True Colors

by Joshua Foust on 2/6/2011 · 10 comments

Posted without comment:

When pressed by journalists to redact the names of informants mentioned in Afghan war documents then about to be released by WikiLeaks, Assange initially refused.

“Well, they’re informants,” he said, according to the journalists’ account. “So, if they get killed, they’ve got it coming to them. They deserve it.”

Anyway, I’m holding my breath for all the immature dweebs who defend these leaks on ethical grounds to condemn such a thing.

Subscribe to receive updates from Registan

This post was written by...

– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

For information on reproducing this article, see our Terms of Use


alexf.80 February 6, 2011 at 2:32 pm

You commented!

For a guy who brings up so many good points consistently, Josh… you sure have a talent for shooting yourself in the foot

Grant February 6, 2011 at 5:37 pm

I’m remembering that we have only the reports from the Guardian journalists about this, however if we start doubting the honesty of the Guardian we may as well give up on reporting entirely.

If true Mr. Assange could be as dangerous as the U.S has claimed without even realizing it.

KZBlog February 6, 2011 at 11:29 pm

The Afghan informants should be proud to have been part of the effort to bring down the world system. In fact, they should be grateful to Assange for giving them such a high honor to be part of the Wikileaks revolution. Getting killed is such a trivial inconvenience compared to that.

Grant February 7, 2011 at 3:19 pm

What does “bring down the world system” even mean? To start I think you’re greatly overestimating their impact in the world. Moving beyond that an informant is simply someone who provides information. There’s hardly anything evil about that (at least compared to what combatants and the local leaders are doing).

Beyond that is the dubious statement that it is a ‘Wikileaks revolution’. So far the most impact Wikileaks has had is to force a few diplomats out and tell us what we already knew*.

Lastly think about what you just stated. It’s alright for these people to die. It doesn’t matter to you what their motivations are or what they do?

* I really don’t buy the argument that Wikileaks was responsible for Egypt and Tunisia, if economics and corruption hadn’t infuriated so many both governments would be firmly in charge right now.

Orange February 7, 2011 at 7:18 pm

I think its called irony …

Ben February 8, 2011 at 4:41 am

No I think it’s called sarcasm

KZBlog February 8, 2011 at 5:11 am

I was being sarcastic (or ironic, not completely confident with what technically irony is).

As I understand it, the goal of Wikileaks is to bring down the world system so I was commenting on Assange’s coldness that perhaps he thinks potential Afghan deaths are justified for his larger goal.

I absolutely believe that any journalist or source of any leaks should do everything in their power to ensure innocent people aren’t hurt. And I do tend to agree that Assange’s ambitions are much higher than his reach.

Schwartz February 8, 2011 at 7:27 am

Ugh. Judging from my own experience, albeit limited, as well as what reliable sources have told me about him as a person, that does sound like the kinds of thing Assange tends to say when he feels he’s off the record. He’s got a tempest-like bluntness that can be quite shocking.

Nevertheless, Josh, I will indeed hazard a defense: (A) the obvious one, i.e., that this is just one journalist’s account, and the Washington Post notes that Assange did decide to redact informants’ names, leading to (B) Assange and WikiLeaks (hard to distinguish between the two, of course) have been on a steep learning curve that’s as much ethical as it is journalistic.

That process was further exacerbated by the fact that, despite his claims to the contrary, Assange was never actually a journalist before embarking upon this project. Nevertheless, in my view, it seemed that in fact Assange/WL were *improving* during and after the Iraq War Logs (internal conflicts notwithstanding), as evidenced by the very thorough redaction of informants from that leak.

At first, the Cables seemed to be even further along in this amelioration — after all, they ended up making the US look *better* (granted, perhaps not what Assange initially wanted, but even he seemed very keen to point out, for example, how the USA was resisting calls by its Arab leaders to attack Iran; also granted, that the leaks have problem seriously damaged intelligence-gathering and sharing within the USIC). Then the snaffu with the Swedish rape case finally caught up with him, and he’s back to Cypherpunkism.

Finally, (C) as an historian, I see a lot of merit in what WikiLeaks has done in terms of providing documentation for analysis decades from now (i.e., the “scientific journalism” aspect of their mission), as well as spurring on the creation of organizations like OpenLeaks, which may end up doing a lot to serve the cause of transparency. So, Assange may be a f*cking jerk, but history may have a good use for him, anyway.


Schwartz February 8, 2011 at 7:29 am

Typo: “by its Arab allies” not “leaders” (hahaha)

foustfan February 8, 2011 at 7:43 pm

oh man I wonder if the man accused of sexual assault might also be a colossal dick head, thanks for the heads up

Previous post:

Next post: