Friday, September 02, 2011

Important Wikileaks Update

Here’s an answer to my earlier question: Why in the world would the Guardian publish the password to the Wikileaks file?

Leigh claims -- and there's no reason to doubt him -- that he believed the password was only valid for a few days and would have expired by the time his book was published.

Glenn Greenwald

Still, I can see no reason for publishing the password anyway. One, what did that add to the story the Guardian had to tell, and 2), why take the chance? (Indeed, later in the article, those sentiments are also expressed.)

Once WikiLeaks realized what had happened, they notified the State Department, but faced a quandary: virtually every government's intelligence agencies would have had access to these documents as a result of these events, but the rest of the world -- including journalists, whistleblowers and activists identified in the documents -- did not. At that point, WikiLeaks decided -- quite reasonably -- that the best and safest course was to release all the cables in full, so that not only the world's intelligence agencies but everyone had them, so that steps could be taken to protect the sources and so that the information in them was equally available.

Well, that’s much better than my speculation that they did it to avoid being scooped, and it is a good reason.

This incident is unfortunate in the extreme for multiple reasons: it's possible that diplomatic sources identified in the cables (including whistleblowers and human rights activists) will be harmed; this will be used by enemies of transparency and WikiLeaks to disparage both and even fuel efforts to prosecute the group; it implicates a newspaper, The Guardian, that generally produces very good and responsible journalism; it likely increases political pressure to impose more severe punishment on Bradley Manning if he's found guilty of having leaked these cables; and it will completely obscure the already-ignored, important revelations of serious wrongdoing from these documents. It's a disaster from every angle.

That’s Greenwald’s summary of the obvious in the latest Wikileaks.

But as usual with any controversy involving WikiLeaks, there are numerous important points being willfully distorted that need clarification.


As usual, many of those running around righteously condemning WikiLeaks for the potential, prospective, unintentional harm to innocents caused by this leak will have nothing to say about these actual, deliberate acts of wanton slaughter by the U.S. The accidental release of these unredacted cables will receive far more attention and more outrage than the extreme, deliberate wrongdoing these cables expose.


WikiLeaks deserves some of the blame for what happened here; any group that devotes itself to enabling leaks has the responsibility to safeguard what it receives and to do everything possible to avoid harm to innocent people [...]although ultimate responsibility for safeguarding the identity of America's diplomatic sources rests with the U.S. Government, which is at least as guilty as WikiLeaks in failing to exerise due care to safeguard these cables.

But Greenwald is not of two minds about the situation, as I am, though I tend to lean toward his assessment:

But it is just as true that WikiLeaks easily remains an important force for good. The acts of deliberate evil committed by the world's most powerful factions which it has exposed vastly outweigh the mistakes which this still-young and pioneering organization has made. And the harm caused by corrupt, excessive secrecy easily outweighs the harm caused by unauthorized, inadvisable leaks.

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