The Obama administration is bracing for the imminent disclosure by the WikiLeaks website of a vast cache of secret U.S. Iraq war documents, which could throw a light on some of the darkest episodes of that conflict.
WikiLeaks, a self-described whistle-blower website, is expected to post up to 400,000 documents online this week after having shared them in advance with several news organizations.
It would be the second major release of classified U.S. war reports by WikiLeaks in the past four months. In July, despite objections by the U.S. government, the international anti-secrecy group posted nearly 77,000 documents from the Afghan conflict on its website.
Together, the two sets of disclosures would represent a massive breach of U.S. information security and raise questions about the viability of post-9/11 government policies that expanded the distribution of classified information as a means of improving coordination among intelligence and security agencies.
Military officials believe the Iraq documents will emphasize the failings of the Iraqi government and military, including allegations of Iraqi mistreatment of detainees and ineptitude in combat. They also are likely to include some classified U.S. diplomatic cables, officials said.
The Afghan documents released in July gave a ground-level view of that war from 2004 through 2009, based largely on raw U.S. military intelligence reports, including sensitive material that revealed names of Afghan informants and provided details of Afghan civilian casualties.