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Author Topic: Wikileaks project as Reviewed by NYT  (Read 846 times)

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Wikileaks project as Reviewed by NYT
« on: January 27, 2011, 12:08:35 AM »
          Bill Keller of the New York Times posted a story on the NYT and other papers' working relationships with Wikileaks.  Some notes that may be pertinent for updating/ extending prior discussions...

Could the news organizations collaborate, yet keep classified data secure? 
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     An air of intrigue verging on paranoia permeated the project, perhaps understandably, given that we were dealing with a mass of classified material and a source who acted like a fugitive, changing crash pads, e-mail addresses and cellphones frequently. We used encrypted Web sites. Reporters exchanged notes via Skype, believing it to be somewhat less vulnerable to eavesdropping. On conference calls, we spoke in amateurish code. Assange was always “the source.” The latest data drop was “the package.” When I left New York for two weeks to visit bureaus in Pakistan and Afghanistan, where we assume that communications may be monitored, I was not to be copied on message traffic about the project. I never imagined that any of this would defeat a curious snoop from the National Security Agency or Pakistani intelligence. And I was never entirely sure whether that prospect made me more nervous than the cyberwiles of WikiLeaks itself. At a point when relations between the news organizations and WikiLeaks were rocky, at least three people associated with this project had inexplicable activity in their e-mail that suggested someone was hacking into their accounts.

How to minimize risk to individuals mentioned in the cables?
Quote
     From the beginning, we agreed that in our articles and in any documents we published from the secret archive, we would excise material that could put lives at risk. Guided by reporters with extensive experience in the field, we redacted the names of ordinary citizens, local officials, activists, academics and others who had spoken to American soldiers or diplomats. We edited out any details that might reveal ongoing intelligence-gathering operations, military tactics or locations of material that could be used to fashion terrorist weapons. Three reporters with considerable experience of handling military secrets — Eric Schmitt, Michael Gordon and C. J. Chivers — went over the documents we considered posting. Chivers, an ex-Marine who has reported for us from several battlefields, brought a practiced eye and cautious judgment to the business of redaction.
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     WikiLeaks’s first data dump, the publication of the Afghanistan War Logs, included the names of scores of Afghans that The Times and other news organizations had carefully purged...  Several news organizations, including ours, reported this dangerous lapse, and months later a Taliban spokesman claimed that Afghan insurgents had been perusing the WikiLeaks site and making a list...  WikiLeaks was roundly criticized for its seeming indifference to the safety of those informants, and in its subsequent postings it has largely followed the example of the news organizations and redacted material that could get people jailed or killed...  And there were instances in which WikiLeaks volunteers suggested measures to enhance the protection of innocents.
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      Before each discussion [of the Embassy Cables], our Washington bureau sent over [to the US government] a batch of specific cables that we intended to use in the coming days. They were circulated to regional specialists, who funneled their reactions to a small group at State, who came to our daily conversations with a list of priorities and arguments to back them up. We relayed the government’s concerns, and our own decisions regarding them, to the other news outlets.

Quote
     The administration’s concerns generally fell into three categories. First was the importance of protecting individuals who had spoken candidly to American diplomats in oppressive countries. We almost always agreed on those and were grateful to the government for pointing out some we overlooked.  The second category included sensitive American programs, usually related to intelligence. We agreed to withhold some of this information, like a cable describing an intelligence-sharing program that took years to arrange and might be lost if exposed. In other cases, we went away convinced that publication would cause some embarrassment but no real harm. The third category consisted of cables that disclosed candid comments by and about foreign officials, including heads of state. The State Department feared publication would strain relations with those countries. We were mostly unconvinced.


Have the leaks altered the foreign policy landscape?
Quote
[On the Iraq War Logs] ...one of Holbrooke’s many gifts was his ability to make pretty good lemonade out of the bitterest lemons; he was already spinning the reports of Pakistani duplicity as leverage he could use to pull the Pakistanis back into closer alignment with American interests.
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      It was important to know, for example, that cables sent from an embassy are routinely dispatched over the signature of the ambassador and those from the State Department are signed by the secretary of state, regardless of whether the ambassador or secretary had actually seen the material. It was important to know that much of the communication between Washington and its outposts is given even more restrictive classification — top secret or higher — and was thus missing from this trove.
Quote
     The idea that the mere publication of such a wholesale collection of secrets will make other countries less willing to do business with our diplomats seems to me questionable. Even Defense Secretary Robert Gates called this concern “overwrought.” Foreign governments cooperate with us, he pointed out, not because they necessarily love us, not because they trust us to keep their secrets, but because they need us. It may be that for a time diplomats will choose their words more carefully or circulate their views more narrowly, but WikiLeaks has not repealed the laws of self-interest. A few weeks after we began publishing articles about the embassy cables, David Sanger, our chief Washington correspondent, told me: “At least so far, the evidence that foreign leaders are no longer talking to American diplomats is scarce.
Quote
     WikiLeaks cables in which American diplomats recount the extravagant corruption of Tunisia’s rulers helped fuel a popular uprising that has overthrown the government.


