Unimportant Yet Dangerous

Andrew Exum’s Times’ Op-Ed pretty much encapsulates the new conventional wisdom on Wikileaks’ Afghanistan document dump. After laboring to show that there’s nothing new or interesting in the revelations, he tells us how awful they were:

The Times, The Guardian and Der Spiegel did nothing wrong in looking over the WikiLeaks documents and excerpting them. Despite the occasional protest from the right wing, most of the press in the United States and in allied nations takes care not to publish information that might result in soldiers’ deaths.

But WikiLeaks itself is another matter. Mr. Assange says he is a journalist, but he is not. He is an activist, and to what end it is not clear. This week — as when he released a video in April showing American helicopter gunships killing Iraqi civilians in 2007 — he has been throwing around the term “war crimes,” but offers no context for the events he is judging. It seems that the death of any civilian in war, an unavoidable occurrence, is a “crime.”

If his desire is to promote peace, Mr. Assange and his brand of activism are not as helpful as he imagines. By muddying the waters between journalism and activism, and by throwing his organization into the debate on Afghanistan with little apparent regard for the hard moral choices and dearth of good policy options facing decision-makers, he is being as reckless and destructive as the contemptible soldier or soldiers who leaked the documents in the first place.

What really scares a lot of establishment types is not Wikileaks itself, but that a group of soldiers or civilians with access to information have started to work against the war from the inside, and that they have a secure conduit to get that information to the outside world.






153 replies
  1. 1
    WereBear says:

    Just who “muddied” these journalism waters in the first place, lying and obfuscating, and flat out refusing to do any instruction or explanation?

    Who, who, just who might it be?

  2. 2
    homerhk says:

    Support the war in Afghanistan or not, this type of massive leak is dangerous. We can debate whether or not certain material should be classified or not, but in a democracy voters elect to have that decision made by the people they vote in, not by unelected military officers. How anyone can argue otherwise is beyond me.

    Just as McChrystal speaking out of turn in a speech in London before Obama’s review had finished was massively out of line, so is this leak.

  3. 3
    roshan says:

    “It seems that the death of more than 3000 civilians in a war declared by Osama Bin Laden, an unavoidable occurrence, is a “crime.”

    There fixed, now disseminate.

  4. 4
    13th Generation says:

    Well, somebody’s got to do the reporting these days. I think the MSM is watching their collective lives flash before their eyes and they’re fucking scared shitless.

  5. 5
    roshan says:

    Had posted this in the open thread, makes more sense to add here.

    Interesting Wikileaks Afghan news dump chart, via Reddit.

  6. 6
    JGabriel says:

    Andrew Exum @ NY Times:

    Mr. Assange says he is a journalist, but he is not. […] By muddying the waters between journalism and activism, and by throwing his organization into the debate on Afghanistan with little apparent regard for the hard moral choices and dearth of good policy options facing decision-makers, he is being as reckless and destructive as the contemptible soldier or soldiers who leaked the documents in the first place.

    Pity the poor decision-makers! Their choices are hard and might get someone else killed!

    Is that the attitude a journalist should take, Mr. Exum?

    .

  7. 7
    wilfred says:

    The disclosure of a six-year archive of classified military documents increased pressure on President Obama to defend his military strategy as Congress prepares to deliberate financing of the Afghanistan war.

    I fucking well hope so. Isn’t open debate on the merits of a war a function of democracy?

  8. 8
    Jude says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but even accidental killings of non-combatatants ARE crimes, right?

    An “unauthorized killing” may be covered up or cursorily investigated, but according to the law, it’s not okay to go capping civilians when you’re an occupying army.

  9. 9
    homerhk says:

    @jgabriel, I thought that was just an objective statement that there are no good decisions in Afghanistan, only bad and worse ones. He’s not pitying anyone but exhorting Assange to at least have some regard to the decision making process. Not unreasonable in my view.

  10. 10
    JGabriel says:

    homerhk:

    We can debate whether or not certain material should be classified or not, but in a democracy voters elect to have that decision made by the people they vote in, not by unelected military officers. How anyone can argue otherwise is beyond me.

    The truth is that many documents are classified Top Secret not because they are militarily sensitive, but to prevent political embarrassment or maintain support among the majority of Americans by hiding relevant information.

    These documents appear to be classified for the latter reasons, in which case they were improperly classified to begin with.

    .

  11. 11
    roshan says:

    @homerhk:

    …decision making process…

    Tell that to these unreasonable folks.

  12. 12
    bago says:

    If you don’t want pictures of people getting shot out there, then perhaps you shouldn’t drag kids half way around the world, give them guns, and order them to shoot people.

  13. 13
    homerhk says:

    JGabriel, well that’s my point. Now it’s you who’s making decisions as to what to classify and what not to classify. No doubt some information may have been improperly classified but if just any random soldier, blogger or journalist is able to make decisions as to what should or should not have been classified that is a recipe for a disaster.

  14. 14
    A Guest says:

    but in a democracy voters elect to have that decision made by the people they vote in, not by unelected military officers. How anyone can argue otherwise is beyond me.

    Sort of. Classification authority is frequently delegated. That delegation can reach down a long ways, at which point people may be tempted to play CYA. And by “may” I surely mean “are,” as many people are saying about these items.

  15. 15

    @homerhk:

    in a democracy voters elect to have that decision made by the people they vote in, not by unelected military officers. How anyone can argue otherwise is beyond me.

    Just out of curiousity, how many of these documents were classified “top secret” by elected officials? I really don’t know the process here.

  16. 16
    JGabriel says:

    @homerhk:

    He’s not pitying anyone but exhorting Assange to at least have some regard to the decision making process.

    First, Exum is accusing Assange of lacking regard. That he phrases it as an assumption rather than something remaining to be proved is telling. It’s quite possible that Assange reviewed the documents, and, with all proper regard, still decided that the decision-makers were wrong to classify them.

    Second, while it may be admirable for a reporter to show proper “regard to the decsion-making process”, it is not a reporter’s primary responsibility. We have too many DC villagers already possessed of that attitude, as illustrated by this famous quote from Tim Russert on the stand at Scooter Libby’s trial:

    My personal policy is always off the record when talking to government officials unless specified.

    I don’t think that’s a policy we want reporters to emulate.

    .

  17. 17
    Thomas says:

    Yes Mr. Exum you are correct. Assange is not a jounalist. If he were he’d ignore any sort of information that could embarrass the elite. Better yet, he spend more time twittering about which parties he gets invited to and the attendant water gun fights at said parties. Those are the actions of modern journalists.

    Please, the modern media has completely abdicated its role as speaking truth to power in favor of stenography for the Pentagon and this guy is casting stones. Get over yourself ass-hat!

  18. 18
    scav says:

    I’m still giggling at the illusion that journalism’s waters were apparently unmuddied and virginal pure from all activist bias before this <shive> unfortunate incident.

  19. 19
    homerhk says:

    @roshan – you are pointing me to idiotic decisions by individual soldiers on the ground – the article refers to policy decisions which are hard. that’s not the same thing.

    @a guest – yes the decisions are delegated down but by the people who have been voted into office. All I am saying is that there has to be some respect for the chain of command.

    Just to be clear, I am against the war in Afghanistan as I was against Iraq. Part of the reason that I was against it is that it is inevitable in war that atrocities will occur both by the “good” side and by the “bad side”.

  20. 20
    Hiram Taine says:

    @homerhk:

    if just any random soldier, blogger or journalist is able to make decisions as to what should or should not have been classified that is a recipe for a disaster.

    Whereas if people who have a vested interest in covering up embarrassing information by improperly classifying it then that is not a recipe for disaster, eh?

