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Post-Haste

The first batch of captured documents from pre-war Iraq and Afghanistan are now available online.

10:34 PM, Mar 15, 2006 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
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Another critical issue is authenticity. A caveat on the website reads: "The US Government has made no determination regarding the authenticity of the documents, validity or factual accuracy of the information contained therein, or the quality of any translations, when available." Determining which documents are authentic and which are not will be an incredibly important task. This will be difficult task too, since many of the documents have no known chain of custody. There was a bustling black market for forged documents in Baghdad after the war. How will we determine which documents are real and which documents are not? Some documents listed in the HARMONY database have warnings: "DIA suspects inauthentic." Will those documents be included in the release? Will the warnings? Will we learn why the DIA suspected that the document might not be authentic? Has forensic document authentication been done on any of the documents? Which ones?

In the end, the Iraqis themselves will provide answers to many of those questions. And Iraqis will probably be central to our understanding of these documents and the history they represent. This is true not only because they understand the language of the documents, but also because they understand better than anyone the culture that produced them.

In that spirit, we will be eager to hear from the "Army of Analysts"--particularly those who read Arabic--that former intelligence officer Michael Tanji wrote about here two days ago. If John Negroponte makes good on his promise of a comprehensive document release, then millions of papers, audiotapes, and other media will be posted in the coming months. As we've seen, that's an overwhelming amount for the U.S. government, to say nothing of a magazine.

Let's get started.

Stephen F. Hayes is a senior writer at The Weekly Standard.