Wikileaks Fails “Due Diligence” Review

In the past week, both the Washington Post and the New York Times have referred to WikiLeaks.org, the web site that publishes confidential records, as a “whistleblower” site.  This conforms to WikiLeaks’ own instructions to journalists that “WikiLeaks should be described, depending on context, as the ‘open government group’, ‘anti-corruption group’, ‘transparency group’ or ‘whistleblower’s site’.”

But calling WikiLeaks a whistleblower site does not accurately reflect the character of the project.  It also does not explain why others who are engaged in open government, anti-corruption and whistleblower protection activities are wary of WikiLeaks or disdainful of it.  And it does not provide any clue why the Knight Foundation, the preeminent foundation funder of innovative First Amendment and free press initiatives, might have rejected WikiLeaks’ request for financial support, as it recently did.

From one perspective, WikiLeaks is a creative response to a real problem afflicting the U.S. and many other countries, namely the over-control of government information to the detriment of public policy.  WikiLeaks has published a considerable number of valuable official records that had been kept unnecessarily secret and were otherwise unavailable, including some that I had attempted and failed to obtain myself.  Its most spectacular disclosure was the formerly classified videotape showing an attack by a U.S. Army helicopter crew in Baghdad in 2007 which led to the deaths of several non-combatants.  Before mostly going dormant late last year, it also published numerous documents that have no particular policy significance or that were already placed in the public domain by others (including a few that were taken from the FAS web site).

WikiLeaks says that it is dedicated to fighting censorship, so a casual observer might assume that it is more or less a conventional liberal enterprise committed to enlightened democratic policies.  But on closer inspection that is not quite the case.  In fact, WikiLeaks must be counted among the enemies of open society because it does not respect the rule of law nor does it honor the rights of individuals.

Last year, for example, WikiLeaks published the “secret ritual” of a college women’s sorority called Alpha Sigma Tau.  Now Alpha Sigma Tau (like several other sororities “exposed” by WikiLeaks) is not known to have engaged in any form of misconduct, and WikiLeaks does not allege that it has.  Rather, WikiLeaks chose to publish the group’s confidential ritual just because it could.  This is not whistleblowing and it is not journalism.  It is a kind of information vandalism.

In fact, WikiLeaks routinely tramples on the privacy of non-governmental, non-corporate groups for no valid public policy reason.  It has published private rites of Masons, Mormons and other groups that cultivate confidential relations among their members.  Most or all of these groups are defenseless against WikiLeaks’ intrusions.  The only weapon they have is public contempt for WikiLeaks’ ruthless violation of their freedom of association, and even that has mostly been swept away in a wave of uncritical and even adulatory reporting about the brave “open government,” “whistleblower” site.

On occasion, WikiLeaks has engaged in overtly unethical behavior.  Last year, without permission, it published the full text of the highly regarded 2009 book about corruption in Kenya called “It’s Our Turn to Eat” by investigative reporter Michela Wrong (as first reported by Chris McGreal in The Guardian on April 9).  By posting a pirated version of the book and making it freely available, WikiLeaks almost certainly disrupted sales of the book and made it harder for Ms. Wrong and other anti-corruption reporters to perform their important work and to get it published. Repeated protests and pleas from the author were required before WikiLeaks (to its credit) finally took the book offline.

“Soon enough,” observed Raffi Khatchadourian in a long profile of WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange in The New Yorker (June 7), “Assange must confront the paradox of his creation: the thing that he seems to detest most–power without accountability–is encoded in the site’s DNA, and will only become more pronounced as WikiLeaks evolves into a real institution.”

Much could be forgiven to WikiLeaks if it were true that its activities were succeeding in transforming government information policy in favor of increased openness and accountability — as opposed to merely generating reams of publicity for itself.  WikiLeaks supporter Glenn Greenwald of Salon.com wrote that when it comes to combating government secrecy, “nobody is doing that as effectively as WikiLeaks.” But he neglected to spell out exactly what effect WikiLeaks has had.  Which U.S. government programs have been cancelled as a result of Wikileaks’ activities?  Which government policies have been revised?  How has public discourse shifted?  (And, by the way, who has been injured by its work?)

A less sympathetic observer might conclude that WikiLeaks has squandered much of the impact that it might have had.

A telling comparison can be made between WikiLeaks’ publication of the Iraq Apache helicopter attack video last April and The New Yorker’s publication of the Abu Ghraib abuse photographs in an article by Seymour Hersh in May 2004.  Both disclosures involved extremely graphic and disturbing images.  Both involved unreleased or classified government records.  And both generated a public sensation.  But there the similarity ends.  The Abu Ghraib photos prompted lawsuits, congressional hearings, courts martial, prison sentences, declassification initiatives, and at least indirectly a revision of U.S. policy on torture and interrogation.  By contrast, the WikiLeaks video tendentiously packaged under the title “Collateral Murder” produced none of that– no investigation (other than a leak investigation), no congressional hearings, no lawsuits, no tightening of the rules of engagement.  Just a mild scolding from the Secretary of Defense, and an avalanche of publicity for WikiLeaks.

Of course, it’s hard for anyone to produce a specific desired outcome from the national security bureaucracy, and maybe WikiLeaks can’t be faulted for failing to have done so.  But with the whole world’s attention at its command for a few days last April, it could have done more to place the focus on the victims of the incident that it had documented, perhaps even establishing a charitable fund to assist their families.  But that’s not what it chose to do.  Instead, the focus remained firmly fixed on WikiLeaks itself and its own ambitious fundraising efforts.

In perhaps the first independent review of the WikiLeaks project, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation considered and rejected an application from WikiLeaks for financial support.  The Knight Foundation was actively looking for grantees who could promote innovative uses of digital technology in support of the future development of journalism.  At the end of the process, more than $2.7 million was awarded to 12 promising recipients.  WikiLeaks was not among them.

“Every year some applications that are popular among advisors don’t make the cut after Knight staff conducts due diligence,” said Knight Foundation spokesman Marc Fest in response to an inquiry from Yahoo news.  “WikiLeaks was not recommended by Knight staff to the board.”

No Responses to “Wikileaks Fails “Due Diligence” Review”

  1. dragonflyeye June 28, 2010 at 12:15 PM #

    I don’t think that the fact that WikiLeaks is taken less seriously by the powers that be than the NYT automatically removes it from its serious business. To simply say that the NYT has more political clout does not invalidate the work that WikiLeaks is trying to do.

    Other points in the article are decent. But this is just an appeal to popularity, nothing more.

  2. BelchSpeak June 28, 2010 at 12:56 PM #

    Wikileaks is simply a cabal of hackers and data thieves who justify their crimes of computer intrusion under the banner of “openness” and “transparency.” These same people are against copyrights for musicians and criminal sanctions against those who commit cyber crime. To them “information wants to be free.” Except of course, the current whereabouts and travel itenerary of Julian Assange. That must be protected.

  3. Reader June 28, 2010 at 1:19 PM #

    I could not agree with you less. It is plainly evident that a attack on Wikileaks is well underway by many agencies, there has been quite a bit of news on this topic lately.

    To see you join into this fray is dismaying at best, and somewhat revealing on your own openness.

    Wikileaks does not have to fit your assumptions on what you think it should and should not publish. It makes no difference if they are secret rites or rituals or undisclosed government documents.

    This side-handed character attack is beneath you, or so I once thought.

    The allegations you make are based on conjecture — example was your comment about not receiving funding from the Knight Foundation. There could be any number of reasons Wikileaks was not selected, but your conjecture was inappropriate, unnecessary and somewhat revealing of your own bias.

    And frankly, it’s not really important or even relevant to the real issue here — which is just as much about you as it is Wikileaks.

    What EXACTLY then is your own agenda is this debacle?

    Your own position is dead clear, in your own words: “In fact, WikiLeaks must be counted among the enemies of open society because it does not respect the rule of law nor does it honor the rights of individuals.”

    That remark is the stupidest thing I think I have ever read here.

    Enemies? Since you chose this word yourself, what the hell does that make you?

    The rule of law is a sick joke — which any honest person acknowledges, and the very reason sites like this exist. If the rule of law was in point of fact in effect and actually working, this very site would not need to be here. But here you are — and here is Wikileaks, trying to overturn the corruption and secrecy (and violations of law).

    The rights of individuals you alleged is a straw argument altogether, which you should have immediately realize before uttering this nonsense. You are trying to cloak the issue while sounding self-righteous and ethical yourself, but all you’ve managed to do here is point a finger for some bizarre and unknown reason. Maybe you aren’t the open and honest source you allege yourself to be.

    Shame on you for this entire essay. You’ve only revealed yourself uncommitted to open information sharing, biased and quite possibly, not working for the good intention of the people you allege you serve.

    Which leaves all your readers with this question: Who exactly are you serving here?

  4. Tom Foremski June 28, 2010 at 1:24 PM #

    I think it is too early to decide what wikileaks is or isn’t and as an organozation, it is learning what is right and what’s wrong for it to do. At least it is trying to do the right thing which shows it is trying to learn.

  5. Michael Prentice June 28, 2010 at 2:26 PM #

    To call wikileaks an “enem[y] of open society” is to get things so perfectly backwards that it plainly demonstrates a willingness not to see the forest through the trees. Were our problem as citizens of this era one of excessive transparency from all-powerful institutions or were wikileaks the all-powerful institution of Khatchadourian’s fever-dream, then such bombastic rhetoric might be at service of the truth. But we don’t live in that world and those conditions plainly do not exist.

    Moreover, to criticize wikileaks for the failure to change policy is so ridiculous that it boggles the mind. The food, so poor! And the portions, SO SMALL! It is certainly regrettable that the poorly titled “Collateral Murder” clip didn’t receive the attention that the Hersh AG story did. I mean that story changed the world! What says influence more clearly than an “indirect… revision of U.S. policy on torture and interrogation.” But then again we must blame Hersh for the fact that his leak didn’t reach the heights of the Pentagon Papers or Watergate. Seymour Hersh and wikileaks: two enemies of open society because they didn’t initiate the rapture with their journalism. I wonder where Steven Aftergood pictures himself in this constellation.

  6. Chris Ronk June 28, 2010 at 2:39 PM #

    Your points about Wikileaks are well taken, but I think that if your criticism of it continues to be so completely unrelenting, you will align yourself with some very unsavory political forces and thus end up on the wrong side of the controversy surrounding this imperfect organization.

    Apropos, I wonder if you have heard or read this recent conversation: http://www.democracynow.org/2010/6/17/wikileaks_whistleblowers. I would direct your attention specifically to Daniel Ellsberg’s final comment; I think I can safely assume that you are not comfortable with what he is describing. Or do you think he is wrong?

    Visible government policy changes or actions are not the only measure of value, or of effectiveness, when the subject at hand is political impact. It is also important to sway public opinion against clear injustices, independently of any certificate of endorsement from the political establishment. Nor can we rely on the massive propaganda machine that is the U.S. media, which, with occasional exceptions (you name the Hersch example), adopts the government’s position wholesale, or at least protects it (e.g. NY Times non-disclosure of the national security agency’s spying program so as not to influence the 2004 elections etc.)

  7. Disgusted reader June 28, 2010 at 2:39 PM #

    “It could have done more to place the focus on the victims of the incident that it had documented, perhaps even establishing a charitable fund to assist their families”

    This has got to be the worst load of **** I have read in a while.

    If anyone should pay damage to the poor kids who were almost shot to pieces by 30mm rounds, it should be the ones doing the damage in the first place, and lying about it afterwards. (We have no idea how the kids got hurt etc. statement by the US in Washington Post).
    And you have the nerve to blame Wikileaks for not rasing a fund…
    The US Military should pay damage, so these children were able to live a somewhat decent life, after what it has done. Killing their father, and leaving them scarred for life.
    Their cowardice behaviour shows the true face of the spreader of “democracy”

    I am disgusted with articles like this, that tries to smear one of the only organizations struggling to show the world the true face of war and atrocities.

    Go hold hands with Mother Jones, and work a little harder on your next article, this one was to obvious.

  8. Douglas June 28, 2010 at 3:28 PM #

    Yes, points well taken, but conclusions are a little over the top. I also disregard and ignore those dissenting view that use or imply the use of profanity and degrading remarks toward the person that wrote the criticcism of WikiLeaks. Contentiousness and verbal abuse is always the losing argument and exposes a phony issue on the person that expresses themselves in such a feeble-mnded way. Debate is not for the purpose of being right or wrong, but for the purpose of learning something.
    “A good controversy is also not a quarrel about assumptions. If an author, for example, explicitly asks you to take something
    for granted, the fact that the opposite can also be taken for
    granted should not prevent you from honoring his request. If
    your prejudices lie on the opposite side, and if you do not
    acknowledge them to be prejudices, you cannot give the author’s
    case a fair hearing.” (Adler) There are commonly accepted civilities in public discourse and not only has WikiLeaks violated some of them, some of her defenders in this venue have as well.

  9. Michael Prentice June 28, 2010 at 3:51 PM #

    Shorter Douglas:
    A personal critique is not a valid argument ergo I will critique the persons making personal critiques.

  10. Kale June 28, 2010 at 3:54 PM #

    Some valid points here. However I’d have to point out that the charitable foundations denying funding to Wikileaks are run by establishment interests who probably see the site as a conflict of interest – perhaps.

  11. Alice June 28, 2010 at 4:28 PM #

    Shame on you, Aftergood. This nonsensical rabid attack on a very fine and brave man such as Assange makes one wonder if you haven’t come down with mad cow disease. You’ve severely damage your own reputation this time.

  12. Jonathan Eyler-Werve June 28, 2010 at 4:50 PM #

    Wikileaks is essentially unfundable by traditional foundations due to their organizational structure.

    Wikileaks won’t commit to the things that we take for granted about nonprofit corporations – most importantly commitment to a single jurisdiction, and a public structure of governance (ie with names attached to it). They do this because their model assumes that they will be attacked legally and rather than defend themselves in court (even when they could easily win, as evidenced by the Bank Julius Baer episode), they use secrecy and juristiction hopping to avoid accountability. Hell, they don’t even use names on their emails. Who would you send the money too?