  21. 21
    Frank says:

    Mr. Assange says he is a journalist, but he is not. He is an activist, and to what end it is not clear. This week — as when he released a video in April showing American helicopter gunships killing Iraqi civilians in 2007 — he has been throwing around the term “war crimes,” but offers no context for the events he is judging. If his desire is to promote peace, Mr. Assange and his brand of activism are not as helpful as he imagines. By muddying the waters between journalism and activism,

    Without commenting on wikileaks and what they did, I find it utterly amusing that the MSM is villifying wikileaks but at the same is treating Andrew Breitbart as a hero. The entire paragraph above would have fit Breaitbart as a T.

  22. 22
    scav says:

    Seriously, as a geographer and because it might save NASA some serious bucks, could these journalists take the time to report what planet they’re on?

  23. 23
    JGabriel says:

    @homerhk:

    No doubt some information may have been improperly classified but if just any random soldier, blogger or journalist is able to make decisions as to what should or should not have been classified that is a recipe for a disaster.

    Only if you assume most people are incapable of recognizing what should be kept secret and what should not.

    By your reasoning, the Supreme Court should have sided with Nixon over the release of the Pentagon Papers and suppressed their publication.

    .

  24. 24
    roshan says:

    @homerhk:
    Yeah, yeah, now divert all attention to one lowly commenter (no disrespect) for saying that the documents were wrongly classified. OH, THE HUMANITY.

  25. 25
    debbie says:

    @ Werebear:

    Just who “muddied” these journalism waters in the first place, lying and obfuscating, and flat out refusing to do any instruction or explanation?

    I don’t know or care who started all this, but I’m having a real problem with people who can extol Assange yet condemn Breitbart. They’re just opposite sides of the same coin, and together, they (and their supporters) have destroyed journalism — and pretty much any hope of comity in this country. I’d even say those justifying Assange’s actions are really no different than Bush/Cheney in their emphasis of ends over means.

  26. 26

    @debbie:

    but I’m having a real problem with people who can extol Assange yet condemn Breitbart.

    Actually, while I think you can quibble with some of Assange’s actions, the Af/Pak documents saga seems to have been an instance where he acted correctly, giving the docs to three different MSM outlets to vet before publication. Breitbart is a different matter entirely. He seems to be little more than a blowhard political operative out to destroy the administration.

  27. 27
    JD Rhoades says:

    You know, with 90K+ documents out there, you can probably find something to support any spin you like.

  28. 28
    homerhk says:

    @Jgabriel,

    I must confess I am in two minds about all of this. I agree that journalists have too much apparent deference to politicians and those in power and that they should be reporting things objectively. I don’t want to get into a semantic debate about the word “regard” but what I understood Exum to be saying is that it is all very easy to go around making accusations of war crimes and the like but that there didn’t seem to be any consideration or acknowledgement that the people now running this war only have shit options in front of them and that most of them are genuinely trying to come to the least bad one.

    Regarding the off the record/on the record stuff I also tend to think that unless you, me and every citizen of a democratic country begins to understand that journalists and politicians are human beings and have human emotions. It simply will not do to label them journalist and politician and leave it at that. I am a lawyer and fight like hell for my clients but that does not stop me being friendly or friends with opposing lawyers which again doesn’t stop me from doing my job properly.

    I guess what I am saying is that off the record conversations between the press and politicians don’t really bother me that much insofar as they allow politicians not to have to be on their guard 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

  29. 29
    roshan says:

    @debbie:

    I don’t know or care who started all this, but I’m having a real problem with people who can extol Assange yet condemn Breitbart. They’re just opposite sides of the same coin, and together, they (and their supporters) have destroyed journalism—and pretty much any hope of comity in this country. I’d even say those justifying Assange’s actions are really no different than Bush/Cheney in their emphasis of ends over means.

    Please, STOP, you are making me cry.

    EDIT: You won’t be getting an invitation to my tree-house.

  30. 30
    JGabriel says:

    @roshan:

    Yeah, yeah, now divert all attention to one lowly commenter (no disrespect) …

    Lowly? I’m lowly?

    (commenter sputters resignedly)

    .

  31. 31
    JG says:

    @homerhk:

    No, it’s a recipe for disaster when we have a gigantic National Security State that classifies huge amounts of material in order to cover its ass, which makes the public less informed and our elected officials less accountable.

    If our elected officials and military leadership are saying one thing for years on end but the documents tell another story, how is the public supposed to hold people accountable if it only has one side of the story? If the establishment media wasn’t so happy to carry water for our war leaders this might not be necessary but this country’s media, in large part, worships the powerful people they cover.

  32. 32
    homerhk says:

    Jgabriel and Roshan,

    I am not trying to divert attention and I meant in no way to disparage Jgabriel. I of course understand the very real and horrific problem with the right people improperly classifying information – my point was simply that the way to address that is through the ballot box rather than through individuals leaking information that in their opinion should not be classified.

  33. 33
    Keith G says:

    @debbie:

    I understand your confusion, but comparing Assange to Breitbart is like comparing Greenpeace to Al qaeda.

    And who would do that?

  34. 34
    wilfred says:

    @homerhk:

    Well now that we have a better idea about what’s going on we can exercise our right to vote with a clearer conscience.

    Of course the current administration did campaign on transparency.

  35. 35
    roshan says:

    @JGabriel:
    Again, no disrespect, dawg.

    @homerhk:

    my point was simply that the way to address that is through the ballot box rather than through individuals leaking information…

    Any signs as to whether this approach is working?

    Also, could someone warn Iceland about this?

  36. 36
    homerhk says:

    Wilfred, Obama issued a new executive order on classified information early on in his Presidency. Thus far, this Presidency has been more transparent than any other administration in history. There are limits, however.

  37. 37
    Jude says:

    If you think that Assange and Breitbart are flip sides of the same coin, you’re a fucking idiot.

    It’s ad hominem, but you’re god damned right I said it.

  38. 38
    El Cid says:

    Re:

    By muddying the waters between journalism and activism

    I.e., by not letting the establishmentarian properly vet what citizens may and may not know about what their government does, in proper combination with what and how the the foreign policy establishment wants us to report, you have too much access to knowledge as a citzen, and, as the 1940s science fiction warning said, there are some things man was not meant to know.

  39. 39
    JGabriel says:

    @debbie:

    I’m having a real problem with people who can extol Assange yet condemn Breitbart.

    You must be joking. Let me differentiate them for you:

    Breitbart released a short video excerpt, taken egregiously out of context, edited to make it appear as though the speaker is extolling the exact opposite of her theme, and, when asked, refuses to provide the original video for inspection – all in an effort to smear a Sherrod, the political administration that employed her, and the civil rights organization that sponsored her speech.

    Assange released 92,000 reports, presumably providing as much or more context as anyone could wish for, and he worked with major, reputable, press outlets in the US, the UK, and Germany, to review them and provide proper context – in an effort to show how a war in which all three of those nations are engage is not being fully or accurately reported.

    The differences, then, are volume of documentation, the context provided, and the intent of a partisan political hit job and smear vs. the effort to put forth an accurate and honest assessment of ongoing multi-national military conflict.

    .

  40. 40

    @debbie:

    I don’t know or care who started all this, but I’m having a real problem with people who can extol Assange yet condemn Breitbart. They’re just opposite sides of the same coin…

    I’m not entirely sure how I feel about WikiLeaks, mostly because I don’t know what to make of Assange, but equating him to Breitbart is absurd.

  41. 41

    @homerhk:

    You’re not really grasping this idea of classified material are you?

  42. 42
    El Cid says:

    I don’t think the ballot box has much effect on the vast, vast majority on the secreting away of information as ‘classified’ or under a billion other layers of hiding.

  43. 43
    El Cid says:

    @Brien Jackson: You see, providing access to information about the realities of a military campaign is just like selectively editing a publicly broadcast video. How can you not see that?

  44. 44
    scav says:

    I’m also a little concerned about the underlying view of democracy creeping in is that “well, you get your vote on things once every four years, so for the rest of the time, shut up and believe everything we tell you and do everything we tell you to do.” Not to mention the assumption that our only hope of comity in this country is to all do that, as though people can only possibly live together if they pretend to agree. Leaks happen and sometimes they happen for good reasons. And how the hell did a single dodgy spliced recording presented as evidence of behavior in a context that hadn’t arisin at at the time of recording become the moral twin of releasing 91K documents to outside sources for review?

    ETA: Well, I see the latter’s been covered for those that confuse the society gossip and front pages.

  45. 45
    El Cid says:

    @bago:

    If you don’t want pictures of people getting shot out there, then perhaps you shouldn’t drag kids half way around the world, give them guns, and order them to shoot people

    What fun would that be?

  46. 46
    soonergrunt says:

    @Jude:
    YOU ARE WRONG.
    That was me, correcting you.
    Before something is a crime, there has to be an element of intent, or willful negligence.

    @debbie:

    I don’t know or care who started all this, but I’m having a real problem with people who can extol Assange yet condemn Breitbart. They’re just opposite sides of the same coin, and together, they (and their supporters) have destroyed journalism—and pretty much any hope of comity in this country. I’d even say those justifying Assange’s actions are really no different than Bush/Cheney in their emphasis of ends over means.

    Pretty much. Ain’t a whole hell of a lot of difference between them. It’s like the last scene in Animal Farm when the barnyard animals look in through the window and can’t tell the difference between the pigs and the humans.

  47. 47
    JGabriel says:

    homerhk:

    I guess what I am saying is that off the record conversations between the press and politicians don’t really bother me that much …

    Nor me.

    What bothers me is the assumption that conversations with those in power should be off the record, unless otherwise specified, or that all classified documents should remain classified unless declassified by the proper authorities – when history has shown time and time again that, people being people, they will priortize the personal and classify documents merely to prevent embarrassment or to further their own politcal agenda.

    .

  48. 48
    El Cid says:

    @scav:

    I’m also a little concerned about the underlying view of democracy creeping in is that “well, you get your vote on things once every four years, so for the rest of the time, shut up and believe everything we tell you and do everything we tell you to do.”

    Except, of course, the other underlying view is that whatever the foreign policy establishment is doing, 80% of it is too important to let you ignorant citizens mess with at the ballot box.

  49. 49
    homerhk says:

    Brien,

    I grasp the idea of classified material very well thank you. I am trying to make an argument (obviously not very well, though) that selective leaking of classified information is in general not a good idea and not something to encourage. Today, it may be that someone rightly thinks that the public should know a certain piece of information that has been classified and releases it – fine. But, what is then to stop someone else leaking selective information that IS legitimately classified to make a point from the other side of things; i agree there is no comparison between Breitbart and Assange. the more apt comparison I would make between this leak is with the leak of Valerie Plame’s name as a CIA agent. I know that the motives of the leaker were completely different but that’s exactly the point – one can leak for “honourable” reasons but if that is permitted how does that stop the “dishonourable” leaks. It seems to me that if you objected to the leak of Plame’s name (as I did), it is not inconsistent also to object to these leaks.

    This has nothing – I mean nothing – to do with whether or not I support the war, or whether or not I think that innocent civilians have been killed. In fact as I reviewed the information leaked to Assange, I didn’t really learn anything I didn’t know or suspect to the be the truth. Innocent people are dying every day in Afghanistan, war is hell and some soldiers (not just US soldiers) are just bloodthirsty.

  50. 50
    debbie says:

    JGabriel @ 39:

    You undercut your own argument with the word “presumably.”

    Where’s Assange’s context? These are raw reports and what’s missing are their outcomes. That’s what real context is.

    And as for Jude’s comment, I now have to add a third side to that coin.

  51. 51
    roshan says:

    @debbie:
    Since I have recovered from my bout of crying, I will now proceed to function normally.

    I just wanted to make this clear, this selection of ends over means which debbie accuses us of in this instance is the same as bush/cheney, is not black and white to us liberals (at least not to me). I wouldn’t always select end over means reflexively to achieve my goals. That depends on the circumstances and the actual goals. No two situations are the same and what bush/cheney did is incomparable to anything that the left advocates for. So if you know the general agenda of the left, you pretty much know what we seek.

  52. 52
    Vigouge says:

    @Jude:

    If you think that Assange and Breitbart are flip sides of the same coin, you’re a fucking idiot.

    It’s ad hominem, but you’re god damned right I said it.

    What did Brietbart do that was so different than what Assange did in regard to the “ClimateGate” emails?

    Both examples of scumbaggery.

  53. 53
    roshan says:

    @debbie:
    You mean this outcome?

    or this?

    The first one is just numbers, the second one gives a little more context and as for the casualties on the US side, you might get the context from the gov’t, if you ask nicely.

  54. 54
    Keith G says:

    @soonergrunt:

    I do believe that bad cases make bad law, so I do not want to get too hung up in the details of this case. I have a query:

    Military operations need secrecy. Democracy must have information. Politicians want to control who knows what to nurture their needs. Some politicians and some generals have been known to made really stupid and costly military choices based on their own ego needs or other less that adequate thought processes.

    In an environment when so much information can be controlled, embargoed and shaped, isn’t is necessary from time to time to have some thing like Wiki leaks (as imperfect as they might be) to help balance the power between a government and its subjects citizens?

    edited

  55. 55

    @Vigouge:

    What did Brietbart do that was so different than what Assange did in regard to the “ClimateGate” emails?

    Um, Assange released unedited versions of the documents. Breitbart released a highly-edited version that basically purported she was saying the exact opposite of what she said.

    I don’t see why it’s so hard to tell a difference between the two.

  56. 56
    scav says:

    @El Cid: There’s really just no middle ground or compromise anymore in the system now, is there? Gotta be one or the other. Everyone important has agreed we’re too stupid to handle the big important stuff. Luckily rusty pitchforks neither come with nor require complicated users manuals. I’m getting to be Johnny ApplePlague with my disgust with all your (generic, not strictly personal) houses!

  57. 57
    debbie says:

    @ arguing with signposts:

    I don’t see why it’s so hard to tell a difference between the two.

    But what was the intent of both? I think it was more to create a controversy than it was to engender an honest debate.

  58. 58
    eemom says:

    @homerhk:

    I am trying to make an argument (obviously not very well, though) that selective leaking of classified information is in general not a good idea and not something to encourage.

    No, actually you are making your argument quite well, and I agree with you. I don’t feel strongly about the “classified” issue, though what you’re saying makes perfect sense.

    What’s bothering me about this whole thing is the reaction to it, i.e., “Yeah, this is what transparency looks like! This is what journalists are SUPPOSED to do!” It’s yet another example of mindless knee jerk simpletonism.

    What Assange did was dump a shitload of raw data into the public domain. That’s very, very far from “reporting.”

    And I find it interesting that he’s the one who started the bullshit comparison of what he did to the Pentagon papers. Self-aggrandize much?

  59. 59

    @debbie:

    But what was the intent of both? I think it was more to create a controversy than it was to engender an honest debate.

    This gets to motive, which can be really sticky, but I’d favor Wikileaks over Breitbart if I had to judge between the two.

  60. 60
    scav says:

    @debbie: There’s also the real difference of intending to profit personally from the debate by trumpeting it yourself and submitting the documents to exterior sources for review.

  61. 61
    JGabriel says:

    @debbie:

    Where’s Assange’s context? These are raw reports and what’s missing are their outcomes. That’s what real context is.

    Really? 92,000 documents and you still bitch that there’s not enough context?

    That’s pretty near the height of bad faith arguing.

    .

  62. 62
    David Eoll says:

    @JG:

    If the establishment media wasn’t so happy to squirt water at our war leaders this might not be necessary

    Fixed your typo.

  63. 63
    eemom says:

    @debbie:

    And I agree with you too, though I wouldn’t go so far as to equate Assange with Breitbart, just because I think Breitbart deserves a classification of slimy-ass evil motherfucker all his own.

  64. 64

    @eemom:

    What Assange did was dump a shitload of raw data into the public domain. That’s very, very far from “reporting.”

