The US Pentagon said yesterday that it had a 120-member team prepared to review a massive leak of as many as 500,000 Iraq war documents, which are expected to be released by the WikiLeaks website this month.
Pentagon spokesman Col Dave Lapan said that the timing of the leak remained unclear but the Defence Department was ready for a document dump as early as Monday or Tuesday, a possibility raised in previous WikiLeaks statements.
Still, people familiar with the upcoming leak say they do not expect WikiLeaks to release the classified files for at least another week.
If confirmed, the leak would be much larger than the record-breaking release of more than 70,000 Afghan war documents in July, which stoked debate about the 9-year-old conflict but did not contain major revelations.
It was the largest security breach of its kind in US military history.
"It's the same team we put together after the publication of the (Afghan war documents)," Col Lapan said, adding it was unclear how many of the 120 personnel would be needed to contribute to the Iraq leak analysis.
Although the Iraq conflict has faded from public debate in the United States in recent years, the document dump threatens to revive memories of some of the most trying times in the war, including the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal.
It could also renew debate about foreign and domestic actors influencing Iraq, which has been wrestling with a political vacuum since an inconclusive election in March.
One source familiar with the Iraq documents said they are likely to contain revelations about civilian casualties, but expected them to cause less of a stir than the Afghan leak.
Col Lapan said the Pentagon team believed it knew which documents WikiLeaks may be releasing.
At the time of the Afghan war leak, Admiral Mike Mullen, warned that WikiLeaks may have the blood of US soldiers and Afghan civilians on its hands because it had leaked documents naming US collaborators.