    This functions if you consider Wikileaks an insurgent army or radicals with no faith in the law (any of them). But don’t expect a US based foundation to consider that an acceptable governing structure any time soon.

    Jonathan at Global Integrity

  13. Keith Silverstein June 28, 2010 at 5:15 PM #

    It is too early to tell how Wikileaks has/will influence policy. The categories that you look to monitor aren’t the only ones that indicate impact. Trying to put WL in a box to conform to the expectations of a government that hides the truth and runs psyops campaigns around the world is absurd…the “rule of law” is abused by the privileged, who believe it isn’t a problem to write laws that have a basis in supporting their power over what is best and most fair for all.

    *Note how many responses there are to this article on Secrecy News compared to the average on SN…I’d say WL has had an impact. I do appreciate the work done at Secrecy News and have been a frequent reader at this site for 4 years.

  14. Justice June 28, 2010 at 5:16 PM #

    “even when they could easily win, as evidenced by the Bank Julius Baer episode” Did you even follow that case? They only won because they got help, and thereby had more lawyers in the end.

    In the US there is only justice for the wealthy.

    And who can blame them for being anonymous. Afterall the country that has labeled them a threat (http://file.wikileaks.org/file/us-intel-wikileaks.pdf), uses rendition/torture, secret prisons and other measures without blinking.
    Only a fool would have faith in a system such as this..

  15. Jonathan Eyler-Werve June 28, 2010 at 6:23 PM #

    @Justice: I’m familiar with the Baer case. Wikileaks didn’t even show up for the initial court hearing. After the community rallied to protest the ruling was overturned – by the same judge – in a 45 minute proceeding. There never was a case. Afterwards there was public grumbling from open-web advocates that the botched defense would empower other groups to use similar tactics as Bank Julius Baer.

  16. Travis June 28, 2010 at 6:26 PM #

    So your argument against Wikileaks boils down to… they expose TOO MUCH information? Private foundations with strong ties to the corporate establishment won’t fund them, therefore they’re bad?

  17. Claremont June 28, 2010 at 6:32 PM #

    “Much could be forgiven to WikiLeaks if it were true that its activities were succeeding in transforming government information policy in favor of increased openness and accountability — as opposed to merely generating reams of publicity for itself. WikiLeaks supporter Glenn Greenwald of Salon.com wrote that when it comes to combating government secrecy, “nobody is doing that as effectively as WikiLeaks.” But he neglected to spell out exactly what effect WikiLeaks has had. Which U.S. government programs have been cancelled as a result of Wikileaks’ activities? Which government policies have been revised? How has public discourse shifted? (And, by the way, who has been injured by its work?)”

    The fact that the publication of the video did not directly and immediately lead to policy changes, or that the Defense Department was able to avoid doing a follow up investigation or face lawsuits, says FAR more about the unaccountability of these groups and why they have done so much harm rather than the efficacy or value of Wikileaks.

    “Of course, it’s hard for anyone to produce a specific desired outcome from the national security bureaucracy, and maybe WikiLeaks can’t be faulted for failing to have done so. But with the whole world’s attention at its command for a few days last April, it could have done more to place the focus on the victims of the incident that it had documented, perhaps even establishing a charitable fund to assist their families. But that’s not what it chose to do. Instead, the focus remained firmly fixed on WikiLeaks itself and its own ambitious fundraising efforts.”

    This is just being unfair to them. Criticizing them for not seeking out the families and working to set up a trust for them is creating a ridiculous burden which could not possibly be met, and it is very clear you are just out to criticize them even if it means using unreasonable arguments. Painting them as selfish for seeking donations is absurd.

    These criticisms are spurious, you are really reaching for straws and I think you know it. Can you either come back with A) more substantive criticisms or B) the real reason you have decided to trash them and want their reputation damaged?

  18. Jonathan Eyler-Werve June 28, 2010 at 6:54 PM #

    @Travis, I like wikileaks. But until they reorganize a few things tactically, they aren’t fundable by foundations. This isn’t a corporate conspiracy, it’s basic f’ing paperwork that everyone has to do. It’s pretty easy. They choose not to do it. To me, it’s like the non-defense of the Baer case all over again.

    What’s likely at this point is that a legion of imitators will spring up and grab that funding instead (see recent efforts by RSF, and that US whistleblower helpline in North Carolina – I forget the name). This 1000-flowers-bloom effect may be their most significant impact — the Velvet Underground of the social sector.

  19. Dr. W June 28, 2010 at 7:14 PM #

    I agree with those who say this article is just a complete hogwash.

    To me it seems it is written in spite and envy. If someone on Twitter hadn’t tweeted this, I would still not know about this blog.

  20. mbzastava June 28, 2010 at 7:30 PM #

    Wikileaks does not SEEK out any information. All information they post has been LEAKED TO THEM by someone else. Wikilieaks does what it does, which is to post leaked information…

    Your entire post is complete and utter fail

  21. Diana June 28, 2010 at 8:20 PM #

    “Instead, the focus remained firmly fixed on WikiLeaks itself and its own ambitious fundraising efforts.”

    I can’t help but notice the “Donate Now” button at the top of this essay.

    Not now, not ever, thank you very much.

  22. Travis June 28, 2010 at 8:33 PM #

    @Jonathan, “But until they reorganize a few things tactically, they aren’t fundable by foundations.”

    OK, so what? What on Earth does that have to do with their value as a source of information?

    In this piece, Aftergood treats the Knight Foundation’s rejection as some grand insight — Wikileaks lacks the Knight stamp of approval, therefore it’s unworthy. That’s an utterly ludicrous point of view.

  23. Travis June 28, 2010 at 8:41 PM #

    I would also note that the line here is not nearly so bold and clear as you’d like to think.

    “Secret” rites of the Mormons, for example — the Latter-Day Saints are not just a private religious organization, but a deeply powerful force in American politics. The church seeks any number of ways to influence public policy and, in fact, dominates the political system in one state.

    Why should we treat their secret internal documents, which may reveal the roots of hatred, any different than we’d treat the secret internal documents of BP, which may reveal the roots of environmental catastrophe?

  24. Jonathan Eyler-Werve June 28, 2010 at 9:58 PM #

    @Travis – the ‘so what’ is that a stable funding source would allow for some full time employees with phone numbers and other things are really pretty useful when trying to build a movement, change government or corporate policy, or otherwise have influence on the world beyond YouTube viewer counts. I’m not coming at this in the abstract — there’s some basic tactical stuff that would make them much more impactful (like having a email list that doesn’t suck – I get 5 copies of every press release, which is what happens when you have volunteers copying email addresses out of a bunch of spreadsheets).

    @mbzastava Well that certainly is the company line, isn’t it? But we can’t evaluate that claim.

  25. Alice June 28, 2010 at 10:03 PM #

    I think the explanation for this ridiculous and disturbing post by Aftergood may be a simple one. He must have been pressured to write this by a major donor to the Federation of American Scientists. Is one of your benefactors a defense department contractor perhaps??? Please, Steven Aftergood turn away from the dark side before its too late.

  26. Julian Assange June 28, 2010 at 11:14 PM #

    These poisonous allegations, are false, misleading and dangerous. Aftergood should be ashamed.

    Readers may consult the primary sources where listed and exercise skepticism. Aftergood apparently see himself as a ‘rival’ for the public’s attention in the counter-secrecy domain, which is sad. We do not see Aftergood as competition, and have never criticized him.

    On the Rule of Law:

    WikiLeaks not only follows the rule of law, WikiLeaks is involved in creating the law. WikiLeaks has never lost a court action in any country and just this month one of our legislative interests, the Islanic Modern Media Initiative, unanimously passed the Icelandic Parliament. I spoke about its implications for Europe to European Parliamentarians at a Parliamentary seminar on censorship last week. And last year we inspired a pending US Senate bill by McCain and Lieberman to liberate thousands of Congressional Research Service reports. What WikiLeaks does not do, is back down to the abuse of the law by plutocrats or by cashed up special interests. We always fight and, to date, we always win.

    Text describing the Mormon CHI

    The work is confidential to the mid and upper level leaders (male) of the Church hierarchy. It reveals the procedures for handling sensitive matters related to tithing payment, excommunication, baptism, and doctrine teaching (indoctrination). The book is not generally available to normal members or women. After the 1999 copy was leaked, the LDS Church published a new edition in 2006. That new version has not been leaked before now.

    The confidentiality of these basic administrative and doctrinal laws has the effect of disenfranchising the majority of Mormon men and essentially all Mormon women from their system of governance.

    [..]

    The topics in Book 1 include guidelines involving general, area, and regional administration; stake administration; ward administration; interviewing and counseling; performance of ordinances; callings and releases; church meetings and worship services; temples and marriage; missionary service; church discipline; single adults and students; the Church Educational System; Perpetual Education Fund; military relations; records and reports; church finances; physical church facilities; creating and changing church congregations and other units; and general church policies on administrative, health, and moral issues.

  27. CertainQuirk June 28, 2010 at 11:17 PM #

    I do not even need to read this to know (from it’s title) it is meant to be misleading AT BEST. I have more faith in WIKILEAKS than about any other source of clandestine data out there. I have you bookmarked so I will remember that I do not trust you or your associations.

  28. On the Comments June 29, 2010 at 12:52 AM #

    A side issue – whenever there is a blog post critical of WikiLeaks the comments for that site increase and inevitably take the side of wikileaks. One comment received 43,000 recommendations? http://motherjones.com/mojo/2010/04/wikileaks-assange-media-blitz

    Not sure how/who is responsible for that – but it surely is not kosher. I would love information about how that comment received so much love to be leaked. Would love more information about why ALL critiques of WikiLeaks get deluged with support whether or not it’s tweeted.

  29. Mike001 June 29, 2010 at 1:47 AM #

    The “Reader” whose comment began with “I could not agree with you less” pretty much hits the nail on the head with his/her assessment of this article. The absurdity of this article knows no bounds and I, too, question your motives Mr. Aftergood.

  30. Horst Wilden June 29, 2010 at 3:41 AM #

    After reading this article, which was promoted by Adrian Lamo on twitter btw, it was good to see, that the readers here are not fooled so easily.
    Thumbs up for the comments here!

  31. Horst Wilden June 29, 2010 at 3:58 AM #

    Have to correct myself. Lamo twittered a link to Newsweek, where Mark Hosenball made a story about this story by copying it.
    Kevin Poulsen retwittered the link to this page.

  32. Keith June 29, 2010 at 4:06 AM #

    The “leak” of the Church Handbook of Instructions is pretty funny, mostly because that book is full of, well, boring procedural rules. There is not one item in that book that a well-versed Mormon (male or female) does not know, and I say that as a completely basic, non-leadership member of the church who has read it, openly, at church. It is not secret. It’s mostly just boring. To say it is restricted for male mid to upper leadership is disingenuous to the point of hilarity. It’s not kept under lock and key. Nothing in there is news for any rank-and-file member. And guess what? There are manuals for the Relief Society (the women’s organization within the church) that most of the men likely have not read. This is much ado about nothing, and reflects Assange’s ridiculous attempts to sensationalize even the most mundane of topics.

    To this day, I have not seen Stephen Colbert as angry as he was when Assange appeared on his show. And rightly so.

  33. Niels June 29, 2010 at 4:26 AM #

    “In fact, WikiLeaks must be counted among the enemies of open society because it does not respect the rule of law nor does it honor the rights of individuals.”

    I really wonder what your definition of an open society is, if you want to depict those who are against secrecy as it’s enemies. It’s one thing to be critical of the methods of WikiLeaks (I fully agree with some of your points), but it’s quite another thing to depict people as “enemies of open society”.

  34. John Graham June 29, 2010 at 4:40 AM #

    I do not know if this article was intended to be based upon the sacrifices of low hanging fruits, or on the fruitless vine.

    This is the first time that I have crossed your street, perhaps an education for me, as I do not reside in the USA.
    I would be surprised that such an article as you have written, would be, or could be accepted as the representative opinion of your scholarly principles.

    As per the statement taken from your web / donation page, and quoted below – “progressive”,
    “non-partisan”, “providing decision-makers and the public with analysis”.

    Surely not! are you for real

    “The Federation of American Scientists is a progressive, non-partisan, policy institute providing decision-makers and the public with analysis and research in international security – - ”
    With 79 Nobel Laureates who serve on the board of sponsors.

    Surely if the water stops flowing, there must be a blockage upstream.

    Mr Aftergood, I will let you into a not so secret secret, we have a website called International Whistle Blowers, the site runs in tandem with International Rewards Centre, and yes they are both .coms check us out, you will see that we are impartial.

  35. Fionn Dempsey June 29, 2010 at 4:41 AM #

    The criticisms are, roughly.

    1. Wikileaks releases documents that are not of political importance, and where no misconduct has been commited.

    2. Wikileaks does not respect copyright.

    3. Wikileaks is powerful without accountability.

    4. Wikileaks has failed to transform government policies, where exposés like the Abu Ghraib release in the conventional press created real reform.

    5. Wikileaks was not approved of by the Knight Foundation.

    Well,

    1. All of the documents Wikileaks releases are within the remit it sets itself, which includes political, corporate, historical and ethical importance. Why on earth it’s supposed to respect the privacy of ludicrous organizations like the Mormon Church, which abuse the autonomy of individuals, and tolerance for which is encouraged by ignorance of its doctrines, is beyond me. Undercover investigative journalism into cults is widely considered acceptable in the mainstream press, but here WL merely publishes leaked documementary material, and suddenly it’s “not respecting privacy.”

    2. And it shouldn’t, either. If copyright has to be “respected” to work, then it’s pointless, and should be discarded.

    3. Assange has spoken about this before. Yes, it’s not accountable. But, to paraphrase, “when corporations and governments are transparent enough that we no longer have to just proceed on basic trust of organizations that have no reason to act ethically, then we can start worrying about the accountability and integrity of investigative journalists.”

