Yesterday, The Times, which is, sadly, behind a paywall, ran a report by Tom Coghland that was very worrying:
After the disclosure in this newspaper yesterday that the WikiLeaks Afghan “war logs” contained possibly hundreds of named Afghan intelligence sources for US forces, The Times has uncovered many new cases.
One example from 2006 described an encounter between US officers and an Afghan. The Times has redacted the report to ensure that no individual or their relatives could be targeted.
Yesterday the account of Mr [X]’s meeting was accessible to anyone on the internet with the thousands of others published by WikiLeaks. When The Times sought to track down Mr [X] to ask his response, he was found to be dead.
He was killed by the Taleban two years ago after being suspected of spying for American forces. Twenty-eight other named Afghan individuals in just a few hundred files examined in detail by The Times on the site are, however, thought to be alive.
That is clearly not Wikileaks’ fault. But it does demonstrate the extreme risk many Afghans took in choosing to oppose the Taliban domination of their homes. I should note The Times, along with the New York Times, the Guardian, and Der Spiegel (and, frankly, every major paper that’s covered this story) has chosen to redact the Afghan names contained in the Wikileaks data. Despite withholding some 15,000 incident reports for “safety reasons,” thousands of documents in the archive do identify Afghans by name, family, location, and ideology.
The Times (firewalled again, I’m sorry) asked Wikileaks founder Julian Assange what he thought of it:
• He claimed that many informers in Afghanistan were “acting in a criminal way” by sharing false information with Nato authorities.
• He said the White House knew that informants’ names could be exposed before the release but did nothing to help WikiLeaks to vet the data.
• He insisted that any risk to informants’ lives was outweighed by the overall importance of publishing the information.
Mr Assange said: “No one has been harmed, but should anyone come to harm of course that would be a matter of deep regret — our goal is justice to innocents, not to harm them. That said, if we were forced into a position of publishing all of the archives or none of the archives we would publish all of the archives because it’s extremely important to the history of this war.”
Leaving aside the immaturity and callousness of such a stance—we didn’t mean to hurt anyone but instead of thinking through the consequences of our actions, we though, hey, fuck it, let’s publish anyway, it’s war!—Assange is giving us a wonderful lesson in why things are classified during war. His cavalier attitude toward the safety of the people he exposes to mortal danger, as if a really terrible context like a war provides justification for adding further risk to their lives (and his repeated, and thus far unsupported, accusations that Afghans who help us are criminals), is beyond immaturity and callousness, though—it is monstrous.
Julian Assange is the worst sort of moralist, one whose sense of justice is so selective (secrecy is of utmost concern for Wikileaks’ sources and employees, but not the government), and his comprehension of consequences so short-sighted and defined by ideology rather than fact, that he doesn’t care who he has to offer up to murderous bastards to satisfy his sense of moral outrage. It is the same morality that leads the ELF to destroy car dealerships using chemical explosives out of a concern for the environment.
Anyway, so the Taliban are doing exactly what I said they would do, in my pieces for PBS and CJR: they are vowing to hunt down and murder anyone who is identified in the Wikileaks archive as having worked for the U.S.
Exclusive: The Taliban has issued a chilling warning to Afghans, alleged in secret US military files leaked on the internet to have worked as informers for the Nato-led coalition, telling Channel 4 News “US spies” will be hunted down and punished.
Speaking by telephone from an undisclosed location, Zabihullah Mujahid told Channel 4 News that the insurgent group will investigate the named individuals before deciding on their fate.
“We are studying the report,” he said, confirming that the insurgent group already has access to the 92,000 intelligence documents and field reports.
I hope Julian Assange sleeps well at night. His victims certainly won’t.