WikiLeaks Publishes Full Archive of Unredacted Documents; Glenn Greenwald Weighs in on What it Means

If you haven't heard, the big WikiLeaks news this week is that the whistleblower site has published its full archive of some 251,000 classified documents, completely unredacted, causing widespread concern for many of the people identified in the cables. The Guardian reports:

The move has been strongly condemned by the five previous media partners – the Guardian, New York Times, El Pais, Der Spiegel and Le Monde – who have worked with WikiLeaks publishing carefully selected and redacted documents.

"We deplore the decision of WikiLeaks to publish the unredacted state department cables, which may put sources at risk," the organisations said in a joint statement.

"Our previous dealings with WikiLeaks were on the clear basis that we would only publish cables which had been subjected to a thorough joint editing and clearance process. We will continue to defend our previous collaborative publishing endeavour. We cannot defend the needless publication of the complete data – indeed, we are united in condemning it.

"The decision to publish by Julian Assange was his, and his alone."

It's not only newspapers that are concerned about the move:

Diplomats, governments, human rights charities and media organisations had urged WikiLeaks's founder, Assange, not to publish the full cache of cables without careful source protection.

The newly published archive contains more than 1,000 cables identifying individual activists; several thousand labelled with a tag used by the US to mark sources it believes could be placed in danger; and more than 150 specifically mentioning whistleblowers.

The cables also contain references to people persecuted by their governments, victims of sex offences, and locations of sensitive government installations and infrastructure.

A matter of contention is whether WikiLeaks "decided" to publish the cables, per se. Citing Der Spiegel, Salon's Glenn Greenwald characterizes the move as the result of "[a] series of unintentional though negligent acts by multiple parties" and says:

Despite the fault fairly assigned to WikiLeaks, one point should be absolutely clear: there was nothing intentional about WikiLeaks' publication of the cables in unredacted form.  They ultimately had no choice.

I'll let you read Greenwald's piece yourself for his smart assessment of exactly why WikiLeaks had no choice in the matter.

Regardless, what are WikiLeaks supporters -- those who see WikiLeaks as a much-needed service to fight government corruption -- supposed to make of the release? Greenwald, one of those longtime supporters, acknowledges that the incident is "unfortunate in the extreme" and that many people named in the documents are now at risk. However, "as usual with any controversy involving WikiLeaks, there are numerous important points being willfully distorted that need clarification."

As usual, many of those running around righteously condemning WikiLeaks for the potential, prospective, unintentional harm to innocents caused by this leak will have nothing to say about these actual, deliberate acts of wanton slaughter by the U.S.  The accidental release of these unredacted cables will receive far more attention and more outrage than the extreme, deliberate wrongdoing these cables expose.  That's because many of those condemning WikiLeaks care nothing about harm to civilians as long as it's done by the U.S. government and military; indeed, such acts are endemic to the American wars they routinely cheer on.  What they actually hate is transparency and exposure of wrongdoing by their government; "risk to civilians" is just the pretext for attacking those, such as WikiLeaks, who bring that about.

 In summary:

[T]here's little doubt that release of all these documents in unredacted form poses real risk to some of the individuals identified in them, and that is truly lamentable.  But it is just as true that WikiLeaks easily remains an important force for good.  The acts of deliberate evil committed by the world's most powerful factions which it has exposed vastly outweigh the mistakes which this still-young and pioneering organization has made.  And the harm caused by corrupt, excessive secrecy easily outweighs the harm caused by unauthorized, inadvisable leaks.

Read more from Greenwald here.

AlterNet / By Lauren Kelley

Posted at September 2, 2011, 7:35am

Sign Up!
Get AlterNet's Daily Newsletter in Your Inbox
+ sign up for additional lists
Select additional lists by selecting the checkboxes below before clicking Subscribe:
Election 2018