No, We Don’t Hate WikiLeaks
We interrupt our regular coverage to address a rare dispatch from WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange that crossed the WikiLeaks Twitter feed this morning.
In it, Assange slams Wired.com, and this writer in particular, for what he labels a false report that WikiLeaks is preparing to release a database of nearly 400,000 U.S. military documents on the war in Iraq.
Where do all these claims about WikiLeaks doing something on Iraq today (Monday) come from? A single tabloid blog at Wired Magazine!
That’s right. Over 700 articles, newspapers all over the world, and newswires fooled by a tabloid blog–and each other.
Of course you won’t see this blog cited, generally, in the mainstream press articles, because that would lessen the credibility of these articles back to where the belong — unsubstantiated, and indeed, false claims made by a source that is not credible. What is journalism coming to?
We first reported last month, based on information provided by former WikiLeaks staffers, one of whom we named, that WikiLeaks is preparing to release nearly 400,000 secret U.S. Army reports from the Iraq War. In a second article on Friday, we explored how the largest leak in U.S. military history might affect WikiLeaks’ fortunes at a time of controversy and internal conflict at the secret-spilling organization.
Measured by size, the database will dwarf the 92,000-entry Afghan war log WikiLeaks partially published last July. “It will be huge,” says a source familiar with WikiLeaks’ operations, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Former WikiLeaks staffers say the document dump was at one time scheduled for Monday, October 18, though the publication date may well have been moved since then. Some large media outlets were provided an embargoed copy of the database in August.
We stand by that report. Assange is in control of his own publication dates, and it’s no surprise that he would opt to delay the Iraq release until his website, which has been down for “scheduled maintenance” since September, is again functioning. (What else is he going to do? Upload it to RapidShare?) As with virtually every story we’ve done on WikiLeaks in the last three-plus years, we gave Assange a chance to comment before publication.
Ordinarily all of the above would go unsaid; if you don’t see a correction on a Threat Level story, it’s because no substantive factual errors have come to our attention.
But Assange goes on to suggest that we have an anti-WikiLeaks bias, and that’s worth addressing.
But, Wired’s blog is not just any source that lacks credibility. It is a known opponent and spreader of all sorts of misinformation about WikiLeaks. This dramatically ramped up since we demanded an investigation into what role they played in the arrest of the alleged journalistic source, US intelligence analyst, Bradley Manning […]We condemned Wired magazine for that conduct and the magazine has been oppositional ever since. The two blogs concerned, “Threat Level” and “Danger Room”, while having produced some good journalism over the years, mostly now ship puff pieces about the latest “cool weapons system” and other “war tech toys” as befits their names — “Threat Level” and “Danger Room”.
These two blogs, and in particular editor Kevin Poulsen, have been responsible for a tremendous amount of other completely false information [about] WikiLeaks.
I, of course, am not the editor of our esteemed sister blog, Danger Room, and you won’t find any posts about cool weapons systems here. We run more toward cool warrantless surveillance programs, awesome FBI tracking devices, and bitchin’ government abuses of the state secrets privilege.
You’ll also find that we’ve been covering WikiLeaks since January 2007. The idea of applying the cypherpunk ethos and technology to the mission of disseminating sensitive documents, and protecting their sources, was fascinating to us well before Julian Assange was packing rooms at the National Press Club. In some 70 stories over the years, I and my staff have diligently charted WikiLeaks’ successes, and its setbacks.
Those stories cut both ways. When reports circulated that WikiLeaks was squandering its funds on business class flights and luxury hotel rooms, we investigated, and found that it’s actually an enormously frugal organization, and that Assange flies coach.
But when WikiLeaks was being lauded for its bulletproof, encryption-based infrastructure, we investigated that as well, and found that its security infrastructure had actually been fraying, and its submission system was offline for weeks without explanation.
Assange is notoriously sensitive to critical press. He has a strong personality, and at times his reaction reflects that.
I won’t claim that I wasn’t affected by Assange’s accusations last June — mostly channeled through proxies — that I played a role in the arrest of accused WikiLeaks’ source Bradley Manning. But Assange is wrong to think that those false claims have changed the tone of our WikiLeaks coverage. Collectively, I and the rest of the Threat Level team have decades of experience covering powerful agencies, people and organizations — I’ve been at it for 12 years. We’re all accustomed to catching flack for our work.
In the end, you shake it off. Keeping a cool head is one of the most valuable disciplines in journalism in the internet age. It’s the one that keeps you open to new perspectives, new information and even new contacts — every working journalist knows that their harshest critics can sometimes become their most valued sources. I’m not counting on having Assange as a source anytime soon, but keeping our coverage fair and accurate is crucial if we’re to continue reporting on WikiLeaks.
Since its launch, WikiLeaks has grown from an edgy experiment into an organization of inestimable significance; Assange routinely ranks on lists of the most influential people on the planet. It’s a powerful organization, with little transparency or accountability. We’re pleased to be among a handful of news outlets that regularly break news about it, and we plan to go on, without favor or animosity.
(Photo: Julian Assange. By Lily Mihalik/Wired.com)
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