    4. Aftergood chooses to ignore the massive role Wikileaks has had in affecting public policy and legislation in Iceland, with the Modern Media Initiative, which has received massive attention in news lately, so it’s a bit conspicuous. But it’s clear that things like this don’t count unless they affect the US government. I fail to see, though, how an organization committed to accountability and transparency of governments, without any political power, and which has been performing its duties to its remit, can be blamed for the fact that the release of the Collateral Murder video didn’t cause massive reform in the United States. It seems to me WL did what it was supposed to do, did its job. The reaction is supposed to happen elsewhere.

    5. This one is dropped in a rather delicate way, so as to make it sound as if there is a definite reason why WL didn’t make the grade. WL might equally allege that the Knight Foundation has some vested interests. We could hope to see the valid criticisms of WL that led the KF to decline their appeal for funding, rather than simply rely uncritically on the fact that KF declined. I see many criticisms in this article, but I see fuck all good ones.

  36. Kwame June 29, 2010 at 6:41 AM #

    “Much could be forgiven to WikiLeaks if it were true that its activities were succeeding in transforming government information policy in favor of increased openness and accountability..”

    May I mention the Icelandic bank Kaupthing fiasco and the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative aka the “Wikileaks Law”?

  37. koba June 29, 2010 at 9:09 AM #

    You make it clear that you submit your ethics to the law when you say that “In fact, WikiLeaks must be counted among the enemies of open society because it does not respect the rule of law nor does it honor the rights of individuals.”

    The law serves those who buy it. This should be evident to everyone, law making drowned in “lobbying” and money as it is, even if you’re not as far as realizing that the “rule of law” is nothing but the application of state violence to protect the interests of those few who keep getting obscenely richer at the expense of the vast majority of exploited people.

    So, what you were doing when condemning going against this “rule of law” was defending the capitalist rule that is the real enemy of open society. You are the one who is, in fact, siding with the enemies of open society and individuals most basic rights.

  38. CJ Hinke June 29, 2010 at 9:13 AM #

    “Information vandals”…we like that! The FAS Project on Govt Secrecy plays by “the rules” and thinks everyone else should, too. The truth is, we ordinary citizens often are simply not told what the rules are until we run afoul of them, or perhaps govt simply makes up the rules as it goes along. We agree with one comment to this article: “The rule of law is a sick joke.”

    Don’t offend Mormons or Masons or Muslims! Don’t forget the Scientologists. I think a lot of us in the world free speech community are awfully effing tired about having to figure out what’s today’s politically-correct flavour so we won’t offend anybody. So grow a skin already and stop being a victim on the burn ward!

    If we sit back and don’t act, govt tyranny wins. If we act, even if our actions are later proven wrong, they may prove a foundation for others to build on creatively. A good example is the G8/G20 protests in Canada. Canada’s spending a billion dollars to keep citizens out. But at least the anarchists in the streets are doing something, creating reality instead of watching reality TV. Should we all just act like nothing’s wrong?

    WikiLeaks is changing public discourse with the Iraq massacre video though perhaps not public policy. But public discourse is where policy changes always start. Stop thinking the USA is the centre! And WL has certainly changed public policy in Iceland which has become the world’s first uncensored data haven at the instigation of WikiLeaks.

    I would hardly call a grant proposal to the Knight News Challenge an “independent review”. WikiLeaks was turned down and so was FACT in favour of far more conservative projects.

    Don’t demean one of the few honest sources of information we have.

    CJ Hinke
    Freedom Against Censorship Thailand (FACT)
    Member, WikiLeaks Advisory Board

  39. Andrew June 29, 2010 at 11:28 AM #

    I’d have to agree with the commenters here about why or why not Wikileaks didn’t get funding from the Knight Foundation. It’s kind of petty of Wikileaks to think it deserved to win. They’d submitted an idea to Knight’s “News Challenge”–a contest–which gets hundreds if not thousands of submissions. I think there were like 1,000 submissions, and Knight chose 12…so assuming their submission was as good as any other, Wikileaks had a 1% chance of winning.

  40. A Non-American June 29, 2010 at 12:53 PM #

    Please tell me… in writing the above diatribe – with absurd, transparent agitprop that could just as well have been written by the U.S. State Department or Defense Department – who in the U.S. government “encouraged” you to join the widespread, “under-the-radar” campaign to discredit Wikileaks?

    How much did they pay you? Or, what did they threaten you with? (Oh, whoops, I forgot. Under the PATRIOT Act, you can go to jail for 5+ years, for the “transgression” of emulating Wikileaks and spilling the beans on U.S. government dirty tricks. Sorry I asked.)

    You know, totally irrelevant “red herring” type critiques like “…those naughty people at Wikileaks disclosed the secret rituals of the Mormons…” might work to convince the ignorant, pathologically “patriotic” average American voter (with his or her child-like trust in ‘duly elected authority’), that Wikileaks is a “bad’ organization that should be shunned for ‘opposing America’s 100% altruistic actions around the world’”… but this kind of ridiculous, whining complaint (it sounds like a North Korean or Iranian news release) really only makes people elsewhere tune you out as a mouthpiece for U.S. government propaganda.

    The bottom line : You may be fooling AMERICANS with this kind of nonsensical, patently parochial disinformation campaign; well, after all, Americans _are_ pretty easy to fool (Google “oil spill” and “North Korea” if you don’t believe me); but you’re not fooling all the rest of us, outside the United States.

    But hey! Look at the bright side of it. They can use somebody like you, to fill in some air time on Fox “News”.

    Yours truly,

    A Non-American

  41. Michele Moore - Happy1 June 29, 2010 at 1:00 PM #

    Comparing Collateral Murder and Abu Ghraib is obtuse. Seymour Hersh has been a prominent Washington journalist for years, the Abu Ghraib photos show a long running, systemic pattern of human rights abuses echoing Guantanamo Bay. Something clearly needed to change and it did.

    Collateral Murder presents one horrifying incident (we assume there were more but we have no proof) occurring in a war we would all like to forget. It was produced by a “foreigner” – most of us had never heard of Wikileaks before Collateral Murder was released.

    Did Wikileaks have the resources to, as you suggest, “place the focus on the victims of the incident that it had documented, perhaps even establishing a charitable fund to assist their families?” Wikileaks worked with the limited information they were given, they are not an international news organization.

    Please note that ALL the Knight Foundation winners are American – Wikileaks is global and Australian.

    It seems your primary intent is to discredit and disparage Wikileaks. Who is running FAS these days, SAIC and CACI?

  42. Anna Chapman June 29, 2010 at 1:14 PM #

    Finally Aftergood managed to generate more than zero-to-one comments to his post.

  43. manuel piñeiro June 29, 2010 at 1:59 PM #

    Well, well … Mr Aftergood has prompted quite a few people to respond in defense of Wikileaks. And, his specific points have been logically deconstructed. So, will these points be addressed? Or is the conversation over because Mr Aftergood has “seen the enemy” and it is us ..?

  44. Anya Chapman June 29, 2010 at 2:16 PM #

    @Anna Chapman

    same name as the redhead Russian spy in today’s news?

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/06/29/anna-chapman-photos-pictu_n_629418.html

  45. James June 29, 2010 at 5:24 PM #

    From the New Yorker, June 7 2010 (See link below)

    ‘When Assange was looking for board members, he contacted Steven Aftergood, who runs an e-mail newsletter for the Federation of American Scientists, and who publishes sensitive documents. Aftergood declined to participate. “When a technical record is both sensitive and remote from a current subject of controversy, my editorial inclination is to err on the side of caution,” he said. “I miss that kind of questioning on their part.” ‘

    A far more considered response to that proposed above.

    Read more: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2010/06/07/100607fa_fact_khatchadourian?currentPage=all#ixzz0sHNta3On

  46. Steven Aftergood June 29, 2010 at 7:34 PM #

    Thanks for all the comments. They changed my mind on one point. On reflection, I should not have written or implied that the decision by the Knight Foundation to reject the WikiLeaks funding proposal was somehow a judgment on WikiLeaks’ conduct or performance. That may not be true. In fact, I have no way of knowing why the Knight Foundation (which has also denied and approved proposals from my organization) decided as it did.

    On other points, my position is unchanged. Publishing a writer’s work without her permission and even over her objection, as WikiLeaks initially did in the case I cited, is unethical and quite wicked. As for the comparison between WikiLeaks’ handling of the Apache helicopter video and the New Yorker’s publication of the Abu Ghraib photos, I think it is interesting and valid. If you were a leaker with a hot story to tell and rich documentation to go with it, you might well ask whether your interests would be better served by WikiLeaks or by Seymour Hersh.

    Most of all, I think WikiLeaks is wrong to publish private records of groups (college sororities!) and individuals who are completely innocent of wrongdoing. Even those commenters who don’t value their own privacy should be able to understand that it is disrespectful to intrude on the personal privacy of others. Politically it also infringes on individual freedom of association, and in that way it violates the norms of an open society. If that is what WikiLeaks stands for, then I stand opposed.

    I wish WikiLeaks would reconsider and withdraw all of those private records it has published that have no public policy significance. But I don’t really expect WikiLeaks to do so — its goals seem to lie in another direction — and I will continue to criticize it for that.

  47. Hilray June 29, 2010 at 8:17 PM #

    That’s it. Never question the US’s police-state censorship tactics. Kill the messenger, as usual. And be sure to regurgitate your Fox News talking points.

  48. Eric June 30, 2010 at 7:13 AM #

    When I was young, I was taught in church that Mormons do animal sacrifices to Satan.

    @ Keith

    You should be glad that WikiLeaks is publishing church documents in order to set the record straight. Since there isn’t anything for the Mormon Church to hide, then there should be no problem in leaking this church handbook, because it isn’t a secret. It’s better for people in other religions to know more about Mormonism, as compared to less. An informed public that chooses to stay informed will make better decisions than an uninformed public.

  49. manuel piñeiro June 30, 2010 at 8:17 AM #

    Steven:

    It is unfortunate that you did not find more to take away from these comments. In fact, you’ve also squandered something valuable: your own ability to impact the evolution of Wikileaks as they increasingly take part in the global struggle for government accountability & transparency.

    Your entire commentary could have been framed as thoughtful reflection and an “open letter” to Wikileaks in good faith, offering your analysis about how they could improve their project. Wikileaks is an organization with stated goals that are similar to your own; most everyone would have probably welcomed any insights, experiences or wisdom that you thought could be relevant to Wikileaks decision-makers.

    Unfortunately, you make very clear that your only intention is to tear them down, even if it means stifling the momentum, energy and renewed public interest in government secrecy issues that Wikileaks is generating.

    I think most readers would be interested in hearing your motivations on that specific point. Why are you attacking Wikileaks in a way that forces them to react defensively? Why not offer your criticisms in a way that demonstrates solidarity and helps Wikileaks grow to meet their full potential?

    I’d definitely like to understand those motives because, as it stands now, I can only figure that your motivations are thoughtless, petty and self-centered, without regard for the public interest or the health of the movement against the modern national security state.

    What you wrote can best be described as a hit piece that exclusively rants about what’s wrong with Wikleaks and implies that these problems are inherent to the project and can’t be fixed. And, you’ve decided to do this at a time when Wikileaks is simultaneously at their most vulnerable as well as uniquely positioned to roll out new releases that could dramatically influence modern journalism.

    Nothing demonstrates this more than the absurd hyperbole you offer:
    “In fact, WikiLeaks must be counted among the enemies of open society because it does not respect the rule of law nor does it honor the rights of individuals.”

    This is to say that advocates of an open society should go on the attack against Wikileaks, as they are The Enemy? Is that why your hit piece leaves no room for considering a future where WL strengthens and improves its organization towards becoming more like a traditional non-profit or NGO or etc?

    I’ve always noticed your “holier-than-thou” attitude (see: your past comments on JY/Cryptome, for example). Even still, I spend nearly all of my free time volunteering with projects that are politically aligned with your own work. I prioritize the success of those projects above all else. Everybody has their own quirks and I’ve always promoted your work regardless of what I thought about your personality.

    But this goes much too far. You lost your chance to offer guidance and support to an organization that is understandably overwhelmed with everything that’s happened over the past few months. You lost your chance to be a mentor in the struggle and reduced yourself to the cliched role jealous, petty saboteur.

    It’s very disappointing to me. I truly hope you can step back, re-evaluate what kind of impact you want to make here and try again to offer value in the form of peer review. Until then, I’ll be on the other side of the unnecessary and unproductive fracture you’ve created.

  50. Steven Aftergood June 30, 2010 at 8:59 AM #

    In the political world that I live in, criticism is not inherently an act of aggression, and it is not necessary to wrap every critical comment in a blanket of flattery and praise.

    Do I need to say that WikiLeaks has accomplished some admirable feats? That it has done things I could not do? That I have benefited from its work? Fine, I say all those things.

    Can you hear my criticism now? It is wrong to invade the privacy of innocent people and organizations. It is wrong to cast a spotlight on them against their will. It is wrong to violate the copyright of individual authors who are trying to make an honest living in a good cause.

    For the record, I think these are fixable problems. But if WikiLeaks cannot distinguish between promoting government accountability and dismantling all forms of confidentiality, then it is a seriously flawed enterprise. When WikiLeaks exposes the records of private groups that no one suspects of wrongdoing, then it has crossed a line and needs to be pushed back.

  51. Glen Ropella June 30, 2010 at 10:28 AM #

    It’s clear that privacy is disintegrating in 1st world countries. And the interesting thing about the disintegration is that it is voluntary. It seems that younger people care much less about privacy than older people. The “controversies” over Facebook’s policies and telecom data sharing with the NSA are fabricated by, to some extent, “old school” interests. Unfortunately, I’m from this old school as well and the disintegration disturbs me. And that brick in your argument carries a lot of weight with me. However, you have to consider Wikileaks in the context of the larger, systemic, disintegration of privacy everywhere.

    When you say they “need to be pushed back”, we can (perhaps shouldn’t, but can) infer that to mean “we need to tilt at windmills”. You (together with many others) may succeed in pushing Wikileaks backward toward a time when privacy held the prominent position we old school privacy advocates are comfortable with. But Wikileaks is just one of the emergent phenomena in the anti-privacy tidal wave hitting us and we won’t be able to push them all backward.

