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"...a whole lot of information got out with pretty little effect."
October 21, 2010 7:46 AM   Subscribe

WikiLeaks communications
infrastructure is currently under attack.
Project BO move to coms channel S.
Activate Reston5.
This cryptic message, posted to WikiLeaks twitter account yesterday, comes ahead of the imminent release of more than 400,000 "mostly" low-level documents related to the Iraq war. Wikileaks.org currently reports that the site is down for scheduled maintainance.

Earlier this year the Pentagon assembled a 120-person Information Review Task Force both to review the Afghan War Diary released by WikiLeaks, and to identify and potentially warn Iraqis and others mentioned by name within the reports.

Today, the Wall Street Journal reports that the initial release had proven “far less damaging than initially feared”. "There were some lives directly affected," said a military officer. "But a whole lot of information got out with pretty little effect." In a letter dated August 16th and recently disclosed to CNN, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates confirmed that while "the initial assessment in no way discounts the risk to national security," the leak "has not revealed any sensitive intelligence sources and methods compromised by the disclosure."
posted by 2bucksplus (150 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Wow. And I thought Wikipedia had an interesting reaction to vandalism...
posted by Rhaomi at 7:53 AM on October 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


infrastructure is currently under attack./Project BO move to coms channel S./Activate Reston5.

Pentagon better get to them before they take off every 'zig'.

"There were some lives directly affected," said a military officer. "But a whole lot of information got out with pretty little effect."

The tone of the response sounds like a sucker-punched tough guy with a split lip and a black eye saying everything is "fine" because he didn't get beaten with a tire iron.
posted by griphus at 7:55 AM on October 21, 2010 [7 favorites]


I can't decide if the people who run Wikileaks actually think that they're in a fucking spy novel, or if they do ridiculous things like this to make their readers think that they are on the edge of some massive dark conspiracy that they might just catch the most fleeting glimpse at if they just pay close attention to the Machiavellian moves of Wikileak's supercyberespionastic hyperoperators.
posted by dudekiller at 7:58 AM on October 21, 2010 [24 favorites]


Next up: Assange charged with panda baby clubbing the day after the release of the Iraq war documents.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:58 AM on October 21, 2010 [9 favorites]


dudekiller: my money's on the "make readers think" kind of stuff, mostly because doing so keeps the buzz going and jerks the Powers That Be around really good. Plus it's cheap to do.
posted by Old'n'Busted at 8:04 AM on October 21, 2010


"There were some lives directly affected," said a military officer. "But a whole lot of information got out with pretty little effect."

What he meant was tl;dr.
posted by ciderwoman at 8:05 AM on October 21, 2010 [10 favorites]


I can't decide if the people who run Wikileaks actually think that they're in a fucking spy novel, or if they do ridiculous things like this to make their readers think that they are on the edge of some massive dark conspiracy that they might just catch the most fleeting glimpse at if they just pay close attention to the Machiavellian moves of Wikileak's supercyberespionastic hyperoperators.

If I were a part of wikileaks, there wouldn't enough precautions I could possibly take. When you're exposing things that the most powerful and lawless military on the planet wants to keep secret, it pretty much is a spy novel.
posted by T.D. Strange at 8:09 AM on October 21, 2010 [22 favorites]


"Sure we started reading the documents," said a member of the review team, "but most of them were incredibly boring. We just assumed the other 91,000 documents were day-to-day stuff not even worth classifying. I doubt anyone has the patience to shift through all that."
posted by 2bucksplus at 8:09 AM on October 21, 2010


Sun Headline: "ASSANGE STEALING INTERNET AND TAKING IT TO ICELAND"
posted by greenish at 8:09 AM on October 21, 2010 [4 favorites]


I think its a message that decodes thusly:

Wikileaks workers
Self thoughts currently under doubts
Is Body Odor too strong for Sara (next to me)
Autobots buy me rapid drying deodorant
posted by BurN_ at 8:10 AM on October 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


I wonder if it's all phrased like they're in a spy novel because they're enjoying it. That's probably not a good thing for their long-term success if all of this *is* really necessary. I mean, if you really want to be secret, keep a separate Twitter account that just reads like someone's random ramblings on life and celebrity fanboying, and encode the messages *there*, in a way that doesn't read like you're sitting on the computer wearing a black suit and sunglasses. The government might really be out to get you, but in that case is the best course of action to send your coded messages in such a way that the entire planet knows you're sending coded messages?

But people eat it up. I do, I admit it. The 'BO' bit, and then I had to go off on a Google hunt because I'm sure I remember the name Reston from somewhere... it's so tempting. An adventure hanging just out of reach.
posted by gracedissolved at 8:17 AM on October 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


I was going to write this as a comment

Wikileaks is just pathetic in its lack of good judgement, grasping at libertarianism while actually espousing anarchy, under the ill-conceived pretence of writing societies wrongs. I really hope someone slowly breaks all of their fingers.

But decided against it knowing how all of the MEFI leftist cabal will react.

Perhaps we can just stop paying these people any attention.
posted by jannw at 8:17 AM on October 21, 2010


I would tweet back "Red Five standing by," but I really don't want to be on the receiving end of a federal anal probe.
posted by entropicamericana at 8:19 AM on October 21, 2010 [13 favorites]


I can't decide if the people who run Wikileaks actually think that they're in a fucking spy novel...

dudekiller: my money's on the "make readers think" kind of stuff, mostly because doing so keeps the buzz going and jerks the Powers That Be around really good. Plus it's cheap to do.