    He also released it to three other journalistic enterprises before “dumping” it.

    To be clear, Wikileaks’ raison d’etre isn’t “reporting.” Source documents are not, in and of themselves, reporting.

  65. 65
    Chad N Freude says:

    @homerhk:

    I grasp the idea of classified material very well thank you.

    Then you know that there are standards, albeit based on both objective and subjective judgments, for each level of classification. Document classification can be (and obviously is) abused; it can’t simply be assumed that a document was properly classified.

  66. 66
    homerhk says:

    Jgabriel,

    92000 documents may sound like a lot, and no doubt it is a lot but it is still perfectly possible that the documents lack a wider context because there must be millions of relevant documents about incidents or occurrences in Afghanistan that have not been leaked. In this case, the person upon whom we are relying to give full context is not Assange but the unidentified leaker. Who knows what process he/she went through to pick the documents to leak? who knows what other documents he/she came across that he/she decided not to leak?

    I believe that is the argument about context that is relevant in this particular instance.

  67. 67
    El Cid says:

    @eemom:

    The echo you are hearing is that of the Nixon administration responding to the publication of the Pentagon Papers in 1971. Indeed, as Dan Ellsberg, the military analyst who leaked the Pentagon Papers says: “I’m very impressed by the release. It is the first release in 39 years or 40 years, since I first gave the Pentagon papers to the Senate, of the scale of the Pentagon papers.”

  68. 68
    El Cid says:

    @homerhk: For what it’s worth, actual historians who spend their lives on a particular specialty never have access to the amount of information they would prefer, yet we seem to pay attention to them as though they are able to give ‘context’. Data gives the opportunity to generate context; without data, there is no opportunity to analyze and generate context.

  69. 69
    eemom says:

    @arguingwithsignposts:

    Someone up above called it reporting, but whatever.

    More to the point, I take issue with the implication that Assange is some kind of fucking hero for doing this.

  70. 70
    Brautigan says:

    You know, if I ran a big media organization, instead of pissing and moaning about wikileaks, I might invest my time and money cultivating them as a source. I’m sure the folks at Wikileaks would be willing to, for example, provide the NY Times an ongoing first-look privilege in exchange for the considerable logistical and financial assistance they could provide.

  71. 71

    @homerhk:

    I don’t really get the impression that you’ve read much of the source material.

  72. 72

    @El Cid:

    All due respect to Ellsberg, this is nothing at all like the Pentagon Papers.

  73. 73

    @eemom:

    More to the point, I take issue with the implication that Assange is some kind of fucking hero for doing this.

    I don’t consider him a “hero,” but he’s no Breitbart. And I do somehow wonder about the Pandora’s Box that he unleashed when he (and whoever else) decided to create Wikileaks.

  74. 74
    scav says:

    @homerhk: There is a middle ground between the 1% solution and waiting for every bit of information that could possibly ever exist before making a judgement. Of course there’s bias in the documents, there’s always bias in source documents. Some things don’t get written down, for one. Preservation bias, reporting bias, blah blah blah. Dealing with bias and incomplete information is something journalists (and researchers, for that matter, see later note) should know how to cope with. Hell, garden variety people should know how to handle this to some degree.

  75. 75
    Chad N Freude says:

    @scav:

    Everyone important has agreed we’re too stupid to handle the big important stuff.

    It’s not just keeping stuff away from US exposure for political or personal reasons. There is information that, if published, could/would give an adversary military or diplomatic advantage over the US or impede or negate an effort to defeat or negotiate with an adversary, which is supposed to be the reason for classifying stuff in the first place.

  76. 76
    eemom says:

    @El Cid:

    The Pentagon Papers—a study commissioned by former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara to find out just how the United States got involved in Vietnam—was a finished, multivolume history, containing classified documents, which revealed that the Vietnam War was largely a civil war; that it might never have erupted, had the United States abided by the 1954 Geneva agreement, which called for nationwide elections to unify North and South Vietnam; and, most crucially, that, by early 1965, even as they spoke optimistically about the prospects of victory, several top U.S. officials knew the war was lost. In short, the Pentagon Papers revealed that, from the beginning and continuing through the escalation under President Lyndon B. Johnson, the war was a lie.
    By contrast, there’s very little in the raw WikiLeaks documents—at least among those reprinted in the Times and the Guardian—that is at all inconsistent with official U.S. and NATO statements about the war in Afghanistan.

    http://www.slate.com/id/2261780/
    The comparison to the Nixon administration’s reaction — going to the Supreme Court to stop the publication — is also ridiculous and unfair.

  77. 77
    El Cid says:

    @Brien Jackson: Be that as it may, the comment was that the expressed sentiment was self-aggrandizement, whereas there is direct evidence that it was not merely self-. In this particular case, then, the disagreement would be with Ellsberg’s assessment.

    Again, yes, the Pentagon Papers were an internal review of US foreign policy in Vietnam prepared by the Department of Defense. The current release would perhaps resemble the communications that the Defense department drew upon in creating its secret history of the war.

    Likewise, Foreign Relations of the United States is an edited version of the declassified history of the foreign policies of the United States, typically delayed for 30+ years, and longer for subjects involving more ‘controversial’ US intervention.

  78. 78
    El Cid says:

    @eemom: I didn’t endorse the opinion. I know well both what the Pentagon Papers were and the context of their publication (in newspapers and via the Congressional record). As stated earlier, it was Dan Ellsberg who made the comparison. Take it up with him.

  79. 79

    The Most Dangerous Man in America is particularly apt at the moment. It’s available on NetFlix instant.

  80. 80
    El Cid says:

    I do in fact think there are contexts in which release of raw data could have lots of negative effects.

    On the other hand, there are others — US support of death squads and genocidalists in Central America — where no aspect of such operations should have been secret, even if this possibly risked the livelihood of undercover operatives, given the hundreds of thousands of civilians being slaughtered.

  81. 81
    Chad N Freude says:

    @El Cid:

    Data gives the opportunity to generate context; without data, there is no opportunity to analyze and generate context.

    Context is the factual environment in which the data exists. It’s necessary for analysis, and understanding of context may be altered by data, but it’s not generated by data.

  82. 82
    homerhk says:

    a wrap up post:

    @brien, i haven’t read all the 91K documents but I have read a fair few of them and read the detailed reporting in the Guardian (my daily paper).

    @Chad n Freude – I don’t think I suggested anywhere that we should assume that all classified documents have been properly classified or that classification is never abused – of course it is. My point was – again – that individuals deciding off their own backs what was or was not properly classified is dangerous. Not necessarily because they’ll always be wrong but because it leaves the door open for any more malign soul to do the same for more nefarious reasons. Another point on this that I tend to agree with is that the fact that these documents have been leaked are likely to mean that there is less sharing of relevant information between agencies due to increased risk of leaking.

    @scav, el cid – I don’t disagree with your points about context – and I think it supports what I said which is that just because there are a lot of documents that doesn’t mean that they were all in the proper context.

  83. 83
    eemom says:

    @El Cid:

    Not to quibble about a relatively meaningless point, but what Ellsberg said doesn’t make what Assange said any less of a self- aggrandizement, considering that aside from the fact that both were leaks of classified information, it is, in fact, a bullshit comparison.

    ETA: You seem to be under the impression that Assange himself did not make that comparison. He did (see above link).

  84. 84

    @El Cid:

    My point would be more along the lines of content. The Pentagon Papers contained evidence of lies, manipulation, crimes, and various other scandalous actions by the US government. This report mostly seems to have bland, old, news, and the most it really reveals is that the classification regime is out of hand. But there’s nothing approaching memos acknowledging that the government lied about events in order to sell escalation, never intended to honor the Geneva agreement, was actively supporting the Diem government’s brutal countryside campaigns, etc.

  85. 85
    roshan says:

    @homerhk:

    It seems to me that if you objected to the leak of Plame’s name (as I did), it is not inconsistent also to object to these leaks.

