In the most controversial information leak in recent history, international whistleblower website WikiLeaks recently released 75,000 formerly unavailable U.S. military reports detailing the war in Afghanistan. Most of the posted information consists of reports radioed in from the front line.
Based in Sweden, WikiLeaks is a mysterious organization, founded by Chinese dissidents, as well as international journalists, mathematicians and technology experts. They claim to function as a “multi-jurisdictional public service designed to protect whistleblowers, journalists and activists who have sensitive materials to communicate to the public.”
In this case, the whistleblower appears to be former U.S. Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning. Manning was recently charged with two counts of violating the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The charges mention unauthorized access to a secret network, download of over 150,000 diplomatic cables from the U.S. Department of State, download of a classified video and Powerpoint presentation, as well as transmission of the information to at least one other person.
Apparently, Manning wanted to explain “how the first world exploits the third, in detail, from an internal perspective.” He now faces up to 52 years in jail if convicted of the charges.
Some defend Manning as a hero. However, the vast majority of commentators and government officials decried the leak, with some conservative politicians even suggesting execution as a reasonable consequence for Manning. Many have called for the U.S. to use any means necessary to take down the controversial website before more information is released.
State Department spokesman Philip Crowley reported that Taliban members are scouring the released documents and identifying sources. Crowley noted concern for Afghans who provided information to the United States.
The leak has drawn comparisons to Daniel Ellsberg, who released the Pentagon Papers after the Vietnam War. During an interview on WikiLeaks, Ellsberg concluded that “…any serious risk to that national security is extremely low.” He further stated, “…having read a hell of a lot of diplomatic cables, I would confidently make the judgment that very little, less than one percent, one percent perhaps, can honestly be said to endanger national security.”
The effects of this unprecedented information leak may never be fully realized, at least not by those of us in the general public. Regardless, the leaked information paints a bleak picture of the realities of war. And should it survive, WikiLeaks promises to change the face of news as we know it.
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