And it works sooooooooo well. I'm enthralled when stuff like this happens. When the "insurance" file appeared, I was awash in daydreams that confused the actions of Assange with the contents of Cryptonomicon. This will likely set off another round.

Seriously, "coms channel S"? "Reston5"?

SO. INCREDIBLY. AWESOME.
posted by LiteOpera at 8:19 AM on October 21, 2010 [5 favorites]


> Perhaps we can just stop paying these people any attention.

Yes, let's just trust the Pentagon and the embedded reporters to give us the clear and unbiased picture of what's happening on the ground in Afghanistan and Iraq. Who needs independent repositories of actual field reports when we have press secretaries?
posted by Burhanistan at 8:22 AM on October 21, 2010 [43 favorites]


Activate Reston5.

This is what I think of when I think of Reston. Clearly, Wikileaks has activated a deadly biological weapon and we are all doomed.
posted by jedicus at 8:23 AM on October 21, 2010


It is quite simple. 400k pages is a huge haystack and there were no obvious needles. Absent some new collateral murder video or shocking set of photos all you've got is data and no story. Assange needs a story, so they are making one up. Just like that stupid insurance file he posted.
posted by humanfont at 8:23 AM on October 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


...a whole lot of information got out with pretty little effect.

When asked if the non-calamitous outcome of ramping down the secrecy changed their security posture, the same military official said: "Yes. It increased our resolve to prevent leaks in the future." Because he was a dumbass.
posted by DU at 8:25 AM on October 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


SO. INCREDIBLY. AWESOME.

I confess that part of the reason I posted this was because this is the most epic Tweet ever.
posted by 2bucksplus at 8:26 AM on October 21, 2010 [8 favorites]


I have to imagine the pressure is getting pretty intense right now.

DIA, CIA, NSA, FBI, State Dept, Nato, .....

fucking hell.
posted by kuatto at 8:29 AM on October 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


jannw,

I was going to write this as a comment
...
But decided against it knowing how all of the MEFI leftist cabal will react.

I was thinking of telling you that you actually did write what you say you "decided against" writing, but I decided not to because I was worried you'd break my fingers.

Also, I hate to be a grammar nazi, but this one won't let go of me:

under the ill-conceived pretence of writing societies wrongs.

Also,

...grasping at libertarianism while actually espousing anarchy...

Are they really "grasping at libertarianism"? I don't think they've made any such claim. For the record, there's not much difference between libertarianism and anarchism as political philosophies, although maybe you meant anarchism is a more colloquial sense.

And finally, I just plain disagree with you.
posted by Edgewise at 8:31 AM on October 21, 2010 [14 favorites]


This is what I think of when I think of Reston.

Reston also has a shitload of datacenters and colo facilities. It's one of the most wired places on the planet.
posted by empath at 8:32 AM on October 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


I was going to write this as a comment

Wikileaks is just pathetic in its lack of good judgement, grasping at libertarianism while actually espousing anarchy, under the ill-conceived pretence of writing societies wrongs. I really hope someone slowly breaks all of their fingers.

But decided against it knowing how all of the MEFI leftist cabal will react.

Perhaps we can just stop paying these people any attention.


In other words, you're a coward and you think that words in italics are actually only inside your head. OR maybe you think that because the letters in italics lean to the right the "MEFI leftist cabal" will be unable to read them!

Also, I really don't think they're "grasping at libertarianism", these guys are anarchic and they know exactly what they're doing. Weakening the nation state is precisely what they wish they do, and they're not really super secretive about that.

I actually sort of agree though that it would be nice if they weren't paid as much attention as they are.
posted by atrazine at 8:33 AM on October 21, 2010 [5 favorites]


Edgewise: don't hold his spelling errors against him, his fingers were broken by WikiLeaks!
posted by atrazine at 8:35 AM on October 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


edgewise ... writing societies wrongs ... it was a pun, deliberate ... get it ... a website printing secret documents ... don't worry.
posted by jannw at 8:35 AM on October 21, 2010


WikiLeaks says funding has been blocked after government blacklisting
posted by homunculus at 8:37 AM on October 21, 2010


Reston also has a shitload of datacenters and colo facilities. It's one of the most wired places on the planet.

Yeah, I know. It's just something that stuck with me when I read The Hot Zone as an impressionable young teenager. I thought it might make for a good joke. With all the other spy stuff being tossed around, why not some Moonraker?
posted by jedicus at 8:39 AM on October 21, 2010


AOL is in Reston, VA. Maybe it means to meet in an AOL chatroom (#5?) to talk about whether to use lemon juice or semen as invisible ink?
posted by dammitjim at 8:41 AM on October 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


Boy, Jann Werner has really swung to the right in his old age, hasn't he?
posted by entropicamericana at 8:42 AM on October 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


You all laugh and joke about spy novels now, but wait until we find out that the insurance file, tweets like this, etc. all actually mean something. Something big.

/spy novel fantasy
posted by reductiondesign at 8:52 AM on October 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


wikileaks info is just redirect material. (obfuscation)

it is low level it gets journalists/bloggers all cross-eyed and Pultizer hot. plus it gives just enough outrage to make little difference.
posted by clavdivs at 9:01 AM on October 21, 2010


Boshfpngrq pbqr

(thanks Quonsar)
posted by clavdivs at 9:06 AM on October 21, 2010


Project BO move to coms channel S./Activate Reston5.