    Not sure, why there should be a consistency in support or opposition of leaks.
    The Plame leak was done during the Bush administration that was pursuing an agenda to discredit anyone who questioned their war mongering motives. I didn’t support the leak after learning that and would have been quite supportive of that leak, had there been any benefits for the general public to know it.
    The current Afghan news leak does show that the US occupation is an ongoing failure and this kind of information would never have had reached the general public if it had went through proper channels.

    EDIT: If the gov’t was made up of only 10 people I knew very well and trusted, maybe I would oppose all the leaks. But since it is a gigantic national security state which would like to hide as much information from the general public and cover it’s own ass, I would not oppose or support a leak all the time as a rule but would judge based on the context.

  86. 86
    El Cid says:

    @Chad N Freude: It’s not altered by data, it’s what is enabled by data. There is no context without data. It may be other data. Changes in mine output may be meaningless without being situated in the context of a strike or local military revolt, but those contexts are based upon information, too — you have to know about the strike or revolt.

    And context isn’t necessarily neutral, either — what is and what is not relevant context is also up to debate, and disputants within such debates are more than free to challenge the information upon which one advocates one or another context as more or less significant.

  87. 87
    CCCP II says:

    “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.”

    Article 19, supreme law of the land here and abroad. Suck it, Feds. Withhold American’s rights and the civilized world will grant them.

  88. 88
    scav says:

    @Chad N Freude: And your assumption is that such stuff is in there, currently. At some point, this has gone through enough layers handling and people of various motivation that I’m personally not expecting to see much of such vital importance in there. The passage of time also helps, and there were three big respected gatekeepers at the end of this process. Why are you expecting / assuming the original leaks to be of the tactically and strategically dangerous sort rather than the bloody embarrassing sort? Stop patting me on the head as though I don’t understand the official reasons behind classification.

  89. 89
    El Cid says:

    @eemom: No, I’m not under that impression. I was careful to note that the aggrandizement wasn’t exclusively self aggrandizement. This isn’t a contradiction. I really have almost zero knowledge of Assange’s personality or rhetorical style and flourishes, so I wouldn’t attempt to defend him from charges of a certain egotism. But right or wrong in his view, there’s no question that Ellsberg view is relevant in discussing comparisons of this release to the Pentagon Papers. Ellsberg is just as human as anyone else, and open to making bad arguments, but it’s relevant.

  90. 90
    Chad N Freude says:

    @scav: My comment was not directed at the Wikileaks stuff, just at the fact that there is a rationale for classifying information beyond don’t tell US citizens.

    ETA: Sorry, if you feel head-patted, but your comment implied (to me) that domestic consumption was the only rationale for classification.

  91. 91
    El Cid says:

    @Brien Jackson: That’s absolutely true. And certainly one of the reasons that these assessments of scurrilous and criminal actions in policymaking is that the Pentagon Papers involved high level foreign policy decisions and discussions, whereas this (so I’ve heard) is all low level information.

    I’m pretty sure that by the time Reagan came along, there would be no more internal studies along the lines of the brutally inquiring Pentagon Papers. By that point we’re into off the record meetings and ‘plausible deniability’ and other crap.

  92. 92
    eemom says:

    @Brien Jackson:

    Yes, and this is part of what I find disturbing about the reaction, and the comparison. It’s the perfect sound-bite — the new Pentagon Papers! Obama’s not just like Bush anymore — now, he’s just he’s like Nixon too!

    This is gonna be repeated all over the place, by people who have no idea how vastly different those two events are. And so, once again, a lie gets halfway around the world before the truth can put its boots on.

  93. 93

    @roshan:

    More to the point, the identity of covert operative are classified to protect them, their family, make it possible for them to do their jobs, etc. Classifying a report on how the Taliban pays their fighters more than the Afghan government doesn’t serve a similar goal in any way. As they used to say, it’s hardly a secret to the Cambodians.

  94. 94
    Chad N Freude says:

    @El Cid: So your position is that context is data that is metadata for other data. This is true, I can’t argue with it.

  95. 95
    Chad N Freude says:

    @El Cid: I’d be willing to bet that there are massive reports inside the Pentagon analogous to the Pentagon Papers about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

  96. 96
    Keith G says:

    @eemom: What does it matter. It’s so typical of our (media) culture to get caught up in issues of personality and sometimes, unnecessarily, of motive.

    I don’t give a fig if Assange dresses in a waist coat and thinks he is Napoleon. What’s done is done.

    I am more concerned about what if any information is in those docs that pertain to the ability to keep Obama on the task of ending this fiasco.

    Personality. be. damned

  97. 97

    @El Cid:

    To be clear, I’m not trying to shit on the WikiLeaks report at all, I just think it’s misleading to make general comparisons of it to the Pentagon Papers, given the vastly different nature of the content. I mean, you can definitely use this stuff to build a good case for reforming the classification system, because there’s an awful lot of stuff that has absolutely no reason to be classified (I’m pretty sure the Taliban knows wht kind of weapons they have access to), but comparing it to the Pentagon Papers might give more cursory readers/news consumers the impression that it proves some sort of conspiracy or criminality in the government.

  98. 98

    @Keith G:

    Some of Assange’s interviews make me worry about his commitment to the right of personal privacy.

  99. 99
    Chad N Freude says:

    @Brien Jackson: This is not to assert that any individual piece of the WikiLeaked material meets any of the criteria for classification, but aggregation of some number of unclassifiable facts can result in something, a context, if you will, that is classifiable. For those among us who prefer the cliché of the day, this would be “connecting the dots”.

  100. 100
    Chad N Freude says:

    @Brien Jackson: Personal privacy: a quaint, outmoded concept in the Age of the Internet.

  101. 101
    debbie says:

    @ arguingwithsignposts:

    This gets to motive, which can be really sticky, but I’d favor Wikileaks over Breitbart if I had to judge between the two.

    @eemom:

    I wouldn’t go so far as to equate Assange with Breitbart, just because I think Breitbart deserves a classification of slimy-ass evil motherfucker all his own.

    And I think in the current political atmosphere, motive has taken on too much importance. Justifying whatever action is taken by what one wants to achieve. Not so different from the Crusades.

    I might think Assange is not as evil as Breitbart, but that would be because of my own political views. The fact remains that they did the same thing, and I think that thing is wrong. It can’t be okay for one “side” to do something and wrong for the other to do the same thing.

    I do have a problem equating Assange’s action with the Pentagon Papers. I remember when they were released, and I supported their release. But Ellsburg exposed something that the public didn’t know about, hadn’t condoned, and had specifically forbidden. Documenting what is already known about Afghanistan — Pakistani complicity, civilian casualties, etc. — isn’t even in the same league.

    Ellsburg was a whistleblower, and Assange appears to be an opportunist.

  102. 102
    El Cid says:

    @Chad N Freude:

    I’d be willing to bet that there are massive reports inside the Pentagon analogous to the Pentagon Papers about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq

    Maybe, but I think the level of worry that such documents might one day be discovered — even 20 or 30 years from now — would completely change what was written and how.

    @Brien Jackson:
    I’m assuming that the only other significant release of secret information that the public has any idea of would be the Pentagon Papers.

    I think that’s one of the reasons it’s so common to compare evils to Nazi actions — it’s one of the few sets of historical baddies people are somewhat familiar with. They’ve at least seen the movies and probably watched the History Channel a few times.

  103. 103
    Bulworth says:

    contemptible soldier or soldiers

    Do they know if it was a soldier or soldiers? Maybe if the Administration wasn’t so contemptible of the need to oversee our vast national security state it would have a better handle on how to safeguard its documents. If they don’t care about accountability regarding how many war contractors we hire and where, this sort of thing is kind of inevitable.

  104. 104
    Chad N Freude says:

    @debbie:

    The fact remains that they did the same thing

    No comparison. This might be close to true if the WikiLeaks material had been edited in a way to lead to a completely false conclusion.