Offline mystictiger

Re: Wikileaks project as Reviewed by NYT
« Reply #1 on: January 27, 2011, 03:50:46 AM »
Now, for the sake of balance, go and find a commentator that disagrees.

As to the Tunisia one - very poor choice of words. It wasn't so much the wikileaks cable that fuelled the uprising, rather it was Mohamed Bouazizi. Saying that they helped is meaningless - Tunisia's government didn't fall because of the cables. We can't say that it would have fallen without the cables. So the commentator can link the two, but it's meaningless and an unprovable assertion. A chance to support his bias.

Offline Will

Re: Wikileaks project as Reviewed by NYT
« Reply #2 on: January 27, 2011, 02:14:37 PM »
Now, for the sake of balance, go and find a commentator that disagrees.

As to the Tunisia one - very poor choice of words. It wasn't so much the wikileaks cable that fuelled the uprising, rather it was Mohamed Bouazizi. Saying that they helped is meaningless - Tunisia's government didn't fall because of the cables. We can't say that it would have fallen without the cables. So the commentator can link the two, but it's meaningless and an unprovable assertion. A chance to support his bias.

You mean, go and find someone who wasn't involved in the situation who disagrees?  I'm not sure how that would provide any balance.  This isn't just some commentator.  If you found another person who WAS involved who disagrees, that would provide a more effective counter.  The Tunisia thing is just a small part of it.  I think the gist of the article is meant to show how they tried to be responsible about handling the information.

Offline Callie Del Noire

Re: Wikileaks project as Reviewed by NYT
« Reply #3 on: January 27, 2011, 02:43:20 PM »
Now, for the sake of balance, go and find a commentator that disagrees.

As to the Tunisia one - very poor choice of words. It wasn't so much the wikileaks cable that fuelled the uprising, rather it was Mohamed Bouazizi. Saying that they helped is meaningless - Tunisia's government didn't fall because of the cables. We can't say that it would have fallen without the cables. So the commentator can link the two, but it's meaningless and an unprovable assertion. A chance to support his bias.

Actually what was said was that the MASSIVE and systemic corruption that the cables detailed was the thing that Bouazizi's death acted on. Not that the cables HELPED overthrow the government. The use of the cables was to help highlight and specify the issues of corruption, not aiding the overthrow.


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Re: Wikileaks project as Reviewed by NYT
« Reply #4 on: January 27, 2011, 06:30:29 PM »

Is it newsworthy? Yes
Is it true? Yes
Are they going to report it? We will get back to you after we talk to the government.

Censorship american style.

Offline Callie Del Noire

Re: Wikileaks project as Reviewed by NYT
« Reply #5 on: January 27, 2011, 07:32:52 PM »
Is it newsworthy? Yes
Is it true? Yes
Are they going to report it? We will get back to you after we talk to the government.

Censorship american style.

I think it's more a matter of 'should we disclose everything in a medium where people might be harmed by our words?'. Which tells me there is at least SOME responsible journalists still out there.

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Re: Wikileaks project as Reviewed by NYT
« Reply #6 on: January 28, 2011, 11:43:22 AM »

Responsible journalists? Please. Our country is horribly ill-informed, partly due to the lack of investigative journalism. The "journalism" business is dead in the USA. Circus is what is reported, repeated and repackaged...night after night after night. Our empire will collapse and the lack of honesty is a big reason why. I will never support a nanny state or a police state of approving the news, or of the news seeking approval of the state. They can talk national security all day long, it will not change my opinion. I believe and always will that the big reason for secrecy is to shield the government from critique and nothing more.

Offline mystictiger

Re: Wikileaks project as Reviewed by NYT
« Reply #7 on: January 29, 2011, 09:29:48 PM »
You mean, go and find someone who wasn't involved in the situation who disagrees?  I'm not sure how that would provide any balance.  This isn't just some commentator.  If you found another person who WAS involved who disagrees, that would provide a more effective counter.  The Tunisia thing is just a small part of it.  I think the gist of the article is meant to show how they tried to be responsible about handling the information.

Go and find someone who doesn't have a vested interest in the release of this material, and therefore won't look to see the positive in everything and anything that drips from one of Assange's pores.

Offline Callie Del Noire

Re: Wikileaks project as Reviewed by NYT
« Reply #8 on: January 30, 2011, 03:11:54 PM »
I downloaded the sample portion of the book to my kindle. So far the author(s) look to be fairly well written and their discussion of the elements of their deal with Wikileaks and Assange seems to be showing the other side of the deal that the NYT, The Guardian and others made with Wikileaks. Assange, from what they present, seems to have gotten some 'buyer's remorse' for his deal since the NYT did a bio piece on him and such.