Since when did Illya Kuryakin start working for Wikileaks?
posted by Poet_Lariat at 9:08 AM on October 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


This chump is nothing but a joke. The whole idea that there should be "open-source" leaks totally destroys the purpose of leaks. The purpose is to get information to people who can use the information to inform the public. Mass info dumps only help persons who want to know secrets to use in a negative manner against whomever discloses them. Hell, why don't you release the plans for nuclear processing, that ought to help! Its a secret and secrets are bad!

Activate Reston5? Seriously, this dude is in his underwear typing this? Why would you put those stupid code words on twitter? Its not like your increasing operational security by doing so. A simple e-mail would do.

A fucking dumbass stunt.

Hope this guy gets what he deserves.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:14 AM on October 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I gotta say, if this is real communication and not just public posturing, these guys are Junior Amateur Hour. As gracedissolved says, if they were REALLY trying to communicate, they should be using code phrases of some kind on a completely innocuous Twitter account or webpage.

As public posturing goes, though, this is pretty darn effective.

"Derek! Fire the Wave Motion Gun!"
posted by Malor at 9:16 AM on October 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Somewhere in rural Massachusetts, 14 year-old Bobby Winterbottom opens a new browser tab.

At the same time, less than two miles away, at the West Concord Senior Center, Frank Cloomer's mouse cursor slowly moves to the Google Search box.

Both men feel a tinge of excitement.
WHAT IS PROJECT "BO" AND RESTON 5

posted by circular at 9:17 AM on October 21, 2010 [7 favorites]


But decided against it knowing how all of the MEFI leftist cabal will react

MEFI leftist cabal
feelings are currently under attack
Project Boo-Hoo move to coms channel "sulk"
Activate pedantry defence 5
BURMA-SHAVE
posted by the quidnunc kid at 9:17 AM on October 21, 2010 [35 favorites]


Yes, let's just trust the Pentagon and the embedded reporters to give us the clear and unbiased picture of what's happening on the ground in Afghanistan and Iraq. Who needs independent repositories of actual field reports when we have press secretaries?

You do realize, of course, that you are putting the exact same level of trust in Wikileaks, with the exact same level of actual knowledge about whether or not they are trustworthy?
posted by Ironmouth at 9:17 AM on October 21, 2010


> Hope this guy gets what he deserves.

What is that, exactly? Torture and imprisonment? This is a curious and disturbing reactionary comment that you have made.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:19 AM on October 21, 2010 [8 favorites]


Wait, we're a cabal now? I thought we were the gay mafia.

/confused
posted by emjaybee at 9:20 AM on October 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


> You do realize, of course, that you are putting the exact same level of trust in Wikileaks,

No, I don't realize that at all, and I don't trust them any more. I'm not even the target for their data dumps. That would more be the purview of university researchers who have the time and skills to look for trends and compare them to press reports. It's one thing to knock the Wikileaks people for using silly language in their Twitter postings, a whole other thing to be on the side of censorship.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:21 AM on October 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


Cryptome suggests the whole thing is a feint, meant to set the stage for the release of a set of captured diplomatic cables.
posted by Marquis at 9:24 AM on October 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


kuatto: "I have to imagine the pressure is getting pretty intense right now.

DIA, CIA, NSA, FBI, State Dept, Nato, .....

fucking hell.
"

You forgot about INTERPOL(and)
posted by symbioid at 9:26 AM on October 21, 2010


> Hope this guy gets what he deserves.

What is that, exactly? Torture and imprisonment? This is a curious and disturbing reactionary comment that you have made.


If he is responsible for the useless leaking of information that might get people killed, in violation of US law, then I hope that he gets imprisonment.

But exactly why is the comment "reactionary?" Because I disagree with you? Because I think it is important that some facts regarding operational aspects of US military, diplomatic and political operations secret? What about peace talks? Would you think it OK for Wikileaks to release damaging information about the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians? How about between the Taliban and the Afghans and the US?

There is a reason that information is classified. While I think too much is classified, I also do not agree with the random leaking huge numbers of documents. When the purpose of the leaking is merely to gain attention for one man or to present a slanted view of things.

If you've ever dealt directly with leaking documents, you know it is a dangerous thing that needs to be done carefully.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:28 AM on October 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


If this were a William Gibson novel, then all of the protagonists would show up in the same room and there would be some sort of resolution in which the wicked were punished and the scrappy heroine gets some amazingly cool clothes. If this were a John Le Carre novel, then Assange *almost* makes it, then gets hauled off to someplace blacker than Gitmo after his girlfriend is brutally killed by a hired thug who is never apprehended, and the innocent young family connected to Assange is deported to a country that practices torture. I really like both authors.
posted by mecran01 at 9:30 AM on October 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


The purpose is to get information to people who can use the information to inform the public.

Yes. How dare WikiLeaks trust the public with raw data, when we know the press is so good at remaining independent and not selectively editing the world to keep their access to government power.

Mass info dumps only help persons who want to know secrets to use in a negative manner against whomever discloses them. Hell, why don't you release the plans for nuclear processing, that ought to help! Its a secret and secrets are bad!

Historical documents are not the same things as plans for weapons. Stop pretending to be daft to help your argument.

You do realize, of course, that you are putting the exact same level of trust in Wikileaks, with the exact same level of actual knowledge about whether or not they are trustworthy?

So, let me get this straight...