  105. 105
    liberty60 says:

    This term, “journalist” that Mr. Exum speaks of; isn’t that a person who sips mojitos while swinging on a tire at John McCain’s house, or engages in a watergun fight with Rahm Emmauel?

    Isn’t a “journalist” a pretty blonde woman who sits on a couch and crosses and uncrosses her legs every 30-45 seconds, or a red faced middle aged man who blusters and berates the television viewer?

    So just what does a “journalist” have to do with ferreting out facts and reporting them to the public?

  106. 106
    rapier says:

    Nothing that gets into Wikileaks is secret to those looking in. Everyone who has ever clicked onto their web site is known. Thankfully we have not stooped to Russia’s level, yet.

    I think rightly, the authorities, whoever they are, see whatever comes out as a limited hangout. Wikileaks itself will soon be the enemy. Every revelation instantly forgotten, dismissed, or embraced.

  107. 107

    @debbie:

    I might think Assange is not as evil as Breitbart, but that would be because of my own political views. The fact remains that they did the same thing, and I think that thing is wrong. It can’t be okay for one “side” to do something and wrong for the other to do the same thing.

    And I maintain they did *not* do “the same thing.”

    Andrew Breitbart made it his duty to take down a low-level bureaucrat in rural farm development, for fuck’s sake. Assange posted a lot of documents that were related to a large, international war where *people are dying.*

    Big difference there, but that’s just imho.

  108. 108
    Chad N Freude says:

    @El Cid:

    I think the level of worry that such documents might one day be discovered—even 20 or 30 years from now—would completely change what was written and how.

    The military puts this stuff together for its own internal use. There may be some tuning of what gets filed, but it has to be accurate for real-world assessment and planning purposes.

  109. 109
    debbie says:

    @ Chad N Freude:

    Neither of them released a complete picture. Breitbart didn’t release the complete tape, and Assange didn’t include follow-ups to all the reports. I agree with your implication that Breitbart might have been more intentionally dishonest, but the fact remains that Assange’s release isn’t the total picture either.

  110. 110
    iLarynx says:

    Typically, a secret is kept by the state because somebody is getting screwed (and the state doesn’t want them to discover that/how they’re getting screwed). It may be an American citizen getting screwed (e.g. the secret $640 toilet seats paid for with his taxpayer money, the secret extra-Constitutional domestic surveillance program under Bush-Cheney, etc.), or others getting screwed (e.g. Iranians living under Shah Pahlavi, Chileans living under Augusto Pinochet, et al), but generally, if you feel you have to keep a secret, it’s because you don’t want the screwee to know that/how they’re getting screwed.

    More secrets = more people getting screwed.

    91,000 screws revealed this week.

    And the comparison of the Wikileaks dump to the Pentagon Papers boils down to this: Right or wrong, they both have resulted in embarrassment for the administration and the Pentagon because they revealed information that strongly suggests the administration and Pentagon have been less than forthcoming about the current complexion and future outlook of their military adventures.

  111. 111
    Corner Stone says:

    @debbie:

    But what was the intent of both? I think it was more to create a controversy than it was to engender an honest debate.

    How would you propose we have an honest debate if we lack information?

  112. 112
    Chad N Freude says:

    @debbie: Your comparison reminds me of an old joke from my childhood. A sausage maker claims that his sausages are 50% rabbit meat. When challenged, he says it’s true because “with every horse I put in a rabbit.”

  113. 113
    Corner Stone says:

    @debbie:

    Breitbart didn’t release the complete tape, and Assange didn’t include follow-ups to all the reports.

    I find the comparison incredibly lacking. Breitbart produced a severly edited tape to achieve a certain outcome. From what I can tell, WikiLeaks produced all their data and allowed the outcome to determine itself.

  114. 114
    debbie says:

    @ arguingwithsignposts 107:

    I’m going to bow out of this discussion, but I did want to say that I do see the difference between a smear and people dying. But people dying still doesn’t justify a wrong action.

    Like everything else, this isn’t black and white. There are a billion shades of gray in between, ranging from Breitbart to Plame to Assange. I don’t know where anyone draws the line between what’s okay and what’s not, really. (Except maybe personal political prejudices.)

  115. 115
    Corner Stone says:

    @debbie:

    but I’m having a real problem with people who can extol Assange yet condemn Breitbart. They’re just opposite sides of the same coin, and together, they (and their supporters) have destroyed journalism—and pretty much any hope of comity in this country.

    God. Grandiose much?

  116. 116
    El Cid says:

    @Chad N Freude: The Pentagon Papers also did political analysis of how policies were generated and why. I just don’t see the military doing that. At least not in any written form.

  117. 117
    soonergrunt says:

    @Keith G: That depends upon whether or not you or other citizens trust that the government that you put in power has your best interests at heart.
    Does it? If not, why not, and whose responsibility is that?

    Here’s the issue, and there’s really no getting around it–
    Do we, as Americans, trust our own government? Are we citizens doing what we can and should to ensure that our government is responsible to us? I think this whole thing is symptomatic of a more dangerous trend which is that the citizenry have largely disengaged from the practice of their own governance to the point where there are some people on here who actually think that a guy like Assange is some kind of hero. This is a guy who has openly stated that he wants to affect (a polite word for damage) the relations and operations of a sovereign country to which he owes no allegience. I’m less favorable to him than others around here because there is no fundamental difference between him and Breitbart. Both of them release edited stuff (collateral murder, anyone?) that his highly damaging to their perceived targets and is eventually discovered to be far less than they advertised it to be.
    I’m more worried about the motivations of the person or persons who leaked this stuff to Assange in the first place, and I remind you all that no matter what you may think of the war, that person has committed a crime, full stop.
    Americans have always had this streak of skepticism about their government and the people who were part of it. That, until recently, has been very healthy for the republic and for democracy as a whole, but now that skepticism is married to an attitude that couldn’t be bothered to actually take part in the process.
    Those who do take part actually discover that the world is a pretty messy place and sometimes even the most powerful nation in the world does the needful and not the wanted because the needful is all that can be managed.
    Most of the stuff in this document dump is, as Spencer Ackerman describes it, pretty low level stuff. Day to day housekeeping traffic. I’ve actually seen reports that I wrote in there. But there is stuff in there that we don’t necessarily want the Taliban or even other countries from seeing. As an example, there are reports according to the Wired article, of units suspecting they have been engaged by MANPADS (Man Portable Air Defense Systems like Stinger missiles.) Do we want the Taliban to know how effective or ineffective those systems might be? Do we want others to know this stuff?

  118. 118
    Chad N Freude says:

    @iLarynx: At the risk of repeating myself, I have a comment upthread that says

    There is information that, if published, could/would give an adversary military or diplomatic advantage over the US or impede or negate an effort to defeat or negotiate with an adversary, which is supposed to be the reason for classifying stuff in the first place.

    ETA: See also soonergrunt’s last two sentences in the comment above.

  119. 119

    Shorter Exum: “You’ve been wrong about every single thing you’ve ever done, including this thing. You’re not smart. You’re not a scientist. You’re not a doctor. You’re not even a full-time employee. Where did your life go so wrong?”

  120. 120
    Maude says:

    What will happen to the US sailor being held by the Taliban? The other one has been found dead. This one? What will the Taliban propaganda be like and how many Afghans will believe them?
    Why does anyone think war is anything but brutal?

  121. 121
    Stefan says:

    It seems that the death of any civilian in war, an unavoidable occurrence, is a “crime.”

    How were these deaths “unavoidable”? If we hadn’t chosen to attack and invade Iraq in the first place, a million Iraqis would still be alive. Nothing “unavoidable” about that choice.

  122. 122

    @soonergrunt:

    , pretty low level stuff.

    Yup, and likely lots of soldiers names. I endorse your comment soonergrunt. IN IT”S ENTIRETY

  123. 123
    Corner Stone says:

    @soonergrunt:

    of units suspecting they have been engaged by MANPADS (Man Portable Air Defense Systems like Stinger missiles.) Do we want the Taliban to know how effective or ineffective those systems might be? Do we want others to know this stuff?

