that U.S. military forces ignored instances of torture committed by Iraqi Security Forces.  Their proof is references to certain FRAGOs (fragmentary orders).  What they don't tell you is that a FRAGO is a modifying order that can be put out at any echelon.  FRAGO 214 or 232 or whatever-the-fuck can be a company FRAGO or a division FRAGO or anything in between.  The takeaway is that without the context (who issued the FRAGO?  To which subordinate units?  What was the content of the remainder of the FRAGO?  What as the base OPORD the FRAGO modifies?), information can be easily spun to be sensationalist and fill whatever political agenda you choose.  A FRAGO put out by one idiot staff officer can easily be rescinded or superceded by the next day's FRAGO.

So, here is what I'm going to do: I am going to demonstrate and prove how these intel reports, taken in isolation outside of the context of what happens on the ground, don't mean anything unless you were there or know the surrounding circumstances.

I'm going to prove it to you.  I know that sounds bold, but audacity is a principle of offensive operations, so let's do this.

I did what undoubtedly a number of fellow officers did: I went to the Wikileaks website and searched for my own unit's actions.  And lo and behold, I found some.  Specifically, the reports documenting the deaths of two soldiers in my battalion.

(Due to a DOD directive banning military personnel from accessing Wikileaks, I cannot post or link to the site.  Which is fine: I understand the OPSEC considerations -- which is why all of us are so enraged by the data-dump.

However, if you, the non-military audience views any of the reports, you will get the gist of what they look like.  Take that into consideration, then juxtapose it with an account from someone who has served in Iraq.

If you are a military reader, do not visit the Wikileaks site.  It is not worth it to be fried for an OPSEC violation.  You will have to consult local directives put out by your chain of command, but better to err on the side of caution.  Just remember you are always subject to UCMJ, both on- or off-duty.)

I want you to read my next two posts: they are verbatim emails that I sent home to friends and family following two incidents.  By the time you have finished reading those emails, you will see how I just proved to you that these Wikileaks extracts mean nothing when viewed isolated from their surrounding context.  I proved it to you because I was there.  And Julian Assange was not.

Once again, I will stress: I have no problems with calling for transparency in our government.  That's a good thing.  That's how we avoid the deathtrap of authoritarian or totalitarian regimes.  But there are more responsible ways to call for change than just data-dumping sensitive information.  Even despite Wikileaks' attempt to sanitize their reports (I will admit they did a better job this time around than with their Afghanistan data-dump), they missed plenty of info in just the small sample of leaks that I read that can provide the enemy valuable information on how to refine their TTPs to continue to kill Iraqi civilians and American soldiers.

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