The ACLU says the papers "provide a vivid snapshot of the circumstances surrounding civilian deaths in Iraq".
"At every step of the way, the Bush administration and Defense Department have gone to unprecedented lengths to control and suppress information about the human cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan," said Nasrina Bargzie, an attorney with the ACLU National Security Project. "Our democracy depends on an informed public and that is why it is so important that the American people see these documents. These documents will help to fill the information void around the issue of civilian casualties in Iraq and will lead to a more complete understanding of the prosecution of the war."
Through the ACLU, information on Defense Department policies designed to control information about the human costs of war is now public. These include:
• Banning photographers on U.S. military bases from covering the arrival of caskets containing the remains of U.S. soldiers killed overseas;
• Paying Iraqi journalists to write positive accounts of the U.S. war effort;
• Inviting U.S. journalists to "embed" with military units but requiring them to submit their stories for pre-publication review;
• Erasing journalists' footage of civilian deaths in Afghanistan; and
• Refusing to disclose statistics on civilian casualties.
Says Michael Pheneger, a retired Army intelligence colonel who is also a board member of the ACLU: "As these files remind us, many charges of war crimes in Iraq have not seen the light of day.
"We don't do body counts."