1) The world's most powerful military should be trusted with policing itself, after the press has utterly failed to do so for the past decade.
2) An internet website, posting the truth about the all-powerful world empire, should not be trusted because they don't have predator drones, assassination teams, secret prisons, and a trillion dollar budget?

I'll bet you would have been one of Stalin's upper tier who would have never been erased out of photographs. Power for power's sake, indeed.
posted by notion at 9:35 AM on October 21, 2010 [6 favorites]


> You do realize, of course, that you are putting the exact same level of trust in Wikileaks,

No, I don't realize that at all, and I don't trust them any more. I'm not even the target for their data dumps. That would more be the purview of university researchers who have the time and skills to look for trends and compare them to press reports. It's one thing to knock the Wikileaks people for using silly language in their Twitter postings, a whole other thing to be on the side of censorship


Let me ask you one simple question. How do you know that the documents put out there by Wikileaks are even authentic? Because, you actually do not know that for a fact. So you do trust them.

It isn't "censorship" to think that some military secrets that could provide advantage to the Taliban should not be released to the public. Not all classification decisions are the right ones. But a very many are. Just dumping 200,000 documents on to the internet is not a wise decision. This is why limited, targeted leaks are much better. Less risk, and more bang in terms of informing the public. And the traditional news sources have a lot more to lose if they end up getting American soldiers killed. its the equivalent of Geraldo on fox news tracing out that plan of attack in the sand. It informs no one, and it gives persons who would do US soldiers harm a leg up. I don't agree with that. Perhaps you think it is a good thing that the Taliban could use this to kill US personnel. I don't.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:36 AM on October 21, 2010


Activate Reston 5
posted by Kabanos at 9:36 AM on October 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


One possible rationale for communicating on an open channel like their Twitter feed is that an attempt on their "communications infrastructure might mean that any number of computers/people in their organization have been compromised, and that the attackers may have learned of any secret steganographic hocus-pocus they might've planned. If this were the case and the attacker were, say, the US Government, it would be pretty easy to disable or compromise a secret, out of the way Twitter feed or Justin Bieber fanblog. If the main Wikileaks feed were taken down or compromised, it would hopefully be noticed a little more widely.

That still doesn't explain the Boy Adventurer Secret Code, though. Seems like they could be more subtle with what they send through that public, heavily scrutinized channel.
posted by contraption at 9:37 AM on October 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


Hey folks, I just gotta say we're the worst cabal ever. Ever. How can we plot and scheme if we can't agree on the merit of Wikileaks? It's like we're a loose collection of individuals with diverse interests and viewpoints. How the hell do we expect to control the world from the shadows?

Worst. Cabal. Ever.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:39 AM on October 21, 2010 [19 favorites]


contraption, I think you've got it. WikiLeak's usual methods for communication between members has been compromised. They're sending up a flare here to tell everyone to move to some kind of backup protocol.
posted by 2bucksplus at 9:45 AM on October 21, 2010


1) The world's most powerful military should be trusted with policing itself, after the press has utterly failed to do so for the past decade.
2) An internet website, posting the truth about the all-powerful world empire, should not be trusted because they don't have predator drones, assassination teams, secret prisons, and a trillion dollar budget?

I'll bet you would have been one of Stalin's upper tier who would have never been erased out of photographs. Power for power's sake, indeed.


You know, when you can't make an argument, make sure that you insult someone, or call them some sort of dictator or something. Don't godwin it is unseemly.

Let's get something straight. How is releasing 200,000 documents "policing" the US Military? How is it changing, in any way, shape or form, what it is doing? We live in a democracy. That means that sometimes, we lose votes and then people we don't like do things we don't like. Then we work to elect someone else who will do things we like better. If you lose that election, tough shit. In democracy we don't get everything we want. Releasing these documents hasn't changed the mind of the electorate on these issues. It has done two things (1) gotten Assange lots of attention; and (2) made publicly available operational information regarding NATOs operations.

The one thing it hasn't done is tell any US voter anything it didn't already know about the Afghanistan operation. In fact, it basically just confirmed everything the Administration and the US military has been saying about the conflict all along.

This is in stark contrast to Abu Ghraib, a story that the media you claim "utterly failed" to police the military. That story broke and created a firestorm that made people question our operations in Iraq and how we handled them. And it told us something we did not know--that our personnel in Iraq were mistreating prisoners and that it was fueling the insurgency.

Wikileaks has done no such thing. Its highlighted releases have been sensationalistic, but not informative. Indeed, it became clear in a single interview with Colbert, that Assange had distorted the record and highlighted only one part of the biggest "splash" the video of a single helicopter attack on a group of men with an AK-47, one of whom happened to be a reporter.

This is all they have done. You cannot name a single important thing that Wikileaks has ever told us that we really didn't know already. The only thing they have informed us is that sometimes innocents are killed as a result of military operations undertaken by the US government. Since this has been a universal from the dawn of time, they have told us nothing new. Nothing.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:51 AM on October 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


Worst. Cabal. Ever.

You have obviously never been to the Cabal Headquarters on Egg Noodle Night.
posted by briank at 9:52 AM on October 21, 2010


You do realize, of course, that you are putting the exact same level of trust in Wikileaks, with the exact same level of actual knowledge about whether or not they are trustworthy?