    Do you honestly think they don’t already know?
    My question is ~ who are we really worried about learning this information? Us or some other entity?

    The Taliban could probably tell you when Sgt Johnson takes a leak on his Thursday shift. This isn’t news to them.

  124. 124
    Adam C says:

    @soonergrunt:

    Are we citizens doing what we can and should to ensure that our government is responsible to us?

    How can citizens hold government responsible when they don’t know what that government is doing? This is not to excuse apathy, but one way to keep people apathetic is to lie to them with reassurances that everything is okay and they don’t need to worry about it.

    Similarly war is hell and shitty things inevitably happen. A warmongering state would like to keep that fact a secret from its citizens so that it can continue to wage war wherever it likes. The citizens need to be reminded of these atrocities to shake them from their apathy.

  125. 125
    Keith G says:

    @soonergrunt:

    That depends upon whether or not you or other citizens trust that the government that you put in power has your best interests at heart.

    Governments are complex things. Some parts are more trustworthy than others. Some can get so defensive about their prerogatives as to approach an angry paranoia.

    Setting aside disclosing personal names (inexcusable), I wonder if any tactical or strategic issues caused by this will in anyway override the public good that might accrue from this crime.

    Those who do take part actually discover that the world is a pretty messy place and sometimes even the most powerful nation in the world does the needful and not the wanted because the needful is all that can be managed.

    That discovery is part of the public good.

  126. 126

    Ahem.

    An ongoing Pentagon review of the massive flood of secret documents made public by the WikiLeaks website has so far found no evidence that the disclosure harmed U.S. national security or endangered American troops in the field, a Pentagon official told NBC News on Monday.

  127. 127
    slag says:

    He is an activist, and to what end it is not clear.

    What a weird assertion. He’s certainly not a very good activist if we don’t know what he’s an activist for.

  128. 128
    paramedicx says:

    shorter Andrew Exum: why can’t i be Seymore Hersh Jr.? i want leaks/traffic to my byline.

  129. 129
    jh says:

    All of this is reminiscent of the old “Loose Lips Sink Ships” propaganda campaigns from WWII.

    I think what is being overlooked by some is the fact that the the people in charge of our national security, e.g the DoD, and the vast intelligence and clandestine apparatus, are doing things that are largely indefensible.

    Simply put, unlike say WWII, no honest, cogent narrative exists that can reasonably justify the shit we have been doing overseas in the minds of Americans, morally or financially.

    Classification of documents shouldn’t be anything more than a tool in which you keep information out of the hands of your adversaries.

    What it has become is a means by which the security state hides its motives, many of them malign, from the electorate.

    This is of course, a form of corruption and is very undemocratic.

    So what alternatives does the electorate have when faced with a vast, unnaccountable security state that redacts information at will, and has no problem whatsoever using its control over said information to shape public opinion and to insulate the public from the negative outcomes of its actions?

    Especially when one considers that the likelihood of our poltical system produding the several hundred elected officials that would be required to rein in the abuses, is virtually nil considering the fact that the applicant pool is comprised of the same aforementioned, propagandized electorate.

    It is a self-reinforcing feedback loop.

    What eventually happens, and what we are seeing is when a system becomes too corrupt and abusive, it produces a counterbalancing force (see Brown, John or Turner, Nat) that is willing to burn the whole thing down rather, collateral damage be damned, than let it continue any longer.

    This is the inevitable outcome of abuses of power.

    Those running a corrupt system can either reform it on their own terms or it will be done on someone else’s.

  130. 130
    soonergrunt says:

    @Corner Stone:

    Do you honestly think they don’t already know?

    It’s very possible. Having been immersed in the chaos of a battlefield, I know for a fact that there are things I don’t know about the results of actions in which I have personally taken part.

    My question is ~ who are we really worried about learning this information? Us or some other entity?

    I, and most Soldiers I know, are less concerned about you knowing what’s going on than that ‘some other entity.’
    I’d like you to know. I just don’t think telling you something is worth the risk that Some Other Entity will use that information to kill or maim a friend of mine. It’s pretty fucking egotistical of you to think that your edification is worth that risk.
    The belief by those on the extreme right that we’re perfectly noble and the enemy are savages and those on the extreme left that is the mirror image opposite makes it difficult to teach the teachable. And the teaching has to extend beyond “we’re the good guys and they’re the bad guys and war is bad for children and other living things” or its worthless. Absent actual context, nothing in these documents will do anything stateside except reinforce already held beliefs.

    The Taliban could probably tell you when Sgt Johnson takes a leak on his Thursday shift. This isn’t news to them.

    But whether or not SGT Johnson has food poisoning or is running low on ammunition, or that SGT Johnson suspects the red truck driving by his outpost each day is a Talib supply vehicle, and that vehicle is now under surveillance from a UAV they can’t see just might be news to them.

    And a couple of other questions here–if Assange has 90,000+ documents, as claimed, why only release 77,000 of them? Why not the whole cache? Is it because the man with the self-proclaimed agenda to modify US foreign/military policy has determined that they other 13,000 documents undermine his goal?

  131. 131
    ignoreland says:

    @homerhk:

    I call bullshit and will argue otherwise. If Daniel Ellsworth hadn’t leaked them and the NY Times (when reporters and editors had balls, not portfolios) hadn’t published them, the Pentagon Papers would never had opened the eyes of the electorate to the shameless manipulation of information coming out of Vietnam. If people are kept ignorant by bureaucrats whose default position is keeping secrets, we cannot make informed choices of our candidates. If the MSM won’t print the information, or is intimidated into not printing it, then it is the responsibility of sources to go through back channels.

    This isn’t a debate over classification. This is a hissy fit over the embarrassment of conducting a useless war in which the act of killing non-combatants is sanctioned if not encouraged. Thank God for the sources who recognize their oath is to the Constitution, not the happy face of their institution.

  132. 132
    Mar says:

    After laboring to show that there’s nothing new or interesting in the revelations, he tells us how awful they were

    That’s not quite what he says. He said that much of the “sensational” information isn’t new, but the information on the American military tactics, techniques, procedures and equipment is new and is awful. That kind of information should be redacted. That should be something everyone can agree upon.

  133. 133
    PIGL says:

    @debbie:
    But people dying still doesn’t justify a wrong action

    That’s a pretty cosmic of view of right and wrong you have there.

  134. 134
    Catsy says:

    @debbie:

    I don’t know or care who started all this, but I’m having a real problem with people who can extol Assange yet condemn Breitbart. They’re just opposite sides of the same coin

    This is pure, unadulterated horseshit that takes little more than a moment of actual thinking to refute.

    Breitbart is a propagandist with a complete disregard for truth who uses lying, race-baiting and tactics of personal destruction to manufacture anti-minority and anti-liberal fear and hatred. He’s a FUD merchant who has twice now been busted for using deceptively edited footage in bad faith to smear others.

    Assange operates a web site that acts as a conduit for whistleblowers and other well-placed sources to leak information. We can debate whether what he does is ethical or not with regard to classified information, but it’s not dishonest.

    I’d even say those justifying Assange’s actions are really no different than Bush/Cheney in their emphasis of ends over means.

    See above. This is so idiotic that it doesn’t even qualify as wrong. It barely rises above the level of gibberish.

  135. 135

    Mar and others concerned about endangering the troops,

    As I pointed out above: “An ongoing Pentagon review of the massive flood of secret documents made public by the WikiLeaks website has so far found no evidence that the disclosure harmed U.S. national security or endangered American troops in the field, a Pentagon official told NBC News on Monday.”

  136. 136
    eemom says:

    @themann1086:

    Um, yeah, “so far.” But there are 90,000 documents and it’s been less than 2 days.

  137. 137

    @eemom: So as of right now, we have no reason to think the documents pose a threat to the troops. But I guess it would be irresponsible not to speculate, eh?