    In any case, although I disagree with most of the points made in your article, I very much appreciate what you’ve said, here, and the work you do, in general. Thanks and please keep it up!

  52. Michele Moore - Happy1 June 30, 2010 at 3:07 PM #

    Steve –

    Seymour Hersh works primarily in print: books, The New Yorker, The New York Times. The New York Times sat on the NSA surveillance story for a year before publishing it. A reporter for the Washington Post allegedly had a copy of the Apache helicopter video but did not release it or share it with Reuters.

    Wikileaks acted on what it was given.

    If you had a copy of the next blockbuster Apache helicopter like video and believed releasing would benefit the world, who would you give it to?

    The main stream media requires advertisers and access to survive and thrive. They cannot afford to bite the hands that feed them.

  53. SSAE 16 June 30, 2010 at 4:31 PM #

    My biggest problem with Wikileaks is the fact they knowingly mislead the audience as much as the party they are trying to expose, and then, only after a day or two of penetration, do they finally release the complete video to show the context.

    I dont think what the soldiers did was appropriate, i mean they chopped a buncha civilians, so you cant say its ok, but why continue the misleading instead of letting the evidence speak for itself?

  54. Mike June 30, 2010 at 5:41 PM #

    To say that publishing sorority or fraternity handbooks and initiation secrets is “vandalism” is stupid, at best. Every year millions of young,. impressionable people pledge to fraternities and sororities to “belong.” Publishing SOP of these organizations allows these young people to at least know when they are being abused, or terrorized, when they choose to join these often-self-described philanthropic or professional development organizations.

    I would say that Wikileaks is responsible, and just. Others would have published some of this information too early, for money, before agents of whatever corruption or evil could be allowed to quietly withdraw, and before others could be warned that they are in danger. Wikileaks holds cred for simply putting vampires in sunlight without innocents being affected.

  55. You know June 30, 2010 at 9:06 PM #

    Dilettante bullshit . . .

    “It is wrong to cast a spotlight on them against their will.”

    Absolutely laughable. You are becoming more and more annoying.

  56. Fionn Dempsey June 30, 2010 at 9:07 PM #

    I feel the need to respond to your recent comments.

    In the political world that I live in, criticism is not inherently an act of aggression, and it is not necessary to wrap every critical comment in a blanket of flattery and praise.

    Criticism is not an act of aggression, tout court, but it certainly starts to look like an act of aggression when what you offer as criticism misses its mark in such a blatantly rhetorical way. You claim to have appreciated the comments here, but your response to the most pertinent criticisms of your post hasn’t really addressed them. You merely restate your convictions. I invite you to address them now, and dispel the impression that you’re really not in the business of criticism at all. Because if you’re not *really* doing criticism, this does look like aggression.

    Do I need to say that WikiLeaks has accomplished some admirable feats? That it has done things I could not do? That I have benefited from its work? Fine, I say all those things.

    But you didn’t just neglect to say them. You concertedly implied that Wikileaks has had no substantive impact on public policy. Here:

    Much could be forgiven to WikiLeaks if it were true that its activities were succeeding in transforming government information policy in favor of increased openness and accountability — as opposed to merely generating reams of publicity for itself. WikiLeaks supporter Glenn Greenwald of Salon.com wrote that when it comes to combating government secrecy, “nobody is doing that as effectively as WikiLeaks.” But he neglected to spell out exactly what effect WikiLeaks has had. Which U.S. government programs have been cancelled as a result of Wikileaks’ activities? Which government policies have been revised? How has public discourse shifted?

    This paragraph, with its array of perfectly answerable but unanswered rhetorical questions, suggests that, to name one example, Iceland’s Modern Media Initiative didn’t happen. You didn’t just neglect to mention it. You implied that it was not true that WL’s activities are succeeding in transforming government information policy in favor of increased openness and accountability. Why did you do this?

    You have also continued to pretend that WL defines its remit as a whistleblowing organization for government and public policy significance only, and on the back of that hold them accountable for leaking documents that are not clearly linked to these areas. You do it here:

    I wish WikiLeaks would reconsider and withdraw all of those private records it has published that have no public policy significance.

    I’ve already pointed out that WL does not consider public policy significance the only form of significance that merits forceful public exposure. If it did, it would of course be problematic that they leaked the sorority and Mormon documents. But Wikileaks clearly states the following about EVERY document on the site:

    Unless otherwise specified, the document described here:

    * Was first publicly revealed by WikiLeaks working with our source.
    * Was classified, confidential, censored or otherwise withheld from the public before release.
    * Is of political, diplomatic, ethical or historical significance.

    Wikileaks does not confine its remit to material of political significance only. It has a wider remit. It therefore cannot be criticized for failing to observe a narrower remit it never claimed as its own.

    You go on to damn the Mormon and Sorority leaks, because they fail to fall within the remit you falsely ascribed to WL.

    Can you hear my criticism now? It is wrong to invade the privacy of innocent people and organizations. It is wrong to cast a spotlight on them against their will.

    and

    When WikiLeaks exposes the records of private groups that no one suspects of wrongdoing, then it has crossed a line and needs to be pushed back.

    and

    Most of all, I think WikiLeaks is wrong to publish private records of groups (college sororities!) and individuals who are completely innocent of wrongdoing. Even those commenters who don’t value their own privacy should be able to understand that it is disrespectful to intrude on the personal privacy of others.

    The contention here is that nobody suspects the Delta Sigma Theta group, or the Mormons of any wrongdoing. That is a contentious claim. Both of these leaks are classified under the “cults and religious organizations” category on WL. They are certainly not the only leaks classified under this category. Please see: http://wikileaks.org/wiki/Category:Cults_and_religious_organizations

    It is increasingly a concern for people of sound mind in a democratic society that power is clandestinely amassed by secretive and insular religious cults. They propogate by exactly the sort of initiation ceremonies revealed in the leaked documents. They indoctrinate individuals with false and superstitious doctrines, calculated so as to reinforce the insular social structure that drives the cult. These are not, by my reckoning, and the reckoning of a large number of public-minded individuals, innocent or harmless organizations. Their privacy is not sacrosanct. It is completely controversial that WL made any transgression in leaking these documents to the public, and I find troubling the fact that you just repeated your convictions that it is wrong, again deploying premises that have been challenged. Why have you not addressed the argument that these are by no means harmless or insignificant organizations, and why have you not granted that WL professes a wider mandate than you presented it as having?

    Finally,

    It is wrong to violate the copyright of individual authors who are trying to make an honest living in a good cause.

    That isn’t all that obvious to me at all. It may be wrong in limiting cases, but I don’t see that this is anything but an appeal to establishment convictions about the efficacy and moral force of copyright law. Copyright law used to grant a commercial monopoly on how content was monetized. It doesn’t any more, because it is clearly becoming unenforceable. I don’t see that the norms and entitlements that applied when copyright actually worked still apply, and I am not alone in that. There are plenty of cases in the past where a slavish respect for copyright law would have prevented documents from reaching the public. The Church of Scientology is notorious for copyright trolling as a way of preventing PR and recruitment-potential damages should its ludicrious, laughable doctrines reach the general public. There are certain normative statements on which you’re going to get almost universal agreement if you voice them. Copyright is an issue so fraught with complexity and disagreement, that this normative statement is not one of them.

    Publishing a writer’s work without her permission and even over her objection, as WikiLeaks initially did in the case I cited, is unethical and quite wicked.

    Again, although I cannot defend this particular incident, because I have not researched it, I can think of a vast amount of counterexamples, where it would certainly not be unethical or wicked to publish a writer’s work without her permission. So, again, I just find myself unswayed by your assertion. It just sounds like handwringing.

  57. Julian Assange June 30, 2010 at 9:15 PM #

    You could have used FAS’s resources to criticize policies that cover-up state sanctioned killings and other abuses carried out by titanic institutions, but instead you squandered FAS resources to criticize a fledgling non-profit trying to make the world a better place. You have caused us to squander our resources defending ourselves, here, rather than doing our job. Your behavior, Stephen Aftergood, is not without costs. You are a problem for the victims we assist, because you take away our time, and that takes away our assistance.

    Now I will turn to your remaining claims.

    “Can you hear my criticism now? It is wrong to invade the privacy of innocent people and organizations. It is wrong to cast a spotlight on them against their will. It is wrong to violate the copyright of individual authors who are trying to make an honest living in a good cause.”

    None of the examples you listed were innocent. The Mormons and Scientology have secret systems of governance that are withheld from their members. Believers hold that these laws, which many are not permitted to see, not only determine the permissibility of most important actions on earth, but out to eternity as well. Secret laws Stephen, kept from women and other marginalized groups. Secret laws passed to us by dissidents who want to see them published. Who want us to protect them. Are we to say no? Under what basis do we have the right to turn them away?

    Similarly the laws and practices of other secretive or exclusionary cults, sects, and fraternal orders or practices form a spectrum that is not only of historical importance, but provide a window into common patronage systems and the methods of psychological control. Under what basis do we have the right to turn dissidents from these organizations away?

    Now, to your final claim, issued, apparently without knowing anything about Kenya or the situation there. I live there. “It’s our turn to eat” is a book about the founder of Transparency International in Kenya, John Githongo by Ms. Wrong, who lives in the United Kingdom. Githongo stayed with her when he fled to the UK in “self-exile.” When “It’s our turn to eat” was first published, it triggered tensions due its coverage of high level corruption among the Kenyan political and business elite.

    Book sellers across Nairobi refused to sell the book for fear of power figures and a significant chance of political reform in the country–which may have affected the lives of millions–was in danger of being lost. Kenyans can not just order books off the internet by postal order. Almost no-one has a credit card. The average wage is $2 a day and mail order outfits are very reluctant to ship to Kenya.

    Someone from within one of the printing houses sent us an internal draft of the book, which we discovered to also have been spreading via email among the well connected. Given that provenance, and the lack of a meaningful Kenyan market, we assumed we had the publishers or the authors tacit approval. As part of our mission to “uncensor” censored materials we released it.

    Later we discovered that the author said she’d prefer the money from the Kenyan market, despite its trivial quantum, than giving the bulk of the Kenyan population access to it. We started negotiations to buy rights to the book so we could provision it for free to all Keyans with Ms. Wong’s approval. We were concerned that our provision of the book might eat into the authors non-Kenyan market, where there were reasonable arguments for restriction so, we removed the link to the book and told Kenyans who could not get the book, to email us instead.

    Your provincial concern with copyright is incomprehensible to the two million people living in the Kibera slum, or the mothers of the 40,000 Kenyan children who died of Malaria last year, or the thousands who were illegally assassinated by Kenyan police, or 1,300 people who were killed and the 350,000 people who were displaced in 2008 due to electoral corruption. The country lives on a different plane to you, as do the majority of the people in the world. Your industrial values are not relevant to the people of this country.

    I would appreciate it if you checked your facts before commenting on this organization in future. Why not do something useful, and helpful with your time, instead?

    JA.

  58. Steven Aftergood June 30, 2010 at 10:27 PM #

    Thanks to Julian Assange for his additional comment. We disagree about some fundamental principles.

    Julian says that none of the private groups I cited are “innocent” — not even Alpha Sigma Tau or other college sororities whose confidential records were published by WikiLeaks. I don’t know if that is true or not. But I say that they don’t have to be innocent, they just have to obey the law. They cannot defraud, abuse or injure their members. Within the confines of the law, however, they are free to engage in all manner of unconventional beliefs and practices, even if those are hierarchical, superstitious and nonsensical. Freedom of religion and freedom of association, including the right to associate confidentially, are fundamental to the open society. WikiLeaks apparently has a different vision that would extinguish or curtail such freedoms, and it is incompatible with the open society.

    On the other hand, if WikiLeaks’ publication of these groups’ records had exposed some kind of violation of law, then I would agree that such publication was praiseworthy and in the public interest. But from what I could see in the sorority rituals and the other rites I mentioned, that is not the case. This kind of coercive transparency is nothing like whistleblowing. Instead of fighting injustice in such cases, WikiLeaks is perpetrating it.

    Before I wrote about WikiLeaks’ violation of copyright in the case of the book about corruption in Kenya, I confirmed that the author, Ms. Wrong, had contacted WikiLeaks on March 10, 2009 to ask that the pirated text of her book be taken offline and I confirmed that WikiLeaks replied with a refusal to do so, though it later reversed itself. I did not speculate about WikiLeaks’ motives. My account was correct in every respect.

    The primary purpose of copyright is not to enrich the author but to advance the scholarly and creative process or, as the U.S. Constitution put it, “to promote the progress of science and useful arts.” If the practice of involuntary free distribution prevailed, then writers like Ms. Wrong would be less likely to investigate corruption in Kenya or elsewhere, and publishers would be much less likely to publish it. It seems doubtful to me that this damage to anti-corruption efforts could have been outweighed by the free online distribution of Ms. Wrong’s book to impoverished Kenyans (if that were even possible).

    WikiLeaks has developed and demonstrated a new tool of extraordinary power and potential. Like all other tools, it can be abused and misdirected. My critical comments are simply intended to point out some problem areas I see.

  59. kyle June 30, 2010 at 10:29 PM #

    damn straight, julian. how is it all these organizations (and individuals) that seem to pride themselves on their defense of truth and liberty so easily pile on wikileaks? they are a new organization, but they are (obviously) getting things done!

  60. PatricCurrie June 30, 2010 at 10:31 PM #

    *BOOM* Headshot!

  61. Sam Crawshaw June 30, 2010 at 10:33 PM #

    Copyright, censorship, national security, whatever you want to call it, is just way of whitewashing truth and suppressing information and ideas.

    Capitalism is corrupt and democracy is dead.

  62. sara June 30, 2010 at 10:53 PM #

    _____ __
    _/ ________ _____/ |_
    __\__ _/ ___ __
    | | / __ \ ___| |
    |__| (____ /___ >__|
    / /
    i agree with julies

  63. brindo June 30, 2010 at 11:28 PM #

    “And it does not provide any clue why the Knight Foundation, the preeminent foundation funder of innovative First Amendment and free press initiatives, might have rejected WikiLeaks’ request for financial support”

    Oh yes it does.

