De­spite its small stature, Wik­iLeaks flexes mus­cle

Austin American-Statesman - - WORLD & NATION -

Wik­iLeaks’ de­ci­sion to trans­fer tens of thou­sands of raw clas­si­fied field re­ports on the Afghan war to The New York Times and two Euro­pean news or­ga­ni­za­tions re­flects the grow­ing strength and so­phis­ti­ca­tion of the small non­profit web­site, founded three years ago to fight what it con­sid­ers ex­ces­sive se­crecy.

Wik­ founder Ju­lian As­sange called the re­lease of nearly 92,000 in­di­vid­ual re­ports por­tray­ing a sput­ter­ing Afghan war ef­fort “the near­est ana­logue to the Pen­tagon Pa­pers.”

He was re­fer­ring to the se­cret mil­i­tary doc­u­ments that helped shift pub­lic opin­ion about the Viet­nam War af­ter they be­came pub­lic in 1971.

“It pro­vides a whole map, if you like, through time, of what has hap­pened dur­ing this war,” As­sange, a na­tive of Aus­tralia, said in a tele­vi­sion in­ter­view Sun­day.

He ac­knowl­edged that some will judge harshly the web­site’s air­ing of clas­si­fied doc­u­ments, but he in­sisted that Wik­iLeaks was not break­ing the law or putting troops at risk.

For the first time, Wik­iLeaks de­cided uni­lat­er­ally to de­lay the re­lease of some doc­u­ments be­cause of the pos­si­bil­ity that putting them out im­me­di­ately could cause harm, he said.

“We be­lieve that the way to jus­tice is trans­parency, and we are clear that the end goal is to ex­pose in­jus- tices in the world and try to rec­tify them,” As­sange said.

In a sep­a­rate in­ter­view Mon­day, As­sange said in­for­ma­tion in the doc­u­ments about killings of Afghan civil­ians and covert op­er­a­tions ap­peared to of­fer ev­i­dence that would sup­port crim­i­nal charges against mem­bers of the U.S.-led coali­tion.

The pub­li­ca­tion of the doc­u­ments is ex­pected to feed an ap­petite for greater dis­clo­sure about the war, now in its ninth year.

“Peo­ple want more de­tails,” said Steven After­good, di­rec­tor of the Fed­er­a­tion for Amer­i­can Sci­en­tists’ Project on Govern­ment Se­crecy. “They want greater clar­ity and greater can­dor than they have got­ten up to this point. Wik­iLeaks, in this case, has filled a void left by the Pen­tagon.”

The White House re­sponded to the re­lease of the doc­u­ments with crit­i­cism.

“The United States strongly con­demns the dis­clo­sure of clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion by in­di­vid­u­als and or­ga­ni­za­tions which could put the lives of Amer­i­cans and our part­ners at risk, and threaten our na­tional se­cu­rity,” na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser James Jones said in a state­ment.

Of­fi­cials are re­view­ing the doc­u­ments to de­cide whether to take le­gal ac­tion against the site, a se­nior ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial said.

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