A defence taskforce has concluded that leaked US military documents on Afghanistan said nothing about Australian forces that hadn’t already been disclosed.
The investigation, launched in July after the whistleblower organisation Wikileaks released some 77,000 US military documents on the Afghanistan conflict, found there had been no direct significant adverse impact on Australia’s national interests.
Defence said operational areas of the department had confirmed that necessary measures were taken to mitigate against risks to operational security.
As well, no local sources were clearly identified and steps had been taken to mitigate the risk of that occurring.
“The taskforce found that significant operational issues relating to Australia referred to in the leaked materials had already been publicly reported by Defence and, in most cases, reported in greater detail than in the leaked materials,” it said in a statement.
The documents leaked were predominantly US military field and intelligence reports, which featured occasional mentions of coalition nations.
Defence Minister Stephen Smith said disclosure of classified military information was a matter of serious concern, and Australia, the US, NATO and the International Security Assistance Force had all condemned this unauthorised release.
“That’s for the very obvious reason that the release of such materials can put security operations at risk. That means it can put Australian lives at risk,” Mr Smith told parliament.
“It can also put at risk the lives, the safety and wellbeing of individuals who assist in general in theatre, either in Afghanistan or previously in Iraq.”
In its investigation, the defence taskforce conducted a detailed examination of the leaked materials to identify references to Australian interests and personnel.
Results were compared with operational reporting and defence public statements.
“The investigation found that the leaked materials were predominantly tactical-level reporting, the majority of which was low-level operational reporting of activities such as patrols, community engagement and routine operational activities,” it said.
“Some of the documents also covered foreign diplomatic reporting.”
The taskforce’s work is not done.
With Wikileaks releasing some 400,000 US military documents on the Iraq conflict last week, it has now been given the job of assessing their implications for Australian operations.
Defence said that investigation would take some time, given the volume and complexity of the material.