  64. Chris R June 30, 2010 at 11:41 PM #

    Support WL!! :)

  65. JW July 1, 2010 at 12:13 AM #

    Thank you Julian.

  66. Todd July 1, 2010 at 12:48 AM #

    I feel the review is right on.

    By the way Julian, how is that defense for Bradly Manning coming along?

    The self interest that is referred to in the review above is clearly reflected by the Wikileaks Tweets, which include references to your grandstanding and typically include a reference to the Wikileaks donation page. Further, with the lack of transparency in Wikileaks financials and accountability, it will be your downfall.

  67. Robbie July 1, 2010 at 2:02 AM #

    This article is balls.

    Long live WikiLeaks and long live freedom of information!!!

  68. On the Comments July 1, 2010 at 2:10 AM #

    As with most things in the world – I think the truth of the matter lay somewhere in between the two extremes.

    I am a fan of WikiLeaks. But I also have tons of questions. This is a bit of a Catch 22 (my questions are around the organizations opaqueness – but I suppose that is required because of what they do).

    Is Aftergood correct to ask questions? Of course. Some of them are descent questions to ask.

    It’s hard to disagree with these broad ethical statements:

    “It is wrong to invade the privacy of innocent people and organizations. It is wrong to cast a spotlight on them against their will. It is wrong to violate the copyright of individual authors who are trying to make an honest living in a good cause.”

    Those are broad cases/examples.

    I appreciate Julian putting some context around these, especially the situation in Kenya.

    Point is: I don’t think that Wikileaks is “an enemy of an open society.” I think they have the best of intentions – but that doesn’t mean their organization should go by without being questioned. There is the real possibility of harm being done by the organization.

    Where I disagree with Aftergood is that such harm has been caused. The potential is there and that is why it’s good for these questions to be brought up. Even if it takes Julian time to respond – at least these concerns are brought to the organizations attention so they’ll know to avoid these potential conflicts going forward. In truth – these are ethical standards I hope any and all organizations are held to.

    I do think that asking WikiLeaks to fundraise for the families is unfair. This could be asked of any organization covering any story. Same with the Knight review – there were thousands of worthy organizations that didn’t receive grants. To hold either of these as barometers of Wikileaks would be a double-standard.

    All of this is to say: Aftergood is right to ask questions, Julian is right to defend WikiLeaks’ actions so far. Just as in right/left politics – when we enter shouting matches and assume our own team is right or our own views couldn’t possibly be wrong – we ALL lose.

    My two-cents.

  69. Tim Harper July 1, 2010 at 2:19 AM #

    Hi Julian Assange,

    I’m grateful for the work you do, thank you for bringing important information out of darkness.

    I don’t understand why you included Mormons in your classifications of groups that have secrets they hide from their members. I’m a member of the LDS Church, have been since I was a child, have served a mission and attended the temple but never have been called to be a bishop, though I work with ours in our ward. I’ve read the material you’ve posted on us (I didn’t bother with the endowment ceremony, anyone can go who prepares themselves spiritually and fulfills the worthiness requirements that are outlined for all to see). In all of the material, nothing struck me as secretive or new: I was mostly aware of everything in the Church Handbook Instructions (which you’ve been asked to take down, but I expect you won’t). There were a few things that were interesting to learn, but, it’s not information that any member couldn’t get just by asking their bishop or studying what’s been published. I suspect maybe not all members are given that manual because not all members need it.

    Again, thank you for your work.

    Tim

  70. Greg July 1, 2010 at 2:29 AM #

    Every fact in this article comes from the Wikipedia article on Wikileaks, or from the official page of Wikileaks. Stephen Aftergood obviously did no real research for this review. He read a Wikipedia article and had a glance at the official site of Wikileaks and then based the whole review on his ignorant interpretation of this material without doing and original or investigative research. This is one of the most incompetent and disgusting pieces of journalism I have ever read, and it is an attack on a non-profit organisation, an organisation that also happens to be the most important and effective institution in the world for creating positive political reform. Aftergood, with all the horrible things going on in the world, can’t you find a better use for your time?

  71. James July 1, 2010 at 2:37 AM #

    What is it that you hope to achieve by publishing such drivel?

    To discredit Wikileaks?

    To make a name for yourself amongst Wikileaks fans?

    To create a public posture of your view of Wikileaks that you can then refer others to and say that you’re on “their side” when you attempt to gain access to classified information for the purpose of news?

    Whilst it is fair to ask questions, unless you’re a representative of Wikileaks then you’re in no position to conjure up answers. Why don’t you formulate a set of questions and put it to Wikileaks to answer? Are you man enough to do that or just a little child that’s upset because someone else has a bigger and better toy than you?

  72. RYAN July 1, 2010 at 3:03 AM #

    I wanted to let you know that I don’t care what you think Steven. I’d imagine there are quite a few others as well who share my sentiment.

  73. Marguerite July 1, 2010 at 3:03 AM #

    “Are you man enough to do that or just a little child that’s upset because someone else has a bigger and better toy than you?”
    haha so it would seem.

    The Wikileaks staff and volunteers are very courageous.
    Thank you Julian Assange for your time and resources going to such a noble cause. It saddens me to see poorly researched articles like this being taken seriously.

    Keep on keepin’ on, Wikileaks.

  74. Janet July 1, 2010 at 3:52 AM #

    What a load of rubbish !!

    Just part of the current ‘smear’ campaign to try and discredit the fine work they do.

    We see enough of this childish behaviour pre-election !

  75. Jack July 1, 2010 at 3:58 AM #

    Steven, your biased opinions are not considered “news”.

  76. gabNOC July 1, 2010 at 5:32 AM #

    Hey everyone! For better journalism let´s donate here: http://www.wikileaks.org/wiki/Special:Support

    =)

  77. Clytie Siddall July 1, 2010 at 5:40 AM #

    Every email I get from Amnesty, Save the Children or World Vision contains a link to their donation pages. Does that make them bad organizations? They rely on donations to do their badly-needed work.

    As for Bradley Manning, are you putting effort into defending him? Have you done more than Wikileaks to publicize his position?

  78. Dale July 1, 2010 at 6:05 AM #

    As a Mormon dissident, I agree with everything Julian has to say:

    “The Mormons do have secret systems of governance that are withheld from their members. Secret laws are kept from women and other marginalized groups. Secret laws are passed along by dissidents who want to see them published.”

    Thankyou Wikileaks for publishing.

    It was the access to the secret cult documents through outside sources that allowed me to escape the psychological damaging grip of the cult.

    Mormonism may be held up as a glowing example of how internet enabled transparency reverses the growth and influence of an institution shrouded in secrecy.

    I fully support Wikileaks and also question the motivations behind Steven Aftergood’s hit piece that is short on substance and long on innuendo.

  79. Ian W July 1, 2010 at 6:39 AM #

    My only beef w/ Wikileaks is how it handled the information regarding the Apache helicopter footage, and I made it known on their YouTube channel and Facebook page.

    To edit a 40 minute video down to a sliver of the original length, pick the most sensational moments to show and leave out much (underscore) of the context, and then speciously title it “Collateral Murder,” when it was obvious that the pilots made tragic yet routine mistakes, is censorship by omission. Plain and simple.

    I was in horror at the predictable responses of the masses, almost everyone joined the bandwagon for a rousing chorus of “Murderers!”

    I find that sort of groupthink to be massively shameful, and when it is perpetuated by the supposed gatekeepers of public information, an unpardonable sin.

    That said, I do think Wikileaks has the POTENTIAL to be very useful, especially in a world that is digital, and sharable. As technology gets better, powers grip of it will be tighter and more formidable. WL is an equalizer.

  80. Joshua Simeon Narins July 1, 2010 at 6:57 AM #

    Look at the following clause: “WikiLeaks’ ruthless violation of their freedom of association.”

    Where in the 1st amendment right to free association does it say that it is wrong to leak the contents of the meeting you were at?

    In fact, if you join a group like the Mormons, and they try to use their force to _stop_ you from leaking their secret memorandum, that sounds a lot more dangerous than a member revealing what they are really up to.

    And, in any event, I can’t see how this is a violation of freedom of association.

    A right to privacy, maybe, you can make that argument if you want, but you didn’t.

    You made a retarded argument.

  81. Max Bigras July 1, 2010 at 7:08 AM #

    “Julian says that none of the private groups I cited are “innocent” — not even Alpha Sigma Tau or other college sororities whose confidential records were published by WikiLeaks. I don’t know if that is true or not.”

    I don’t think it matters whether you are having a relaxed debate with a friend or delivering a public speech you should always know what you are talking about especially when reporting to the public. I (like many other readers of this post) have never heard of your website but you claim to be

    “a publication of the Federation of American Scientists, reports on new developments in government secrecy and provides public access to documentary resources on secrecy, intelligence and national security policy.”

    Why do you feel the need to “report” on something you obviously don’t know about, and obviously haven’t done adequate research on?

    “Before I wrote about WikiLeaks’ violation of copyright in the case of the book about corruption in Kenya, I confirmed that the author, Ms. Wrong, had contacted WikiLeaks on March 10, 2009 to ask that the pirated text of her book be taken offline and I confirmed that WikiLeaks replied with a refusal to do so, though it later reversed itself. I did not speculate about WikiLeaks’ motives. My account was correct in every respect.”

    Once again, this response shows a complete lack of research at best (at worst it shows deliberate omissions of key facts to the story, which would put your supposed “publication” in the category of the lap dog media). You leave out key facts that Wikileaks contacted the author, and arranged for modifications to be made to limit the negative financial impact the the leak would have. Moreover whats even more disappointing is you literally take the propaganda filled words right out the the UK Parliament Members’ mouths; (as they washed up the Digital Economy Act 2010 in less than two hours) basically stating that if authors don’t make a killing selling their work then “…you know if people can’t be paid for their creativity they’re going to stop being creative” Stephen Timms MP Minister for Digital Britain, “If the practice of involuntary free distribution prevailed, then writers like Ms. Wrong would be less likely to investigate corruption in Kenya or elsewhere, and publishers would be much less likely to publish it.” Steven Aftergood writer for Secrecy News. Which is probably the most false statement in your slew of uneducated, unsupported, unproductive claims yet, an organization such as Wikileaks themselves is a testament to how wrong you are when you make this claim.

    Another thing I’m confused about, (but the more I read from you the more I realize its probably from your lack of time spent researching what you talk about) is why you keep hiding behind “the law” as a valid argument to hold against Wikileaks. First you claim that

    “WikiLeaks must be counted among the enemies of open society because it does not respect the rule of law nor does it honor the rights of individuals.”

    in some way debases Wikileaks, and then you use “the law” to defend your only remaining weak argument (after wasting the time of all who had to systematically dismantle your previous feeble and inaccurate claims) that the sororities and organizations affected by Wikileaks are somehow innocent to public disclosure because they haven’t quite done anything wrong in the eyes of “the law”

    “Julian says that none of the private groups I cited are “innocent” — not even Alpha Sigma Tau or other college sororities whose confidential records were published by WikiLeaks. I don’t know if that is true or not. But I say that they don’t have to be innocent, they just have to obey the law. They cannot defraud, abuse or injure their members. Within the confines of the law, however, they are free to engage in all manner of unconventional beliefs and practices, even if those are hierarchical, superstitious and nonsensical”

    These statements show clearly that you’ve missed the entire point of the Wikileaks organization. And that is that there is no accountability for “the law” anymore. Some would argue this catastrophic disaster is the result of poor reporting and journalism like what you are spewing onto the web now. Who is to be critical of “the law”? Who is to decide that these sororities are protected by “the law”? Who is to stop “the law” from doing something wrong? Well, I would say that we the people are supposed to be doing this, but we can’t because we don’t know whats happening. Wikileaks give the people information so we can make informed decisions about what we think about “the law”. This is the service that Wikileaks provides the people, a service you “don’t know” about and are getting in the way of.

    Finally, after an entire page of readers asking as to why in you published this garbage in the first place, you answer all of our questions with a weak and pathetic response:

    “My critical comments are simply intended to point out some problem areas I see.”

    Well, perhaps thats true and perhaps this publication is not out of jealousy or envy or a sellout attempt to gain more readers (I certainly won’t be one, except to see that every single one of your incorrect points are exposed). Maybe the only thing you intended to do was point out some problems you think you see. But, its obvious that you don’t know enough about the “problem areas” you talking about. Perhaps you should take an example from the organization you are criticizing (Wikileaks), or a real journalist that you quoting (Glenn Greenwald) and show us your sources. What information lead you to your conclusions? Show us the information that proves you right, then we can show you the information that proves you wrong and we’ll be done.

  82. Storytelling July 1, 2010 at 8:32 AM #

    After reading all these very interesting comments I think I see the knot at the core of Mr Aftergood’s Argument. Wiki-leaks does not represent the ideas it champions. It is a secretive organization – with a creative nontraditional and therefor weird governance structure and good easily be a profit or criminal enterprise. I don’t think Wiki-leaks is a criminal organization. Rather it is a very clever – strategically designed group to prevent it from being compromised by powers that be.

    Mr. Aftergoods argument would clearly remove the one arrow in Wiki-leaks arsenal that gives it protection from the actions of “Rogue States” like the USA. States that clearly project their power outside the “Law”. I have found Mr. Aftergood’s arguments naive, but well meaning.

  83. Horst Wilden July 1, 2010 at 8:38 AM #

    Obviously no research was necessary, since it all was said in the Guardian as early as April 9:

    “They have acquired and published documents of extraordinary significance. I would say also that WikiLeaks is a response to a genuine problem, namely the over control of information of public policy significance,” he says. Yet he also regards WikiLeaks as a threat to individual liberties. “Their response to indiscriminate secrecy has been to adopt a policy of indiscriminate disclosure. They tend to disregard considerations of personal privacy, intellectual property as well as security,” he says.

