The 400 pages of interrogations, once closely guarded as secrets of war, were supposed to have been destroyed as the last American troops prepare to leave Iraq. Instead, they were discovered along with reams of other classified documents, including military maps showing helicopter routes and radar capabilities, by a reporter for The New York Times at a junkyard outside Baghdad. An attendant was burning them as fuel to cook a dinner of smoked carp.
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Told about the documents that had been found, Col. Barry Johnson, a spokesman for the United States military in Iraq, said that many of the documents remain classified and should have been destroyed. “Despite the way in which they were improperly discarded and came into your possession, we are not at liberty to discuss classified information,” he said.
He added: “We take any breech of classified information as an extremely serious matter. In this case, the documents are being reviewed to determine whether an investigation is warranted.”
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The documents were piled in military trailers and hauled to the junkyard by an Iraqi contractor who was trying to sell off the surplus from American bases, the junkyard attendant said. The attendant said he had no idea what any of the documents were about, only that they were important to the Americans.
He said that over the course of several weeks he had burned dozens and dozens of binders, turning more untold stories about the war into ash.
“What can we do with them?” said the attendant. “These things are worthless to us, but we understand they are important and it is better to burn them to protect the Americans. If they are leaving, it must mean their work here is done.”