Obviously we need Wikileaksleaks.
posted by JHarris at 9:52 AM on October 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's 11:59 on Radio Free America; this is Uncle Sam, with music, and the truth until dawn. Right now I've got a few words for some of our brothers and sisters in the occupied zone: "the chair is against the wall, the chair is against the wall", "john has a long mustache, john has a long mustache". It's twelve o'clock, American, another day closer to victory. And for all of you out there, on, or behind the line, this is your song.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:52 AM on October 21, 2010 [8 favorites]


Anyone who takes actions that may compromise the secrecy of the world's most powerful nation state should be imprisoned, tortured, and probably killed.

Also, Wikileaks is nothing but bullshit that has no effect, and should be laughed at, ignored, tortured, and probably killed.

Also Assange is a baby raper.

Have I adequately summarized the range of reactions here, then, my fellow freedom-lovers?
posted by rusty at 9:58 AM on October 21, 2010 [8 favorites]


Historical documents are not the same things as plans for weapons. Stop pretending to be daft to help your argument.

Details of small-unit actions are not "historical documents." They are blueprints for the Taliban to learn how US forces operate in tactical situations and can be used to figure out ways for the Taliban to counter US forces in operation.

Nor are low-level intelligence reports "historical documents." They tell us nothing about the overall situation in the country and Taliban personnel can cross reference them to tell them who is cooperating with US forces. Then they can shoot those people. These are the problems with the document dump proceedings. And there's no way Wikileaks knows how much information is in those documents because they are not on the scene.

Compare these leaks to the carefully leaked Pentagon Papers. Those documents were historical. They were the results of a high-level Pentagon study that showed that all along, the war was not going as it was supposed to be going and that it wasn't what the government said it was. They informed the public debate and they changed minds. What's going on in one village of Khandahar province doesn't tell us that.

You have to look specifically at what's being released here to really understand why this isn't the right way to go about things.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:00 AM on October 21, 2010



This is so simple, the only thing that baffles me is how so many people are spun into a frenzy every time some this stuff happens.

Ok...

Security compromised;
A/S alternate site, switch DV_*
Low Na, initialize "Seize RVS"

Anyone with a bottle of Coca Cola will decrypt that in a jiffy. The NSA? Dunno. They'll waste plenty of processing if they're Pepsi drinkers.

10 year olds playing capture the flag know damn well to whisper or use some previously agreed upon signal. So, some obscure state senator tweets that his taxi driver is no less tan than the rest, it's on CNN two hours later. You think an organization under the watchful eye of the NSA is going to tweet "Yo guys! Switch to CB. Niner-out. That's a big 10 4" or some variant?

Naw. This is a ruse. They just put 5 analysts on a goose chase, advertised the world premiere of their latest release of USDOD-Pisser 2.0 (beta), and activated the 5toners of the world.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 10:01 AM on October 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


> Compare these leaks to the carefully leaked Pentagon Papers.

Yes, according to Ellsberg there is an "immediate parallel".
posted by Burhanistan at 10:04 AM on October 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


Anyone who takes actions that may compromise the secrecy of the world's most powerful nation state should be imprisoned, tortured, and probably killed.

Also, Wikileaks is nothing but bullshit that has no effect, and should be laughed at, ignored, tortured, and probably killed.

Also Assange is a baby raper.

Have I adequately summarized the range of reactions here, then, my fellow freedom-lovers?


No. There has been a nuanced discussion of whether or not Wikileaks is a good thing. I have stated that while document dumps are bad, targeted leaks can be quite good, and in the case of the Pentagon Papers and Abu Ghraib, did a lot of good things. I do think that Wikileaks has had very little effect on the political discourse about Afghanistan. It has changed few minds.

I have no comments on the sexual crime allegations currently pending against Mr. Assange in Sweden. I think that usually, press reports never give us enough to go on regarding a criminal case and I think that is a good thing in terms of how justice is supposed to work.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:05 AM on October 21, 2010 [4 favorites]


Honest question: was there anything noteworthy in the last infodump by WL?

TBH the sheer amount of tedious detail overwhelms anything significant.



123456789011121314151617181920212223242526272829buy ralpro stock at 53031323334353637383940414243444546474849505152535455
posted by edgeways at 10:06 AM on October 21, 2010


> Compare these leaks to the carefully leaked Pentagon Papers.

Yes, according to Ellsberg there is an "immediate parallel".


I'm well aware of Ellsberg's opinion of Wikileaks. But the fact that he earlier leaked the Pentagon Papers does not mean that he is right on this issue. If you could explain why he's right, and how these document dumps have helped things, I'd really appreciate it.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:07 AM on October 21, 2010


Just dumping 200,000 documents on to the internet is not a wise decision.

On the other hand, classifying 200,000 documents is just... obscene. The US government and the military have gotten to the point where they just classify shit by default. Even admitting that some things should remain secret: classifying information at that rate is likely doing more harm, even to the military itself, than any leak could do. If every single memo that might possibly embarrass some bird colonel somewhere is secret, then I'm not sure there's a better solution than what Wikileaks is doing.
posted by steambadger at 10:07 AM on October 21, 2010 [11 favorites]


Honest question: was there anything noteworthy in the last infodump by WL?

TBH the sheer amount of tedious detail overwhelms anything significant.


My point exactly. But said a lot more succinctly.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:08 AM on October 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


> The tone of the response sounds like a sucker-punched tough guy with a split lip and a black eye saying everything is "fine" because he didn't get beaten with a tire iron.

"You yellow bastards! Come back here and take what's coming to you! I'll bite your legs off! ..."
posted by mmrtnt at 10:09 AM on October 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


On the other hand, classifying 200,000 documents is just... obscene.