    “One of the things I find offensive about their operations is their willingness to disclose confidential records of religious and social organisations. If you are a Mormon or a Mason or a college girl who is a member of a sorority with a secret initiation ritual then WikiLeaks is not your friend. They will violate your privacy and your freedom of association without a second thought. That has nothing to do with whistleblowing or accountability. It’s simply disclosure for disclosure’s sake.”

    And also Michaela Wrong’s book was mentioned:

    “WikiLeaks has also infuriated the author, Michela Wrong, who was horrified to discover her book exposing the depths of official corruption in Kenya, It’s Our Turn To Eat, was pirated and posted on WikiLeaks in its entirety on the grounds that Nairobi booksellers were reluctant to sell it for fear of being sued under Kenya’s draconian libel laws.”

    At least the author linked to the article in his text above.
    Fill it up with some more dislike and anger and mention the Knight foundation as an important benchmark. Finished!

    Now throw it back into the jungle!

  84. oddfellow July 1, 2010 at 8:38 AM #

    I think Wikileaks sources who out themselves, deliberately or by accident, should not expect to get help from the stretched resources of Wikileaks. It should have been obvious to Manning that he not yak to people around the world about what he did.. with or without assurances of confidentiality. Wikileaks has a responsibility to ‘publish and be damned’ as the saying goes, but not rescue people accused of being whistleblowers. Focus on the leaked material itself. And btw, Julian, do make special effort to verify that the US Govt isn’t running a long-con on you with the State Dept communications. I think if they really wanted to locate you and chat with you they would have done by now.. something to think about.

  85. Horst Wilden July 1, 2010 at 8:42 AM #

    I just see, that in my snippet it only says “he says”. To avoid misunderstandings: “he” is Steven Aftergood.
    So it’s not about stealing the text, but about repeating the same stuff again.

  86. Resch July 1, 2010 at 9:04 AM #

    This one is to Ian W:

    “To edit a 40 minute video down to a sliver of the original length, pick the most sensational moments to show and leave out much (underscore) of the context, and then speciously title it “Collateral Murder,” when it was obvious that the pilots made tragic yet routine mistakes, is censorship by omission. Plain and simple.”

    I agree that titling the video “Collateral Murder” is kinda manipulative, and that it puts certain conclusions in your head before you even watch the video. The reason for it is that WikiLeaks promises its sources that the leaked material will have the maximum political impact possible. However, I don’t see it as a big of a problem since the original, unedited video IS available as well for you to make up your own mind.

  87. Goodmorning Iraq July 1, 2010 at 9:08 AM #

    I don’t understand how anybody can let their argument lean on a platform of lies. Government (the state) has undoubtedly caused more death and destruction especially in the last century than we give fair recognition to. When a globe is illegally spied on and put into capitalistic data cruncher engines and those who protest are given a personal space at the Dept. of Homeland Security’s server, there is a clear problem. When we look the other way as our country embeds itself in the oil rich middle east by way of the bodies of our family and friends, i take issue. Wikileaks has become an unsung (more like whispered) hero of humanity while it’s in one of its darker points. How can we hope to understand and apply meaningful change without the knowledge that both require? And if practically all media outlets refuse to shed any light on subjects people are truly worried about, then somebody else will.

    cuidado de la revolucion

  88. Saulius Ganoje July 1, 2010 at 10:06 AM #

    Dear author,
    For once stop the moment and imagine the world with no secrets. What kind of place it would be? Transparency and trust in family, alternative opinions/information sources in education, facts and selflessness in religion, information sharing and cooperation in innovation, responsibility/accountability in governance, social responsibility in business, creation of art (writers, painters, singers..) sake of joy and recognition not monetary reward, etc. etc. Thought about it? What kind of a place the world be now?
    After thinking about it – read your own article one more time.

  89. Mr Bean July 1, 2010 at 10:07 AM #

    Simply put, wikileaks does for corporations what FOIA does for government. It shines the light of day on things that should not be hidden. The people have a right to know.

  90. Tanek July 1, 2010 at 10:49 AM #

    To Mr. Aftergood: I think the issue here is that you basically confuse public interest with the industrial interests of USA. That you confuse descriptions of secret group rituals with privacy. And you seem to forget that people come to Wikileaks with this information.

    Or is this just an Adrian Lamo-style attempt at you getting some attention at any cost?

  91. anders tronsen July 1, 2010 at 10:50 AM #

    Sunlight is the Best Disinfectant

  92. Major Variola (ret) July 1, 2010 at 12:04 PM #

    So Stephen, how do you feel about cryptome.org?

  93. Stourley Kracklite July 1, 2010 at 12:10 PM #

    Wikileaks “could have done more to place the focus on the victims of the incident that it had documented, perhaps even establishing a charitable fund to assist their families.”

    We didn’t know anything about the victims until Wikileaks exposed the killings.

    How has Federation of American Scientists through its Secrecy News helped the victims by asserting that by the failure of Wikileaks to adhere to some vague “due diligence” criteria applied ex post facto Wikileaks is to be counted as an enemy?

  94. GV July 1, 2010 at 12:11 PM #

    I disagree that Seymour Hersh’s article in New York Times DID change any policy, except for the low-level show trial of some underlings at the Abu Ghreib facility. Torture is going on busniness-as-usual right now under Obama, and openly so.

    Regarding the Kenyan authoress and the alleged violation of her rights via publication of her work as an ebook on wikileaks: I’ve been watching wikileaks fairly regularly for several years and the only post regarding her partially banned in Kenya book only gave her email contact in order for readers in Kenya to contact her directly if they couldn’t obtain the book otherwise.

    It is possible wikileaks might have published the document then took it down before I saw it. I doubt seriously the author of this piece has any idea, though. This is one of the talking points in the disinformation campaign against wikileaks, including through the fake whistleblower (a “former NSA spook” according to him) Wayne Madsen and his Report.

    The other major talking point was trying to wedgy John Young of Cryptome against Assange of WL. This failed to work out in practice because Young refused to swallow the bait.

    Since the initial disinformation has gone on the rocks, the intel types are now pursuing the accusation WL is too non-transparent. Well of course it is, TO THEM.

    What WL is doing is ipso facto plain to see. Saying WL is publishing non-secret stuff is irrelevant, they publish what they pick and choose from submissions. This is in some ways superior to checking everything to see if it’s appeared before somewhere.

    While the author of this HIT PIECE above talks about Mormon and sororiety internal documents as somehow infringing, immoral or whatever, he fails to mention the massive library of Scientology documents WL has unleashed. I am guessing the omission was intentional for one or several reasons. Obviously secret societies trade in secrets as much as governments, states and other hidden structures do.

    As far as legal accountability goes, it is my understanding that Sweden has very strict laws which not only allow but require confidentiality of confidential sources be kept confidential. I don’t see WL violating that law or any other Swedish law that I am aware of.

  95. anthropolicious July 1, 2010 at 12:56 PM #

    Wait a minute, let me get this straight.

    You wrote a highly publicized article critical of things wikileaks published ages ago, capitalising on their recent media coverage to rekindle old flames, and then complain about wikileaks just being media whores? :p (paraphrasing the point).

    To be honest, I read this article yesterday & was a bit shaken up by your claims about wikileaks publishing their secret documents & about Ms. Wrong’s book. I knew there had to be more to this, hence why I’m online!, and I’m so glad Assange replied literally quelling all concerns. It’s unfortunate your reply literally ignored what Assange had to say while continuing to repeat what this mantra about the fraternities…

    ———————————————————-

    “We started negotiations to buy rights to the book so we could provision it for free to all Keyans with Ms. Wong’s approval.”

    ———————(Part of Assange’s reply)—

    ^ That is just bad*ss, :) Seriously, just awesome!^

    I’m sorry you had to waste your time replying here Mr. Assange but it did make a difference to someone, honestly :)

    It’s 100% true that these cultish practices deserve to be read, even by seemingly harmless college fraternities.
    It’s a question of psychology & that kind of destructive way of life, i.e. secrecy & cultish oppression, deserves to be heard – especially if dissenters from the cult want it to be so!
    Can you tell us how wikileaks have broken some law in publishing these works? No, because it doesn’t exist.
    People have a right to know about this type of craziness going on in schools, i.e. secret societies etc… & what kind of things they do.
    If dissenters think that these cults are psychologically damaging people then why shouldn’t we all know?
    I believe this is the kind of cr*p scientology has been pulling for a while now…

    Also, Mr. Aftergood, I’m so surprised your reply completely ignored the issue about Kenyan’s not being able to get access to this book detailing the extreme brutality there.
    Instead of replying from a humanitarian perspective, it’s all about the cold hard cash & only concerns about how sales might be affected.
    I think you’ll find that most good journalists aren’t in war-torn countries just so that they can rake in the cash.

    In short, the small attention this article received is extremely undeserved, seeing as a single response from wikileaks has completely taken all of the gusto out of your arguments.
    Better and more honest research on your part probably would have come up with answers.

    This “new tool of extraordinary power” you speak of is merely the truth, I’m surprised such a thing appears so scary…

  96. Jack July 1, 2010 at 1:25 PM #

    “Within the confines of the law, however, they are free to engage in all manner of unconventional beliefs and practices, even if those are hierarchical, superstitious and nonsensical.”

    Sure, if they are not doing anything wrong. But who gets to decide, Steven? You? Don’t you think that I should be allowed to make an informed decision prior to entering into one of these groups?

    Or are you pro-censorship, and believe that “big brother” knows best?

  97. Horst Wilden July 1, 2010 at 1:30 PM #

    Well said, anthropolicious.

    But this is also a message to Wikileaks and Julian Assange: You simply MUST take the time to answer to the critiques! It is not enough, to leave them just there, thinking they sound redicilous anyways.

    And you MUST answer adequitely, as you did here, to show, where the critique is a total fail.

    Don’t let yourself overrun by such articles, as we read here. Your answers can change things as well as your leaked documents. Maybe even more.

  98. Jeff Ploughman July 1, 2010 at 1:37 PM #

    It is interesting that the author of the article makes mention of the Knight Foundation. Knight Ridder, from whose wealth the Knight Foundation was founded, was the owner of the Mercury News. In the late 90′s, Gary Webb blew the whistle on the CIA-Contra-Cocaine connection. And, although the Mercury News initially ran the story, the ownership of the Mercury News eventually discredited both Webb and the story (despite it being factually correct.) The Mercury News and Knight Ridder showed both cowardice and lack of independence in how they handled the brilliant journalism by Gary Webb.

    Why would the Knight Foundation reject WikiLeaks request for funding? Why indeed…

  99. kyle July 1, 2010 at 2:11 PM #

    btw, Steven Aftergood, i like how you deleted the couple of comments following JA’s post, and then inserted your reply right after his. why not get in the comment line like the rest of us?

  100. Reader July 1, 2010 at 2:14 PM #

    Apparently, some of you, or most of you, have no idea what it is actually like (in real life, beyond the keyboard) to try and expose wrong doing.

    My comments above towards Aftergood and his ridiculous essay on Wikileaks were based on personal experience with deep corruption and the inability of government(s) to react with openness, honesty and the necessary transparency to all parties involved when clear abuses were documented and real lives were endangered (this is the same Reader commentator that first disagreed with Aftergood).

    I am not affiliated with Wikileaks and barely understand what it is that they do. However, personal experience in these matters revealed to me that Aftergood’s little tirade against Wikileaks was entirely without merit, and even more importantly, based upon some rather blatant false assumptions.

    Aftergood alleges that the rule of law should apply to any individual, organization or entity that expresses itself. This is a faulty argument, because the law in many, many cases does not protect you; does not assist you; does not defend you; and can be just as easily manipulated by your opponents who are demonstrably without morals or restraints. To say that they will even kill you to shut you up is no stretch of the imagination at all.

    Who then will submit himself to “law” or “rules” under these rather onerous conditions? Self-preservation is paramount in many instances. Perhaps that makes me a coward, but I was not alone — my family was just as threatened as I and their lives were deemed even more important then my own.

    I went to the authorities, once believing that I was doing the right thing and that my own role in all of this was unquestionably right. In my now-dead-naivete, I thought that these “protectors” of truth, law and justice would help me and resolve the situation, only to find out that not only did they not help, they swiftly turned against me, because I has naively uncovered one of their own in wrong-doing.

    It is patently absurd to believe in the practice of the rule of law when the law does not in fact apply, or can be so capricious that it may as well not exist. Government create laws so that they can literally get away with murder without objection from the people they allege to serve, but just the opposite is now true.

    You serve government at their behest and dictate — and if you don’t, then you are their declared enemy. They even have a name for this now on the law books — enemy combatant, a designation that can now be placed upon anybody, anywhere, for any reason.

    Aftergood is asking us to support this ongoing atrocity and abomination of justice. I can’t do it anymore and neither can some of you.

    Those of you that decry the “secretiveness” of Wikileaks are unlearned in the real world, where anonymity is the ONLY thing that actually protects you and your sources. You apparently believe in the illusion that you are safe in your identity and whereabouts and activities at all times. This cannot possibly be true in a society that targets individuals and organizations anytime that they are deemed a threat to the status quo.

    Aftergood’s assassination attempt totally fails to acknowledge that whistleblower activities of any type are not governed by special pre-approved “rules” (especially ones deemed by him), that any such activity carries with it inherent risks to all parties involved, and that this activity itself is ungovernable anyway by anyone. In point of fact, no attempts should even be made to govern this.

    That IS the price of an open society, so get used to it.

    Or accept the consequences when you try and stop it. If that resulting society is preferable to you, then we are truly living on opposite ends of thought here. One of us is committed to an open society, the other is not. One of us is now the true enemy of the other, because one of us wrongly believes that you can control me, which can be rightly assumed, always to your advantage and not mine.

    Which one will you be?

    It does no good at all to attack such activities as Aftergood has, except to quench any further discourse and to shut down any would-be whistleblowers, some who have learned as I have — do so at your own risk. To expect or even demand that these people “follow the rules” is patently absurd — and damned dangerous for some.

    Aftergood remains unrepentant and recalcitrant because he continues to wrongly believe that all should remain committed to the same illusions that rules and laws apply in all cases.

