WikiLeaks documents support hikers' story

This combination of undated file photos released by freethehikers.org shows, from left; Joshua Fattal, Shane Bauer, and Sarah Shourd. (AP Photo/freethehikers.org, File)
October 23, 2010 2:08:39 AM PDT
There is new support for the detained American hikers' claims they did not cross the Iranian border. The website WikiLeaks has just released a second, enormous batch of leaked Pentagon documents, which include some details of the day the hikers were taken.

The WikiLeaks documents include a U.S. military field report from July of last year that says the hikers were close to the Iran border, but on the Iraq side. An intelligence officer in Northern Iraq initially refers to a "kidnapping" and says the American tourists were being taken to the Iranian border.

UC Berkeley graduates Sarah Shourd, Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer were accused of being spies, illegally crossing into Iraq.

Shourd was released in September, but Fattal and Bauer are still in custody.

The WikiLeaks documents appear to authenticate their claims of innocence, but that might have no effect on winning their release.

Patrick Hatcher, Ph.D., is a USF professor of international security policy.

"No, I don't think it will convince them, 'Ops, the International Court of Justice is going to hold us up for disdain, if we don't move on this.' It's not going to happen," says Hatcher.

WikiLeaks released on Friday night nearly 400,000 pages of Pentagon documents.

The government believes 23-year-old army intelligence officer Brad Manning is the source. He has been in a military detention facility since the first WikiLeaks release three months ago.

This batch of classified papers puts the Iraqi civilian death toll far higher than the U.S. has acknowledged before. The number is more than 100,000 between 2004 and 2009 -- 15,000 more than the U.S. has reported and far greater than Afghanistan.

"So we're talking about a five-times greater kill rate in Iraq, really a comparative bloodbath compared to Afghanistan," says WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

And there is graphic detail about Iraqi military torture of detainees. The Pentagon is worried the leak reveals sensitive secrets, but Hatcher thinks the only real damage is political with American voters.

"They're unhappy with the war to begin with. Then unhappy to get a cumulative thing about all the things we did wrong. The smart ones will know that in every war things go wrong and in every war there are people who do the wrong thing," says Hatcher.

Arab-based news outlets are playing-up the reports. Arab TV stations are reporting 285,000 dead and wounded in Iraq.

The Pentagon is not commenting on the numbers.


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