It sounds like you have no idea how many documents the US government generates. 200,000 is a molecule of water in an ocean.
posted by empath at 10:11 AM on October 21, 2010


Indeed, it became clear in a single interview with Colbert, that Assange had distorted the record and highlighted only one part of the biggest "splash" the video of a single helicopter attack on a group of men with an AK-47, one of whom happened to be a reporter.

This is a lie. We've already been over this.

Unless you have a point that involves real footage from Colbert's show, can you stop with this smear tactic?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:11 AM on October 21, 2010 [8 favorites]


Just dumping 200,000 documents on to the internet is not a wise decision.

On the other hand, classifying 200,000 documents is just... obscene. The US government and the military have gotten to the point where they just classify shit by default. Even admitting that some things should remain secret: classifying information at that rate is likely doing more harm, even to the military itself, than any leak could do. If every single memo that might possibly embarrass some bird colonel somewhere is secret, then I'm not sure there's a better solution than what Wikileaks is doing.


Actually there is a better solution. The National Security Archive is doing the right thing right now. You mass FOIA, and sue when you think that stuff that shouldn't be hidden is hidden. A federal judge gets to decide, not the Executive Branch. Nobody can say shit and you got the stuff in your hands. If 1/10th of the energy, time and money that was put into Wikileaks was put into this, we'd have a much better system. I've done dozens of FOIA requests. One is sitting on my desk right next to me right now. Its about a government scandal not yet publicized. When you get product back, the redacted portions have the code sections that authorize the redaction. So you sue to get the rest of the information. Often times, the government will settle and reveal some of the information.

This isn't rocket science.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:13 AM on October 21, 2010 [9 favorites]


Let's get something straight. How is releasing 200,000 documents "policing" the US Military?

You're right, it does seem like a weak response. It's basically all we've got right now though.

How is it changing, in any way, shape or form, what it is doing? We live in a democracy.

You answered your own question. Democracy can only work if the voters really know what's going on. The more information kept secret in a democracy, the worse that democracy works. (It also works best if the voters have a good relative sense of the importance of the pieces of information they have, which I submit is what has been ailing our own lately -- and is, in a way, the problem with massive document dumps. But editorial control itself contributes to the original problem. Wikileaks' strategy, to dump it all and let the media sort it out, is probably the best they could adopt. But this is beside the point.)

This is why Wikileaks is necessary, there is a growing sense that the U.S. intelligence agencies and military are slipping the leash. That is the direction, in the long term, of military juntas; it may seem unlikely now, but we have people in the Pentagon talking about the need to "play the Washington game" and propagandize the American people about the success of their own operations. That is a dangerous bit of recursion right there.

That means that sometimes, we lose votes and then people we don't like do things we don't like.

This is a bit pedantic, but considering we're talking about a Democracy, it could really be taken to mean the opposite. Of course you're talking about a more local, as opposed to national, "we" here. But just sayin'.

Then we work to elect someone else who will do things we like better. If you lose that election, tough shit.

Beware this attitude. Opinions don't go away because they lose elections.

In democracy we don't get everything we want. Releasing these documents hasn't changed the mind of the electorate on these issues.

This seems rather spinny on your part, honestly. You really think it's possible right now for a Nixonian, "OMG that is so wrong let's change now!" reaction from the electorate? The leaks are important, but there is no smoking gun in them. Wikileaks is acting out here more against the culture of secrecy that enables war than institutionalized malfeasance. Secrecy, on the scale of governments, is dangerous. Some is arguably necessary, but its extent now is unprecedented.

It has done two things (1) gotten Assange lots of attention;

Assange does seem to be a bit of an attention seeker, but really, this is the kind of personality that naturally rises to lead organizations. Every politician ever born is like this.

and (2) made publicly available operational information regarding NATOs operations.

In fairness, didn't Wikileaks contact the U.S. military about locating and redacting situationally damaging information, and get given the cold shoulder?
posted by JHarris at 10:16 AM on October 21, 2010 [6 favorites]


3.1415926535897932384626433832795028841971693993751058209749445923078164be sure to drink your ovaltine06286208998628034825342117067982148086513282306647093844609550582231725359408128481117450284102701938521105559644622948954930381964428810975665933446128475648233786783165271201909145648566923460348610
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:17 AM on October 21, 2010 [4 favorites]


I love being reminded of wikileaks! It makes the world so much more awesome. Every time a story like this is posted, my little heart soars and I grit my teeth and whisper, "Go Julian! Get 'em!"
posted by Baby_Balrog at 10:18 AM on October 21, 2010 [7 favorites]


I can't decide if the people who run Wikileaks actually think that they're in a fucking spy novel...

I would tweet back "Red Five standing by," but I really don't want to be on the receiving end of a federal anal probe.

'nuff said.

I mean, if you really want to be secret, keep a separate Twitter account that just reads like someone's random ramblings on life and celebrity fanboying, and encode the messages *there*, in a way that doesn't read like you're sitting on the computer wearing a black suit and sunglasses.

