I managed to get out two pieces yesterday about the Wikileaks leak, as promised. The first is at my homestation, of sorts, at PBS Need to Know (which is a great show, if you don’t watch it already!). There, I said the leak is both more and less important than people probably realize:
Can an organization whose sole purpose is exposing secret information really do a good job safeguarding the lives it endangers through exposure? They really cannot. The New York Times admitted as much, saying they took much greater pains not to provide readers the means to uncover the identities of anyone in the reports they mention (some of these efforts, like not linking to WikiLeaks, are almost cutesy on the Internet, but are nevertheless honest). “At the request of the White House,” the Times editors say, “[we] urged WikiLeaks to withhold any harmful material from its Web site.” …
If I were a Taliban operative with access to a computer — and lots of them have access to computers — I’d start searching the WikiLeaks data for incident reports near my area of operation to see if I recognized anyone. And then I’d kill whomever I could identify. Those deaths would be directly attributable to WikiLeaks.
I also wrote about Wikileaks and the media’s response for the Columbia Journalism Review.
Assange’s justification for putting hundreds of lives at stake—“All of this material is more than seven months old, so it has no operational significance… there is no danger”—is as false as it is naïve. Many of the operations he details through these leaks are still ongoing, and many of the people involved in them are still there, hoping these leaks don’t make them into targets for assassination. Indeed, Adam Serwer, a staff writer for The American Prospect, tweeted this morning, “Former Military Intelligence Officer sez of wikileaks, ‘Its an AQ/Taliban execution team’s treasure trove.’”
In WikiLeaks’s world, though, that’s not their problem. They’re exposing secrets, consequences be damned. But there will be serious, and deadly, consequences from WikiLeaks’s War Diary archive. And odds are they won’t get nearly as much media attention as the initial leak.
Read the whole thing—both of them—and let me know what you think. I asked Washington Post reporter Greg Jaffe what he thinks, and his take is pretty pessimistic:
I find this whole thing a bit troubling. Many of these 92,000 documents are the sort of thing that are shared with reporters on embeds. A few are sensitive but don’t tell us much new. My worry is that groups like WikiLeaks have the ability to manipulate us in the news media…
Indeed, he and I share the same concern. Julian Assange is a master of making the story about himself, and not what he leaked. In this case, when the leaked information is so surprisingly banal, it has the danger of making it further about Assange, and not about the war.