WikiLeaks Can't Have It Both Ways

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The polarized reaction to Julian Assange's 92,000-document deluge probably wasn't quite what the WikiLeaks founder originally intended when he signaled that he'd like to help end the war in Afghanistan. Instead, his organization's actions caused some notable columnists and politicians to condemn the "reckless" decision to name sources that could be endangered in the field. (To be fair, WikiLeaks also won praise for releasing the blizzard of information).

The latest salvo arriving from the anti-Assange camp comes from Reporters Without Borders, an international press organization known for campaigning to release unjustly jailed journalists. In an even-handed open letter, the organization entreats WikiLeaks to either follow the journalistic standards of mainstream media organizations, or cease shielding unnamed sources who feed the group its information. "You cannot claim to enjoy the protection of sources while at the same time, when it suits you, denying that you are a news media," the authors point out. Here are the main arguments of their letter:

On unnamed sources:

Reporters Without Borders has for years been campaigning for a federal “shield law” protecting sources, one that would apply not only to the traditional media but also to the new Internet media without exception. This is why we condemn all forms of harassment of Wikileaks contributors or informants – such as the recent arrest of Wikileaks researcher Jacob Appelbaum – by government agencies and immigration officials. We also condemn the charges brought against US army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning, who is suspected of leaking the video of the Baghdad killings.

On revealing collaborators:

But revealing the identity of hundreds of people who collaborated with the coalition in Afghanistan is highly dangerous. It would not be hard for the Taliban and other armed groups to use these documents to draw up a list of people for targeting in deadly revenge attacks...We are not convinced that your wish to “end the war in Afghanistan” will be so easily granted and meanwhile, you have unintentionally provided supposedly democratic governments with good grounds for putting the Internet under closer surveillance.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.