    Aftergood expects that this cage of illusions is sufficient for all and in service to all, when this has never been the case in the real world, and it is only by challenging these established “norms” does society itself marginally improve.

    Governments rely upon victims (real and imagined) as an effective tool to quench dissent. Aftergood is in effect, helping this process, which is quite bizarre when you think about it.

    manuel piñeiro was quite right – he missed a real opportunity here and created a giant chasm between himself and his readership.

    The REAL question remains however – why engage in this line of attack?

    Aftergood has not presented a reasonable explanation here.

    Perhaps we should start with the most obvious then — full financial disclosure of all sources of income and support.

    This is usually the real reasons we find Judas in our midst.

  101. Michele Moore - Happy1 July 1, 2010 at 3:45 PM #

    Julian – Expect attacks when you become powerful and successful, they come with the territory. Stealing time and resources from your mission and activities is part of their strategy. Addressing attacks powerfully and succinctly, as you did, helps advance your causes.

  102. Bob July 1, 2010 at 5:28 PM #

    Julian Assange/Wikileaks is a model that we all should look up to … really, he/it is doing the world an immense service at a time that it greatly needs it.

    He is a figurehead of free speech and intellectual debate, a scourge on corruption that relies on the populace being too distracted or too stupid to grasp.

    I am amazed at the people attempting to debunk wikileaks, who I’m quite sure will the go to check NBC or BBC for the latest headlines.

  103. Hazem July 1, 2010 at 5:32 PM #

    Steven, Julian is right. You live in your own world, and it seems are jealous of Wikileaks. Find yourself something useful to do other than slander.

  104. Nate July 1, 2010 at 7:35 PM #

    Thattaboy Aftergood, way to stick it to the man.

  105. Hope Marston July 1, 2010 at 7:44 PM #

    There is one ironic difference between Sy Hersh’s publication of the Abu Ghraib photos and WikiLeaks video – one was published during the Bush Administration – this one during Obama’s defense of the Bush Administration. In neither case did we get real traction on abuse of power. Who went to prison for Abu Ghraib? Not Geoffrey Miller. Not Donald Rumsfeld.

    Don’t blame WikiLeaks because the media immediately ran its he said/she said articles, rather than putting pressure on government. It’s also too early to judge the full effect of the video leak.

    Some of your comments about what constitutes appropriate and inappropriate leaks are worth considering. Worth more discussion.

    Your comments about why WikiLeaks did not get funding from the Knight Foundation sound speculative and yeah, more than a little petty.

  106. Sparks July 1, 2010 at 7:44 PM #

    @Steven Aftergood

    “But I say that they don’t have to be innocent, they just have to obey the law.”

    The law is the government.
    You know, in Nazi Germany there were laws and regulations created by…well nazis! What’s with you and the law, anyway?! Say there will be a law created that prohibits free speech, you’d still be so obedient?

    “The primary purpose of copyright is not to enrich the author but to advance the scholarly and creative process or, as the U.S. Constitution put it, “to promote the progress of science and useful arts.””

    Oh, so that’s why authors copyright their material?! Dream on…
    Einstein didn’t have any interest in copyrights did he? Why? Because he was interested in making science progressing instead of making money. It’s primarily authors that are greedy or owned though deals with corporations that have interests in copyrights. The authors providing us with information that they feel are essential and necessary for the rest of the world to take part of will give it away for free, gladly! The other information – the information industry – is a destructive merge of business and politics i.e the interests of the U.S. Constitution.

  107. Zorgi July 1, 2010 at 8:15 PM #

    Kenya Book:$$$ for one Author VS one nation
    how can you speak about copyright violation ??? Make a donation to Ms. Wrong to help her buying spaghetti if you feel the need but i think that the story around has boost the selling.

    Who with more than 2 neurons don’t know the background influence of
    Masons, Mormons, Bilderberg, Monsanto etc and the lobby they are doing to serve their own interest. Under the pretext that they ‘cultivate confidential relations among their members” amongst others things we should keep our mouth close ??

    You are really wasting our time on this one. What’s your side ?

  108. Steven Aftergood July 1, 2010 at 8:51 PM #

    Thanks for all of the interesting comments, and the silly ones. I won’t be able to respond directly to most of them, but I read them all and thought about them. I obviously was not successful in persuading most of the commenters to accept my views, and I might not even have succeeded in clearly communicating what I thought. I need to figure out why that is.

    It may be, as some suggested, that my conclusions about WikiLeaks were too harshly worded and were out of proportion to the stated facts. It may be that some commenters have an unrealistically romantic view of the role WikiLeaks plays, and are unwilling to tolerate a dissenting view. Has there ever been a criticism of WikiLeaks by anyone that was not viewed as an attack? The “war against WikiLeaks” seems to have many fronts. (Send money now!)

    But I end up pretty much where I started. In my world, college sororities do not represent a significant concentration of power that needs to be vigorously checked and balanced. And as a matter of simple justice, I hold that authors should not be involuntarily deprived of the fruits of their labors. (@Sparks — Einstein was a patent clerk for several years.)

    Of course, misconduct, including misconduct by sorority sisters and masonic whatnots, should always be exposed and rectified whenever possible. But the idea that private behavior by individuals and groups which does not amount to misconduct should also be exposed unwillingly strikes me as insane. If WikiLeaks does not think this is an important distinction that should be observed and defended, then they and I really are on different “sides”.

    But I’ve said my piece, and I’m done. Comments will stay open for a while, and whoever wants the last word can have it. Thanks again for your feedback.

  109. Jack July 1, 2010 at 9:25 PM #

    I think I’ll just go and copyright the truth, then all self-respecting journalists will be out of a job.

    Actually, considering how much BS I’ve been reading lately someone may have already beat me to it.

  110. Alice July 1, 2010 at 9:57 PM #

    For those of us who have watched with broken heart as lie after lie is represented as truth on the front pages of our newspapers, Wiki Leaks has been a hope that this convoluted state of the world could be repaired.

    Wiki Leaks is just the right medicine for malignant governments and their parasitic corporate controllers. May Wiki Leaks brave contributors continue unhindered in this ingenious service to humanity with all the server space they could ever need. The world wants the truth now and we can’t get enough of it.

  111. logos July 1, 2010 at 11:44 PM #

    Wikileaks does not fail.

  112. Stipley July 2, 2010 at 12:52 AM #

    “Your behavior, Stephen [sic] Aftergood, is not without costs. You are a problem for the victims we assist, because you take away our time, and that takes away our assistance.”

    I’ve noticed that Mr. Assange seems to immediately personalize any disputes he falls into. Sometimes his responses even sound like threats.

    Here’s another example, addressed to Mr. Lamo:

    “It would also be helpful to all concerned if you stopped trying to justify your behavior by whipping up sentiment against Mr. Manning in other ways. Your most effective personal strategy is to say you were scared due to your previous experiences, unthoughtful due to recent drug problems, and made a decision which you now bitterly regret and would under no circumstances repeat. Going around like a poor man’s Tsutomu, constantly drawing attention to yourself through the destruction of a young romantic outlaw figure, will leave you permanently reviled by history–and me.”

    There’s something a little creepy there.

  113. Alain July 2, 2010 at 4:07 AM #

    One can see trough this post the sheer envy of the organization backing it. Just another product of the “scientific” branch of the lapdog media.

    Wikileaks is going to gain exponential popularitiy for the essential role in dealing a serious blow to the increasingly totalitarian state that you and a large part of the world live in.

    And this post and the organization behind it will probably go down the proverbial historical drain.

  114. Tamas Feher from Hungary July 2, 2010 at 4:37 AM #

    Poland’s Constitution bans all organizations which run on a secret charter. Even the Vatican-insidous Opus Dei organization is banned, no matter how much Poland is a roman catholic country.

    That is the only correct attitude. Freedom of speech means secrets should not exist at all. Rights to invention or creative work should be protected via patents and copyright, not secrecy.

    Hopefully science and tech will soon end secrecy, once and for all. New theoretical calculations about black hole’s information loss paradox by Hawking and experiental results in CERN seem to indicate the alleged “configuration space”, an extra dimension acting as the warehouse of all information in the universe, actually does exist.

    Information is never lost or created, it simply exists and it may even be possible to query the configuration space. If that capability extends to info on events future, not just the past, the implications are unthinkable. But even if access remains restricted to info about events past and present, you could learn for sure who killed JFK, whether Oxford de Vere wrote Hamlet and how the Great Pyramids were built.

  115. thejuicemedia July 2, 2010 at 4:59 AM #

    @ Horst Wilden – TOTALLY AGREE! And it’s worth quoting you again:

    “Julian Assange: You simply MUST take the time to answer to the critiques! It is not enough, to leave them just there, thinking they sound redicilous anyways. And you MUST answer adequitely, as you did here, to show, where the critique is a total fail. Don’t let yourself overrun by such articles, as we read here. Your answers can change things as well as your leaked documents. Maybe even more.”

    To which I would just add:

    This IS part of the work you are doing. Time and funds directed at this part of the campaign is absolutely essential and NOT squandered AT ALL. This will nurture the grassroots support that you will need once the Fistagon comes down hard! Thank you for posting here and all the best wherever you are! <3

  116. Matt July 2, 2010 at 5:46 AM #

    “I obviously was not successful in persuading most of the commenters to accept my views, and I might not even have succeeded in clearly communicating what I thought. I need to figure out why that is.”

    My word Steven. It’s because we think you’re wrong. Did you never consider that possibility yourself? You communicated what you thought well enough. That said there is nothing new or original in this piece.

  117. [...] Wikileaks’ fascination with self-promotion has not gone unnoticed elsewhere. In only the latest of an increasing number of critical musings, Steven Aftergood at the Federation of American Scientists Project on Government Secrecy, and whom Wikileaks even approached when looking for board members [...]

  118. klz July 2, 2010 at 11:20 AM #

    the lesser of two evils? – hmmm i choose wikileaks. thanks steven aftergood, youre right – hookers need to go to hell – even the ones with hearts of gold.

  119. JV July 2, 2010 at 12:58 PM #

    Why doesn’t Julian Assange address all the issues poised here and not just a piecemeal selection of them?

    The assertion “WikiLeaks not only follows the rule of law, WikiLeaks is involved in creating the law” is utter bullshit. We know this, among other reasons, because he knowingly edited and posted illegally obtained video footage from a 2007 NATO attack in Iraq.

    Sometimes the means do not justify the ends, Mr. Assange. And when you stoop to the level of propagandizing — as a means to fight propaganda — it doesn’t make you any better than the institutions you are purportedly fighting, you know?

  120. Zlaya July 2, 2010 at 3:03 PM #

    It sounds to me like Pentagon spooks are running wild in this here slander house.

    Wikileaks are doing wonderful job, and this sort of reaction you guys show here is the clearest sign of that fact.

  121. Nigel Parry July 2, 2010 at 4:13 PM #

    “why the Knight Foundation, the preeminent foundation funder of innovative First Amendment and free press initiatives, might have rejected WikiLeaks’ request for financial support, as it recently did.”

    For someone from the Federation of American Scientists to seek to portray a grant rejection as an indictment by the charitable foundation is laughable.

    Perfectly good projects are rejected by foundations all the time for a variety of reasons. Everyone involved in both sides of the process knows this, especially—one would hope—journalists writing for a association for a discipline that relies hugely on charitable funding.

    In WikiLeaks’ case, it is also entirely possible that enough board members of Knight felt that what WikiLeaks does is too “hot potato” for them to touch.

    And none of this is any indictment of WikiLeaks.

  122. Steven Aftergood July 2, 2010 at 5:26 PM #

    You are quite correct. I was wrong to imply that any substantive conclusions concerning WikiLeaks can be drawn from the mere fact that their funding proposal was not approved.

  123. brindo July 2, 2010 at 6:27 PM #

    I thought you said you were done?

  124. meena July 2, 2010 at 7:09 PM #

    The Law Firm of Lavely and Singer were behind the judge’s bizarre ruling. This firm is behind a lot of dirty goings on in the Californian courts. Look at what they did in the case of the People vs. Spitzberg.

  125. Lee July 2, 2010 at 7:24 PM #

    @Steven: I feel there’s something weird about your assertion that just because no laws were broken people still cannot exploit and take advantage of others. Whistleblowing may only take place when actual laws were broken? That’s ludicrous. Well-meaning people can voluntarily get themselves involved in situations where they become exploited.

    Your steadfast defense of copyright in the face of poor access for those that actually need it also rings hollow; there’s the comfort of your ivory tower, and then there’s reality.

  126. Stourley Kracklite July 2, 2010 at 8:57 PM #

    Speaking of silly comments, Wikileaks’ divulgence sorority rituals is to be held against it, even as Wikileaks has revealed major crime and corruption by governments, corporations and individuals.

    If there is a due diligence criterion to be met, it is the exposure to criticism of such crime and corruption. The Federation of American Scientists through its Secrecy News fails to meet it.

    Yet, much could be forgiven to the Federation of American Scientists if it were true that its activities were succeeding in transforming government information policy in favor of increased openness and accountability — as opposed to merely generating reams of publicity for itself. (Sound familiarly patronizing?)

  127. Alice July 3, 2010 at 8:39 AM #

    I think I see a new trend in social and political reform. Everyone who works in a government office, or for a military contractor, or for one of the mega multinationals like Pfyser is now on the lookout for information that proves the involvement in or orchestration of serious abuses of human rights.

    Then they will quietly reach into that cesspool and pull out a slimy evil monster by the hair and throw it up into the sunlight. But these brave people will have to be satisfied with privately knowing that they have done something great. Don’t confide in a friend about it like Manning did!

    Some places to start:
    The information needed to end the Iraq war, some new Pentagon Papers —proof of the occasional covert testing of horrible electromagnetic weapons on citizens of “occupied countries”—-Studies in opposition to the presumed safety of GM fooods—Ely Lilly’s cover up of the vaccine/thimerosal, autism connection—The reality of the “Corrupt Business of Child Protective Services” and reveal the murderer of the document’s author, Senator Shaefer—CIA sponsored, MKULtra style, high tech behavior modification research—Who is the CIA really working for? etc, etc, etc.