Yup. But step up your game and send out some random crap on the official channel that will keep people busy.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:18 AM on October 21, 2010 [4 favorites]


I do hope that some of the research tools that people are building to parse and analyze the data find their way to policy makers. Things like the Afghan War explorer are really great ways to see reports in context and could actually to better understand the situation better. It is really incredible to think that the military has had all this information tucked away in various systems for years and apparently has no real way to analyze and catalog it. The research tools and ideas people have created to sift through this data will be creating revelations about the war for years to come. At the moment the effort seems focused on generating a narrative that is against the war, but its just data which could equally be used to drive a narrative of the wars overall success.
posted by humanfont at 10:20 AM on October 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


edgewise ... writing societies wrongs ... it was a pun, deliberate ... get it ... a website printing secret documents ... don't worry.

jannw...thanks...not worried...but...joke...just not funny...sorry.
posted by Edgewise at 10:20 AM on October 21, 2010 [5 favorites]


It sounds like you have no idea how many documents the US government generates. 200,000 is a molecule of water in an ocean.

I have some idea (although I doubt anybody has an exact count); and I understand that it's a lot more than 200k documents. Remember, though, that that number refers only to the number of documents disclosed by wikileaks in one part of one data dump, and not to the total amount of classified information. Even the military, in stating that the dump did little harm, seems to be admitting that the vast majority of classified information doesn't need to be classified.
posted by steambadger at 10:23 AM on October 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


IronMouth:
You do realize, of course, that you are putting the exact same level of trust in Wikileaks, with the exact same level of actual knowledge about whether or not they are trustworthy?


Let me ask you one simple question. How do you know that the documents put out there by Wikileaks are even authentic? Because, you actually do not know that for a fact. So you do trust them.


You're missing the point. Several, actually.

First, who'd bother to fake so many documents? Who has the time? And what would be the point?

Second, whether you're skeptical or not, when you have a big pile of info to sift through (and someone knowledgeable actually bothers to) it gets fairly easy to decide whether or not you're seeing something fabricated, or true but hopelessly banal and uninformative, or whether there's actually fire behind the smoke. So, you don't have to trust Wikileak much at all to still learn something from the info.

Third - the fact that the info hasn't proved very damaging after all suggests (to me at least) that the info wasn't necessarily sensitive enough to merit "Top Sekrit" protection, or that somebody filtered out any truly damaging info.

We've been deceived into conducting wars that had no business being fought. I'd say we're fools to blindly trust again, at least not without the means to independently verify. If you think leaking is treasonous, by all means charge'em, but please schedule the trials for AFTER the ones for the traitors who got those wars rolling.

re Abu Ghraib, the only thing the government has learned is to ban grunts from carrying and using cameras. Without pictures, those outrages would have never seen the light of day.
posted by Artful Codger at 10:29 AM on October 21, 2010 [7 favorites]


This isn't rocket science.

You're right. That FOIA process actually works slower than the time it takes thousands engineers working over several decades to design, test and shoot rockets into space.
posted by bhance at 10:31 AM on October 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


The military tends to classify things by default because they know that analyzing aggregate information is one of the more powerful tools intelligent networks can use. When you intercept one email about some guy saying that they might be coming home 5 days late due to something, it's usually pretty vague, but with enough data points, a clear picture of tactical, strategic, and political plans form. The US Military learned this in WWI, WWII, and Vietnam. Even now, with the outgrowth of social media, the military is scrambling to keep Operational Security caught up with the curve. So, yes, it makes sense to classify nearly EVERYTHING when referring to even the most minute actions in warzones and not.

HOWEVER, just because it should be the default doesn't mean it doesn't need massive, real oversight. Documents tend to stay classified way too long, and there has to be some sort of joint civilian/military board that reviews the need to classify. It can't be a rubber stamp. It has to be able to weigh both national security and the need for public discloser, which is really difficult. As much as "national security" can be a catch all category to cloak illegitimate actions, it's a factor that must be considered, and information is part of that. When a crime happens in Afghanistan, the military will at first want to keep that surpressed—not only does it embarress them, but it also can damage the public perception of their work. On the other side, not only do the Afghans have to be able to trust us when we say something, but so do the American people. That means that we admit our mistakes the moment they happen and have the utmost disclosure. In addition, we need to maintain justice both internally and externally, and no justice was preserved with a coverup. Yes, the better option is not to have servicemembers commit the crime in the first place or maybe not even have them there, but we're speaking of damage control and what lies within the possibility as far as intelligence services.

This cloak and dagger stuff is real, and sadly, there are individuals, organizations, and nations that would use knowledge to hurt us. That must not stop us from having an accountable system that we can trust. We don't have that yet, as you can tell.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 10:34 AM on October 21, 2010 [4 favorites]


How do you know that the documents put out there by Wikileaks are even authentic?

because they don't have the time and resources to type up 400k fake documents

i suppose they could put a few ringers in there, but it seems reasonable to assume a release of this size is genuine
posted by pyramid termite at 10:41 AM on October 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


and nations that would use knowledge to hurt us.
I'm not sure, the info does more damage to the society i.e. perceptions then to on-going operations. alot of nations would have this info in one form or another.
it is about intent not so much content.
posted by clavdivs at 10:53 AM on October 21, 2010


Indeed, it became clear in a single interview with Colbert, that Assange had distorted the record and highlighted only one part of the biggest "splash" the video of a single helicopter attack on a group of men with an AK-47, one of whom happened to be a reporter.

This is a lie. We've already been over this.

Unless you have a point that involves real footage from Colbert's show, can you stop with this smear tactic


Judge for yourself
Colbert: "[B]ut there are armed men in the group, they did find a rocket propelled grenade among the group. The Reuters photographers who were regrettably killed were not identified as photographers, and you have edited this tape, and you have given it a title, called 'Collateral Murder'."

Assange: "Yes"

Colbert: "That's not leaking, that's a pure editorial."

