Friday, August 13, 2010

WikiLeaks, Real Journalists, and Common Sense

Reporters Without Borders / Reporters Sans Frontières apparently doesn't think that WikiLeaks should dump tens of thousands of classified documents. Apparently the reporters-rights group realizes that releasing the names of Afghans who cooperated with coalition troops might not sit well with the Taliban and others.

And, what is impressive, Reporters Without Borders realizes that the folks running the Taliban are inclined to kill people they don't approve of. And, that letting these Afghans get killed wouldn't be nice - even though they did help free their country from the Taliban.

Beware Unintended Consequences

Reporters Without Borders also seems concerned over what the American government might do in response to dumping these documents. With, I think, good reason.

On the whole, I prefer living in America and think that this country offers a great deal protection for freedom of expression than, say, North Korea, Sudan, or Somalia. I also think that America's leaders aren't perfect: and can make serious mistakes.

Like clamping heavy controls on what people are allowed to publish and read on the Internet.

I'll admit to having a personal stake in this: I maintain 10 other bogs, besides this one. At this time, I am free to do so. I don't have to pay a government agency for a permit to publish, I don't have to pass a background screening and loyalty test: and I rather hope that continues to be the case.

I like being free to speak - or, rather write - my mind.

Endangering the lives of people who helped free their country from religious crazies - even for the groovy reason of 'ending the Afghan war' - could give the American government reason - or excuse - to take control of what so far has been a free medium of communication.

I don't agree with everything that everyone puts online - but I don't want to be "protected" from folks who don't agree with the administration, either.

Here's that open letter from Reporters Without Borders / Reporters Sans Frontières:
"Open letter to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange: 'A bad precedent for the Internet's future' "

"Julian Assange

"Dear Mr. Assange,

"Reporters Without Borders, an international press freedom organisation, regrets the incredible irresponsibility you showed when posting your article 'Afghan War Diary 2004 - 2010' on the Wikileaks website on 25 July together with 92,000 leaked documents disclosing the names of Afghans who have provided information to the international military coalition that has been in Afghanistan since 2001.

"Wikileaks has in the past played a useful role by making information available to the US and international public that exposed serious violations of human rights and civil liberties which the Bush administration committed in the name of its war against terror. Last April's publication of a video of the killing of two employees of the Reuters news agency and other civilians by US military personnel in Baghdad in July 2007 was clearly in the public interest and we supported this initiative. It was a response to the Obama administration's U-turn on implementation of the Freedom of Information Act. The White House broke its word in May 2009, when it defied a court order and refused to release photos of the mistreatment of detainees in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"But revealing the identity of hundreds of people who collaborated with the coalition in Afghanistan is highly dangerous. It would not be hard for the Taliban and other armed groups to use these documents to draw up a list of people for targeting in deadly revenge attacks.

"Defending yourself, you said that it was about “ending the war in Afghanistan.” You also argued that: “Principled leaking has changed the course of history for the better; it can alter the course of history in the present; it can lead us to a better future.” However, the US government has been under significant pressure for some time as regards the advisability of its military presence in Afghanistan, not just since your article's publication. We are not convinced that your wish to 'end the war in Afghanistan' will be so easily granted and meanwhile, you have unintentionally provided supposedly democratic governments with good grounds for putting the Internet under closer surveillance.

"It is true that you said that 'a further 15,000 potentially sensitive reports' were excluded from the 25 July mass posting, that they were being 'reviewed further' and that some of them would be released 'once it was deemed safe to do so.'

"Nonetheless, indiscriminately publishing 92,000 classified reports reflects a real problem of methodology and, therefore, of credibility. Journalistic work involves the selection of information. The argument with which you defend yourself, namely that Wikileaks is not made up of journalists, is not convincing. Wikileaks is an information outlet and, as such, is subject to the same rules of publishing responsibility as any other media.

"Reporters Without Borders has for years been campaigning for a federal 'shield law' protecting sources, one that would apply not only to the traditional media but also to the new Internet media without exception. This is why we condemn all forms of harassment of Wikileaks contributors or informants – such as the recent arrest of Wikileaks researcher Jacob Appelbaum – by government agencies and immigration officials. We also condemn the charges brought against US army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning, who is suspected of leaking the video of the Baghdad killings. However, you cannot claim to enjoy the protection of sources while at the same time, when it suits you, denying that you are a news media.

"The precedent you have set leaves all those people throughout the world who risk their freedom and sometimes their lives for the sake of online information even more exposed to reprisals. Such imprudence endangers your own sources and, beyond that, the future of the Internet as an information medium. A total of 116 netizens are currently in prison in a dozen countries because of the comments they posted online. Can you image the same situation in the country of the First Amendment?

"Wikileaks must provide a more detailed explanation of its actions and must not repeat the same mistake. This will mean a new departure and new methods.

"We look forward to your reply,


"Jean-François Julliard
"Reporters Without Borders secretary-general

"Clothilde Le Coz
"Reporters Without Borders representative in Washington DC"
(from,38130.html, used w/o permission)
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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.