Offline Callie Del Noire

Re: Wikileaks project as Reviewed by NYT
« Reply #9 on: January 31, 2011, 12:03:29 AM »
I broke down and bought the full version of the book. So far I'm about 100 pages into it. The bits on Manning and Assange read very well. They did a lot of research on the subject material of the book and I find it interesting on how Assange seems to run Wikileaks, and how he expects everyone to do things his way or the highway. His change of outlook with first the NYT and then The Guardian shows that he's not too happy with the traditional actions of the Journalistic world and that he likes things done only one way. His. Compromise seems to be a word he doesn't like much.

I feel a bit for Manning, he didn't have a fun childhood or young adulthood. I'm surprised that he was given the clearance he got but I can see him a bit as the sort of soldier I would have enjoyed mentoring if I could keep him focused on the job at hand but also one that was easily bored, distracted or disgruntled. Not the sort of person would would make a good analyst. 

I do find it interesting that Assange doesn't like to share information about his organization despite his insistence for transparency. He comes across in the articles in the book as a very dictatorial leader who tolerates no dissent among his staff. I find it interesting that the video that Manning gave him from Iraq was 40+ minutes but the version that Wikileaks pushed was a well edited 18 minutes that left out the guy with the RPG. He has an agenda and it's very directed against the US, and now feels justified in that action due to the comments of (in my opinion ..idiots) such as Sarah Palin and Joe Lieberman. 

There was a BIT more information in the book on the court case but not much, I'm still 'out' on the implications but I don't think the initial charges were directed as a smear.

One thing I noted is if he hadn't worked with journalists like the people at the New York Times, The Guardian and other papers of similar stature, he would have posted ALL his documents without any manner of redaction. As it is, some of the information the journalists read would DEFINITELY put a lot of low level sources in the Middle East in danger.  Particularly Iraq and Afganistan. And it is a most telling point that the way these same people write on his reaction, that he doesn't really care.

The diplomatic cables section of the book (which I have JUST started to read) has pushed one thing home so far. NO ONE, not ANYONE that has talked to the US from the Gulf trust the Iranians with an Atomic Bomb. And from what I've read so far, a LOT of them would shed very few tears if the Israelis do what they have been threatening to do for almost 5 years and take direct action. Publicly, they'd be appalled. Privately, every last leader in the Gulf region would sleep better at night.

If Mahmoud Ahmadinejad were to drop dead in the street tomorrow, I doubt there would be many of his regional peers who would miss him.

Offline mystictiger

Re: Wikileaks project as Reviewed by NYT
« Reply #10 on: January 31, 2011, 04:15:14 PM »
Thanks for that. I'll consider it a positive review, and will keep an eye out for it at a bookshop. Or wait for it to be leaked... :)

Offline Callie Del Noire

Re: Wikileaks project as Reviewed by NYT
« Reply #11 on: February 01, 2011, 12:20:46 PM »
Reviewing the book (so far as I've read and reread), I'd say it's a fairly good write up of the articles the NYTs had already released and researched during their collaboration with Wikileaks. The thing I find interesting, and slightly disconcerting, is that for an organization dedicated to instilling transparency and dispelling secrecy Wikileaks itself has a lot of secrecy. There seems to be very little authority given to anyone outside of Assange's role in the organization. He has a LOT of control in the organization with no apparent oversight or counterbalancing to keep him from doing whatever he wants.

There has been a lot of things that he's SAID he's done but hasn't (or vice versa). Dissent within the ranks is heavily stepped on and some of the things Assange said hasn't been done (or done when he claimed to). Most telling was his comment in July/August of putting forward funds for the Manning Defense fund, but no funds were transferred till the late fall. He also commented, quite callously I thought, that Manning wouldn't get more than 20 years and most likely would be out in 10 years at the most.

I'm still kind of conflicted about the sexual assault charges, but from what I read in the book it seems to me a LOT of the issue could have been avoided if he had worked with the Prosecutor at the time. The reason he wound up in jail in the UK was simple, when he was processed he refused to provide an address or even allow himself to be photographed. I doubt the judges had much choice on holding him till someone stepped forward to provide him with a residence. He's not a native resident or even had a visa, and they needed some assurance he'd remain in country.

From what I can tell, his discontent with the media (specifically the NYT, The Guardian and his other associates in the initial releases, was a refusal (rightly so in my thoughts) by each paper to do what he wanted without question. The Guardian, Der Speigel and NYT in particular seemed to have kept to a fairly high standard of behavior and responsibility in how they acted on the material he provided and played fair with him. The major point of contention was that release of unredacted messages, and all the papers were understandably reluctant to do so.