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article imageOp-Ed: WikiLeaks moves beyond high school journalism

By Lynn Herrmann     Apr 6, 2010 in Politics
The news world is abuzz with yesterday’s video release showing innocent civilians being mowed down in Iraq by a U.S. Apache helicopter. Releasing the video presents many questions regarding the future of online journalism.
The incident in question, called Collateral Murder, occurred in Baghdad in July 2007 and the video has been released by Web-based WikiLeaks, a whistle-blower famous for releasing sensitive materials from various high-profile and government organizations.
Operated by The Sunshine Press, Wikileaks was launched in December 2006 and since then has obtained hundreds of thousands of leaked documents, some of which have been responsible for the site’s new media awards including the 2008 Index on Censorship-Economist Freedom of Expression Award and the 2009 Amnesty International New Media Award.
Its website says it's non-profit and is funded by “human rights campaigners, investigative journalists, technologists and the general public.”
It has garnered recognition for making public various leaks provided to it by whistleblowers and inside sources. These leaks include embarrassing stories on the battle of Fallujah, U.S. violations of the Chemical Warfare Convention Treaty, and US equipment expenditures in Iraq. The most famous of these, until the Collateral Murder video, was a US government document showing efforts to “marginalize” the WikiLeaks website.
A classified counterintelligence analysis report prepared by the Army Counterintelligence Center, published in March 2008 and obtained by WikiLeaks states that WikiLeaks “represents a potential force protection, counterintelligence, operational security (OPSEC), and information security (INFOSEC) threat to the US Army.”
WikiLeaks is so much of a threat to the U.S. military that the report states the site has “exploitable vulnerabilities,” clearly suggesting the future of online journalism may be influenced by the close scrutiny of the U.S. military. The ACC report goes on to suggest ways of suppressing online information through various measures including ID analysis of digital documents, forensic analysis of unclassified and classified DoD networks to help reveal information system locations used for downloading leaked documents, and developing psychological profiles.
On March 15, WikiLeaks released a 32-page SECRET/NOFORN report that says “The identification, exposure, termination of employment, criminal prosecution, legal action against current or former insiders, leakers, or whistleblowers could potentially damage or destroy this center of gravity and deter others considering similar actions from using the Web site”.
Among many concerns the Department of Defense has over WikiLeaks is the possibility of it receiving funding and material support from “foreign organizations such as FISS, foreign military services, foreign insurgents, or terrorist groups.”
According to the government report, the WikiLeaks site states:
“We aim for maximum political impact. We believe that transparency in government activities leads to reduced corruption, better government, and stronger democracies. All governments can benefit from increased scrutiny by the world community, as well as their own people. We believe this scrutiny requires information. Historically that information has been costly—in terms of human life and human rights. But with technological advances—the Internet, and cryptography—the risks of conveying important information can be lowered.”
In the high-stakes game of freedom of information, the government report plays the cat and mouse card when it summarizes that WikiLeaks “serves as an instrument of propaganda, and is a front organization of the US Central Intelligence Agency.”
While WikiLeaks is well-known and respected in the journalistic community, it goes without saying that because of its status it is also a high-profile target in the freedom of information movement. Releasing the Collateral Murder video will only make the crosshairs currently aimed at the site appear much more precise for a grossly over-funded US military defense budget.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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