  138. 138
    News Nag says:

    To Mr. Ballot Box Commenter: This democracy with its ballot boxes that you speak of, is this the same democracy that has long since been completely overruled by the republic’s military interests and the related gargantuan industrial weapons-making conglomerates that singlehandedly drive the political and foreign policy agenda, while at the same time spend so much money on electing their favorite politicians to high political office that the ruling juggernaut represented by this military and industrial (oh, well, say…) complex runs roughshod over the democratic political process, such that they get to keep the economic and otherwise Machiavellian political reasoning and information needed to start and continue their big and little wars secret enough that the people participating in the democracy, even and especially its elected representatives, never have enough accurate information – and certainly never have enough political power – to stop or even alter the big and little wars? Well, then, by all means. Let the system work indeed, right? RIGHT!?

    Other than that, in other things, it’s possible that you’re not irrevocably full of shit.

  139. 139
    eemom says:

    @themann1086:

    please check out the discussion of this issue on John’s later thread.

  140. 140
    Corner Stone says:

    @soonergrunt:

    It’s pretty fucking egotistical of you to think that your edification is worth that risk.

    We can know nothing! If we knew things weren’t going so well then the government may not be able to lie to us quite so broadly anymore!
    Nobody wants to put Sgt Johnson at risk. Well, nobody that is except for the Pentagon.
    But this discussion is not about the individual troop. That is an emotional argument that shields us from talking about what this is really about.

  141. 141
    tbrookside says:

    We can debate whether or not certain material should be classified or not, but in a democracy voters elect to have that decision made by the people they vote in, not by unelected military officers. How anyone can argue otherwise is beyond me.

    It’s really very easy to argue otherwise.

    The government is legitimate only to the extent that it possesses the consent of the governed.

    If you hide relevant facts about the conduct of the war from me, I can’t consent to it. And neither can anyone else, other than by issuing blanket “implicit” consent like “Do what you want and don’t tell me about it”.

    If I was about to run for Congress on a platform opposing the administration’s conduct of the war, I have an absolute right to be able to use details about that conduct in the context of domestic political debate.

    Any American who might oppose, for example, supporting the government of Pakistan while that government is supporting the Taliban has been being denied their right of full political participation because the very government undertaking the policy being debated empowers itself to hide information about its success or failure.

    And I dispute your major premise, which is that the majority has the right in the first place to appoint people to hide information from the minority. Other than in instances of manifest short-term tactical necessity, the entire category “classified information” shouldn’t exist. As long as even one American citizen opposes the war, that citizen should have the right to the full story about the war so that he can use it to call his fellow citizens to account. And if that gives some theoretical adversary information they can use, that’s the price of living in an actual free society and an actual republic.

  142. 142

    @eemom: Ahh, a new thread. I hate when that happens… AWAY!

  143. 143
    HyperIon says:

    @arguingwithsignposts:

    Just out of curiousity, how many of these documents were classified “top secret” by elected officials? I really don’t know the process here.

    I saw Assange on C_SPAN last night and he was impressive. NOT an egotistical douchebag.

    He did not address your specific question (while I was watching) but he referenced field reports that discussed who got shot (that is, the civilians) and why. It seems unlikely that this type of rather mundane info would be classified as Top Secret. I mean, they were to be read by “ordinary” military guys up the chain who cannot have that kind of clearance. At least that’s what I think.

  144. 144
    Bruce (formerly Steve S.) says:

    @Corner Stone:

    Dear Member of the United States Armed Forces,

    Thank you for volunteering to serve your country. Understand that this entails the possibility of being sent many thousands of miles away from your home into a hostile part of the world by our duly elected leaders. Also remember that you are fighting for the United States of America, whose founding documents sanctify the principle of government of the people, with an electorate informed by a press free from government intrusion. That our people are free and informed may from time to time cause an elevated level of risk to yourself, but that’s why they’re worth fighting for.

    Thank you again.

    Sincerely,

    Uncle Sam

  145. 145
    HyperIon says:

    @soonergrunt:

    And a couple of other questions here—if Assange has 90,000+ documents, as claimed, why only release 77,000 of them?

    My understanding (based on C-SPAN broadcast of yesterday’s press conference in London) is that the ones held back contain (or may contain) info that would be dangerous to troops, etc.

    He also said that only about 10,000 docs have been closely examined so far by his group. Evidently the docs come with various tags that describe the content category. I don’t understand all of this and want to know more.

  146. 146
    JT says:

    Exum appears to be arguing that one shouldn’t expose the truth because it’s unfair to policymakers who don’t really have much choice in what to do about it.

    That’s an odd position for an bastion of journalism to promote.

    It makes me wonder what they haven’t told us about the BP oil spill.

  147. 147
    lawguy says:

    @debbie: First, Brietbart lied in the videos he released. I’d say that was a major difference there.

  148. 148
    iLarynx says:

    @ Chad N Freude

    There is information that, if published, could/would give an adversary military or diplomatic advantage over the US or impede or negate an effort to defeat or negotiate with an adversary, which is supposed to be the reason for classifying stuff in the first place.

    Isn’t that the exact same argument made by Rummy, Cheney, and W to keep the electorate in the dark about Abu Ghriab, domestic surveillance, abuses at GITMO, etc., etc.? Sorry. That carte blanche doesn’t work in a free society. Besides, history shows that it’s much more likely such documents are classified to hide incompetence or malfeasance, rather than to protect national security interests.

    As for the two sentences you reference from soonergrunt, the example in the sentence just preceding those two invalidate his point entirely.

    But there is stuff in there that we don’t necessarily want the Taliban or even other countries from seeing. As an example, there are reports according to the Wired article, of units suspecting they have been engaged by MANPADS (Man Portable Air Defense Systems like Stinger missiles.) Do we want the Taliban to know how effective or ineffective those systems might be? Do we want others to know this stuff?

    An Afghani firing a Stinger missile is going to know if it’s been “effective or ineffective” in just a few seconds – he doesn’t need Wikileaks to tell him that.

    Yes, there is a legitimate need for classification of legitimate security issues. So, if there’s something that is a genuine compromise to national security, find it and let us know. Otherwise, it looks like this is another example of classification of documents as a political CYA maneuver, and the exposure is more of a political embarrassment than a compromise of national security.

  149. 149
    lawguy says:

    @roshan: Isn’t there an aspect called “time.” You know if you are releasing documents or information concerning things that “happened in the past” isn’t that different from telling people that hey, this person is curently operating a spy network. Isn’t one of the administration complaints that these documents all deal with things that happened in 2009 and before?

    So to recap: things that have already happened are different than things that are going on right now.

  150. 150
    debbie says:

    FWIW, on Fresh Air, Terri Gross interviewed Mark Mazzetti of the NYT who went through the documents. He said that they discarded “a portion” of the documents because they didn’t turn out to be credible. Why couldn’t Assange have done this before the release?

  151. 151
    kcbill13 says:

    @debbie:

    Maybe what Assange has done could be more reasonably looked at as getting the raw data to three different supposed news organisations in three different countries, SO THAT they could put them into context.

    And maybe he is acting to help get out information about the war In Afghanistan because the official line from the journalists and almost GOD Petreaus is:

    We can still win this war!!

    We are here for a justified reason!

    When in reality, they cannot even tell us what the real goals for us being there are, and it is sending the country broke, with no real advantage to the citizens of the USA

    Why do you hate the citizens of the USA??

  152. 152
    fourteen years says:

    Interesting that Mr. Exum, promoter of counter-insurgency, adviser to Gen. McChrystal, prolific blogger and think tank scholar would write an op-ed about muddying the waters between journalism and activism.

    Apparently being a strong proponent of the war in Afghanistan insulates one from charges of activism.

  153. 153
    Corner Stone says:

    @fourteen years:

    Apparently being a strong proponent of the war in Afghanistan insulates one from charges of activism.

    He meant when anyone who disagrees with him does it, natch.

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