BAGHDAD — U.S. enemies already are combing through data released last week in a trove of Iraq war documents for ways to harm the American military, the Pentagon's No. 2 official said Tuesday.
U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn called the documents "stolen material" and said they give adversaries key insight on how the U.S. military operates. He did not say which groups, or how the Pentagon knew they were researching the documents.
"There are groups out there that have said they are indeed mining this data to turn around and use against us," Lynn told a small group of reporters during a brief visit to Baghdad. "We think this is problematic."
The Pentagon furiously opposed the documents' release Saturday by the whistle-blower WikiLeaks website. Lynn's remarks came a day after WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange told CNN that the nearly 400,000 papers did not put troops at risk because the names of any soldiers or Iraqi civilians have been redacted.
The U.S. has said that the WikiLeaks release of secret Afghan and Iraq war documents threatens national security.
WikiLeaks posted about 77,000 Afghanistan war logs on its site in July, and the Pentagon concluded that no U.S. intelligence sources or practices were compromised by the posting. A few weeks later, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he was not yet aware of any Afghan people who were killed as the result of the leak, "but I put emphasis on the word 'yet.'"
Lynn said the leaked information would not change the way the estimated 50,000 U.S. troops in Iraq operate. But he said he is mulling ways to keep more documents from leaking in the future, such as having computer systems monitor for irregular data searches.
"It does seem like commonsense, and I don't think we're doing enough of it, frankly," Lynn said.
In Washington, Pentagon spokesman Marine Col. David Lapan said WikiLeaks may have even more classified material than U.S. officials previously believed. He declined to characterize it, but WikiLeaks already has posted half a million secret Iraq and Afghanistan war files since July.
The group is also believed to have another 15,000 Afghan war field reports, 260,000 diplomatic cables and U.S. video of casualties in Afghanistan.
At the center of the WikiLeaks controversy is a former intelligence analyst, Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, who is under suspicion of having provided the classified military documents to the whistle-blower website. Manning was stationed in Iraq when he was arrested by U.S. authorities last May. He is charged with multiple counts of mishandling classified data and putting national security at risk.
Meanwhile, the United Nations' top human rights official called the U.S. and Iraq to investigate allegations of detainee abuse contained in the newest WikiLeaks' war logs. The document cache contained reports of severe abuse by Iraqi forces, and showed that U.S. troops did not intervene to halt the violence in many cases.
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said the information adds to "concerns that serious breaches of international human rights law have occurred in Iraq."
Pillay said that the U.S. and Iraq should prosecute anyone believed responsible for torture, unlawful killings and other abuses.
The documents show that U.S. forces turned detainees over to Iraqi forces even after signs of abuse.
Anne Flaherty in Washington contributed to this report.
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