    There is a lot to do while there is still time.

  128. Richard July 5, 2010 at 12:16 PM #

    I think the key point that comes across here, and the one that concerns me, is the absolutist position of some people that _all_ information should be published. I believe that there have been some very interesting outcomes that have derived from material posted on Wikileaks. I also believe that it would benefit Wikileaks if they were to show that they had some form of public interest test before publication.

    Let’s take a deliberately extreme and provocative hypothetical example to work on. A law enforcement authority in a democratic country produces some internal working papers on best practice on identifying sex offenders involved in child abuse. Offenders have been successfully identified and prosecuted through due judicial processes. There is no suggestion that innocent people have been misidentified. The working papers are deliberately kept confidential by those that had prepared them as knowledge of the best practice contained within them could assist child abusers in evading being caught. If copies of such working papers were leaked to a site such as Wikileaks, would it be right to publish them?

    I suspect some people who have commented on this blog would say yes and some would say no. In the circumstances I have outlined here, I would say no — the damage would certainly outweigh the benefit. If, on the other hand, innocent people had been misidentified, and had therefore suffered, there would be a much more powerful argument for publication — the benefits would be much more significant.

    Information _always_ has a context. I think Aftergood has done a service by prompting this debate. I agree with some points in what he writes but disagree with others. My main conclusion in reading this blog post and the resulting comments is that the issue that divides most people is what criteria should be used to define the “public interest” in deciding whether a leak should be published or not.

  129. Stourley Kracklite July 5, 2010 at 2:34 PM #

    @ John- Two things. First, once you figure out the authority for determining what is, or isn’t, in the public interest, let me know.

    Second, with regard to your hypothetical, you say the damage of publishing would “certainly” outweigh the benefits. This certainty is assumed. It’s not clear that abusers would have the ability to mask characteristics even having learned of their categorization. Publishing of characteristics may alert persons to the possibility that abusers may have roles in their own lives. Publishing may surface legitimate criticisms of the assumptions on which the work is based and lead to better methods. Publishing may even reveal misuse of the work to benefit the authorities or harm those whom the authorities disrespect.

  130. Richard July 5, 2010 at 4:58 PM #

    @ Stourley – I assume you are referring to what I wrote above as you quote it.

    I don’t disagree with when you say there “might” be benefits from publication, but the point is “might”. All of these things have a context and advantages and disadvantages have to be considered. The point about the hypothetical scenario I was outlining is that there are always a number of things that should be taken into account in whether information that has a particular function or purpose should be widely circulated. If someone thinking of publishing a leaked document were to be thinking of the points you raise and would then be balancing the pros and cons of whether to publish or not then I would think that would be good.

    I’m interested in good and effective government that is transparent and accountable. There will be cases where some information will need to remain confidential, at least in the short term, such as relating to law enforcement as outlined in my hypothetical example. But there are many cases of excessive secrecy. Combatting excessive secrecy has to be much more subtle than a simple assumption that everything should be published.

    As to your point about an “authority” for public interest, of course there is no authority. The key thing about developing understanding about what is in the public interest is to have a debate about it. There are too many people who assume they know by instinct what is in the public interest. Experience tells me that almost everything has a positive side and a negative side — and the balance often depends on context.

  131. Stourley Kracklite July 5, 2010 at 5:49 PM #

    @ Richard (sorry, I got your name wrong the first time.) OK, we agree that there “might” be advantages to publication. I believe we can also agree that without balancing the pros and cons, as you say, one would not be able to conclude that the cons outweigh the pros.

    We also agree that there are too many people who assume they know by instinct what is in the public interest and that what is in the public interest is to have a debate about it. In order to have this debate, the information needs to be made public. In making assumptions about the propriety of the release of information (“we will release the information when the context warrants”) authorities have overwhelmingly tended toward self-protection and requirement of justification of those who would want to know.

  132. Mike July 5, 2010 at 5:50 PM #

    What a repulsive, fallacious article. Oh Boohoo that they put up a pirated copy of a book so that people who PROBABLY COULDN’T AFFORD TO BUY THE BOOK OR WOULDN’T HAVE COULD HAVE ACCESS TO THE INFORMATION.

    I have never in my life read such a plainly manipulative article.

    John Pilger is right. There’s a war on journalism, and it’s been working. It’s so depressing to see another blogger picking up a shovel to help dig its grave.

    George Orwell is no longer rolling, he’s having a seizure.

    I’d love to know how on earth it is the responsibility of Wikileaks to stimulate a public investigation. Is that not just as much our responsibility as citizens of the world? was it not enough for Wikileaks to reveal this video to us?

  133. Term July 5, 2010 at 11:50 PM #

    It’s obvious that a site like this can be very valuable. Divulging information that puts lives at risk like the NY times did a while back with revealing CIA operatives identities is out of line. But, if the only negative taken is along the line of a sorority rituals coming to light, then I’m all for it.

  134. Gc July 5, 2010 at 11:54 PM #

    If there were less issues being swept under the rug a site like this reporting on trivial secrets would make a ripple. That’s not the case. This is nasty side effect of how our world works.

  135. Nigel Parry July 7, 2010 at 12:02 PM #

    Steven Aftergood wrote: “Thanks for all the comments. They changed my mind on one point. On reflection, I should not have written or implied that the decision by the Knight Foundation to reject the WikiLeaks funding proposal was somehow a judgment on WikiLeaks’ conduct or performance. That may not be true. In fact, I have no way of knowing why the Knight Foundation (which has also denied and approved proposals from my organization) decided as it did.”

    You didn’t merely ‘write’ or ‘imply’ that Knight rejected WikiLeak’s proposal due to a lack of transparency, you titled and hung your entire article on that faulty concept.

    Beyond that, your only remaining arguments—repeated in comments—are twofold:

    1. That you think that publishing the creepy, secret, pseudo-religious rites of college sororities is unnecessary. You write: “In my world, college sororities do not represent a significant concentration of power that needs to be vigorously checked and balanced.”

    Well you’re not at college Stephen. For college students, sororities *do* represent “a significant concentration of power” and their power comes from secrecy and an appropriation of religious ritual that many find manipulative and inappropriate.

    2. That the publication of “It’s Our Turn To Eat” demonstrates that WikiLeaks has only contempt for individual author’s intellectual property and right to make money from their labor.

    In continuing to assert that point you fail to acknowledge the misunderstanding that led to the leaking of the book, explained early on by Assange in this comments thread, and the steps taken by WikiLeaks to rectify this issue once the author contacted WikiLeaks.

    What this assertion really hangs on is whether additional authors’ works were leaked and whether a pattern of this violation of intellectual property could be demonstrated.

    Unless there is a pattern, this single incident is not the smoking gun you wish it was to buttress the latter of your two remaining points. So how many examples have you got beyond this single, poor one? None.

    Your transparent bitterness about other nonprofits in your apparently reflexively guarded “secrecy field”, that get attention and dare to fundraise to support their work, doesn’t really count as an argument. It’s just bitterness, still visible in your continued comments on this article.

    So you are basically opposed to WikiLeaks because it made a single mistake that it corrected—kind of like you did with the breathless and misguided ‘gotcha’ titling of this article—and because you are apparently a powerful advocate for the continued secrecy of college sorority rituals.

    Your whole article/argument is based (and titled) on a false presumption—bet you wish you could change the title now—and despite total demolition of your remaining arguments, you cling on to two poor threads and remain on record as asserting that “WikiLeaks must be counted among *the enemies of open society* because it does not respect the rule of law nor does it honor the rights of individuals.”

    “The enemies of open society”? This phrase is your article’s true legacy. The Weekly Standard, which apparently can’t read comment threads, today published a blog piece *entirely* hung/titled on your Stalinist “enemies” assertion:
    http://weeklystandard.com/blogs/open-society-and-its-enemy-wikileaks

    It’s amazing how bad, careless journalism gives birth to exactly more of the same. After your argument was rightly demolished by tens of commentators, your discredited conclusions live on like Cujo nonetheless…

  136. Keith Silverstein July 7, 2010 at 8:09 PM #

    With all of the intelligent commenters gathered in one tightly-knit blogging here to discuss the dissemination of organized secrecy, I found it interesting that the one comment Mr. Aftergood was quick to concede was not evaluated further. Why? Because, The Knight Foundation, like any other wealthy philanthropist, should be examined very closely and not be given a free ride just because they are “giving away money”.

    The Knight Foundation sits on roughly 2 billion dollars and wields enormous influence. Any organization of its size is almost assured a cross-section of intentions and ideas. What concerns me about them is exactly what concerns this person: from http://www.media-alliance.org/article.php?id=1661 The long-time Indymedia volunteer adds, “In my humble opinion, the Knight Foundation competition is not just *a competition* by *a foundation*; it is a competition intentionally designed by one of the biggest DEpendent media companies in the USA with the main management goal of developing ‘Manufacturing of Consent 2.0′.”

    Realistically, serious investigation of the Knight Foundation will likely turn up much more important information held as secret than Wikileaks, Secrecy News, Cryptome, or even Skull and Gnomes, um, Bones…psy-ops, er MISO doesn’t work in a vacuum.

  137. J. Alejandro July 7, 2010 at 9:48 PM #

    Flasher Journalism Only Exposes the Flasher
    http://cafemagazine.com/index.php/component/myblog/flasher-journalism-only-exposes-the-flasher.html?blogger=LaVoz

    The more I read these things from Wikileaks—and the so-called “new media”—the more I reaffirm that this is rapidly loosing its value as a service to democracy and is instead an overgrown ego trip based on an adolescent sense of self-importance. It is also ignorance of the damage that this does to the supposed causes it seeks to defend.

  138. charles kafka July 8, 2010 at 4:38 AM #

    The Secret Society Tapes.
    I have read online today, (not in MSM, Main Stream Media) that Congress shot down a bill against any investigation into BP’s actions.
    As we all know through negligence, and willful greed, BP’s oil drilling has just caused the ruin of a percentage of the planet earth.
    What i suspect, (but cannot ever prove), is all these secret society types are protecting each other, which in some of these societies they are required to do, over the law, over their patriotism, and in the BP’s case, over any sort of human rational.
    Only Wiki leaks is covering secret societies, though they might be very well the cause and the downfall of western civilization.
    they have degenerated from holders of secret knowledges, to Good Ol’ Southern Boy’s clubs.
    and we aren’t invited.

  139. Emilija July 8, 2010 at 4:27 PM #

    Wow – you all got so angry… (:

  140. April July 9, 2010 at 4:43 AM #

    Wow! Thanks to everyone who did comment on this, most of your answers made up for the time I’ve lost reading that horrible article. It is conforting to see that 99% of the readers know bad faith when they see it.

    This is the first (and probably last) time I visit this blog, attacks such as this one against Wikileaks confort me in supporting them: now I am sure they are performing an essential service.

    And for the “author”: “rule of law”? What are you talking about? The rule of what law, in what country, in what state? So if an organization has no ethics but is carefull enough and doesn’t break any law, Wikileaks should just give it a free pass? Come on!

    Nobody should dignified that stupid criticism about copyright and the right for an author-to-be-payed-because-otherwise-he-won’t-ever-publish-anymore with an answer. I thought only the RIAA could reach that level of bad faith. Well, I was wrong.

    Long live Wikileaks, Julian Assange and private Manning.

  141. Yan Peterson July 25, 2010 at 5:07 PM #

    I have read the insider releases at Cryptome. Its interesting to note that only AFTER the slapping Assange has been receiving by the insider has the site reopened for business AND repaired some of its primary features, AND agreed to a limited financial disclosure. It looks to me as if the insiders are ahead of the game here.

    Upgrading its infrastructure… what tripe..!!!!!

  142. MarkByrn July 25, 2010 at 8:39 PM #

    Why should Wikileaks confine their operations to governments? To quote an old poet, “Where secrecy or mystery begins, vice or roguery is not far off”, and for Aftengood to invoke sacred cows is laughable and transparently self-serving.

  143. A Known Homosexual July 25, 2010 at 9:00 PM #

    You’re seriously suggesting we’re supposed to respect the privacy rights of the Mormon Church, which vigorously funded and campaigned on Proposition 8 to deny marriage rights to tens of thousands of same sex couples? Bitch, please!

  144. Mark Weiss July 26, 2010 at 12:00 AM #

    New to this site. New to the secrecy wars. Spent a lot of time reading the article and its comments. WL and its organizers are doing an admirable job, and all the specific comments responding to Steve’s slander are right on. Kudos to all the well thought out rebuttals. Yes, WK is having growing pains. But at least it’s not an apologist for continued secrecy, in the name of security, as you are.
    Steve, how much do they pay you? Shame! I will never come back – I don’t need holier-than-thou, sanctimonious prattling designed to discredit the most useful and novel attack on secrecy that has ever existed. Shame!

  145. Cate Long July 26, 2010 at 1:18 PM #

    Sorry — your analysis comes off as a child denied attention.

    Wikileaks is feeling its way in new territory.

    Your snipping only draws attention to your paucity of real effort for transparency.

  146. Eric July 26, 2010 at 2:05 PM #

    Wikileaks a ‘enemy’ of open society? That is a bizarre assertion, one for which you used non-sequitir arguments to apparently try to defend. An agency that makes previously compartmentalized information open to the public for consumption is, by definition, the best friend an open society can have.

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    [...] Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists took on WikiLeaks last month: “WikiLeaks must be counted among the enemies of open society because it does not respect the rule of law nor does it honor the rights of individuals. [...]

  7. Wikileaks n’est pas une solution à la crise du journalisme d’investigation - August 25, 2010

    [...] des scientifiques américains » avait étrillé l’organisation le mois dernier, en écrivant, «en fait, WikiLeaks doit être recensé parmi les ennemis d’une société ouverte parce [...]

  8. Journalist, Hacker, Spy, Racketeer « ZERO ANTHROPOLOGY - January 23, 2011

    [...] No friend of Wikileaks, anti-secrecy advocate Steven Aftergood reported the following: [...]