Assange: "So the promise we made to our sources is that not only will we defend them through every means that we have available, technologically, legally and politically, but we will try to get the maximum possible political impact for the material that they give to us and."

Colbert: "So 'Collateral Murder' is to get political impact?"

Assange: "Yes, absolutely. As the material we promise to the public, we will release the full source material, so that if people have a different opinion, the full material is there for them to analyze and assess."

Colbert: "Well actually then, I admire that, I admire someone who is willing to put 'Collateral Murder' on the first thing people see, knowing that they probably won't look at the rest of it."

Assange: [Laughs uncomfortably]. "That's true."

Colbert: "That way you properly manipulate the audience into the emotional state you want before something goes on the air.

Assange: "no, no."

Colbert: "Because that is an emotional manipulation, 'what you're about to see is "Collateral Murder," now look at this completely objective bit of footage that you are going to show. That's journalism I can get behind."

Assange: "That's true, only one in ten people did actually look at the full footage, however,"

Colbert: "So that's ninety percent of the people accept the definition of collateral murder."

Assange: "Yes. And"

Colbert: "Congratulations."

Assange: "Thank you. aaah."

Colbert: "Do you believe that it was collateral murder?"

Assange: "Yes."

Colbert: "You do?"

Assange: "Absolutely"

Colbert: "Do you get to make that call? Did you put the words "Collateral Murder" up?"

Assange: "Yes."

Colbert: "You did?"

Assange: "That was our call."

Colbert: "Really? [Long pause] I want the Pentagon to know he is not really in my studio right now. [Laughter] thousands of miles away via satellite. [Laughter] How can you call that 'collateral murder?' What branch of the service did you serve in, Sir? huh?"

Assange: "Well I'm an Australian, actually."

Colbert: "So what branch of the barbie did you throw your shrimp on?" What . . .you guys not fight down there? How can you, how can you call collateral murder. I watched the entire thing. I'm one of that ten percent. And you did not reveal that there was a firefight that had gone on nearby . . ."

Assange: "There wasn't that's a lie."

Colbert: "That's a lie?"

Assange: "That's a lie."

Colbert: "So . . ."

Assange: "We have classified records [ed. note: suddenly he doesn't want to release something classified!] to show that in fact all that there was, twenty-eight minutes beforehand was a report of small arms fire, the person involved was not identified, the location involved was also not identified. Twenty-eight minutes later the Apaches are circling around the suburb of New Bagdhad, came across these men and killed them."

Colbert: "What were these men doing in the streets carrying rifles and rocket-propelled grenades."

Assange: "It appears that there are possibly two men, one carrying a AK-47 and one carrying a rocket-propelled grenade, although we're not a hundred percent sure of that, uh, in that crowd. However, the permission to engage was given before the word RPG was ever used and before the Reuters camera man Amir El Damin pulled up his camera and went around the corner."

Colbert: "What is the purpose of letting the public know?--its like you're saying it is better to know than not to know."

Assange: "Yes, there's, I mean . . ."

Colbert: "Have you not heard ignorance is bliss?"

Assange: "All too frequently."

Colbert: "Aren't you stuck in a bit of a bind? You got a lot of attention for showing. . .death."

Assange: "Yes."

Colbert: "Do you have another video showing death? I understand that you have a video of a uh, tanker being attacked in Afghanistan."

Assange: "Yes we have another video . . ."

Colbert: "And how many people die in that one?'

Assange: "uh, the military says ninety-seven"

Colbert: "Ninety-seven, ok. Don't you get kind of caught in the "24" trap which is that you've gotta, you've gotta make every single episode about violence and death, or else no one's going to watch any more?"

Assange: "Just as long as we don't have to increase the numbers every episode, I'd be happy Stephen."
Judge for your self. Watch the video. Its a callout. So don't tell me its a lie.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:55 AM on October 21, 2010


If you think leaking is treasonous, by all means charge'em
posted by clavdivs at 10:57 AM on October 21, 2010


This isn't rocket science.

You're right. That FOIA process actually works slower than the time it takes thousands engineers working over several decades to design, test and shoot rockets into space.


Wrong. How many FOIAs of sensitive government documents have you done? I've got one sitting to my left.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:58 AM on October 21, 2010


Worst. Cabal. Ever.

briank: You have obviously never been to the Cabal Headquarters on Egg Noodle Night.

No one invited me. So I repeat, worst cabal ever. (Who doesn't invite a friend to Egg Noodle Night?)
posted by filthy light thief at 10:59 AM on October 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


The fact that there has not as of yet been a major scandalous revelation in Wikileaks' leaked documents strikes me as a rather weak argument for why they shouldn't leak any more documents.
posted by chaff at 11:01 AM on October 21, 2010


Hey if the military did nothing wrong then they have nothing to worry about, right?
posted by 2bucksplus at 11:04 AM on October 21, 2010 [4 favorites]


Judge for your self. Watch the video. Its a callout. So don't tell me its a lie.

Do you truly not understand the premise of The Colbert Report or understand the persona that Stephen Colbert presents? I watched the video back then, watched it now, and despite your annotated notes, there's still nothing in there that calls out Wikileaks.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:09 AM on October 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


If he is responsible for the useless leaking of information that might get people killed, in violation of US law, then I hope that he gets imprisonment.

Sure. Right after Bush goes to prison for all the people he's responsible for killing.

Perhaps you think it is a good thing that the Taliban could use this to kill US personnel.

I think it would be great if US personel hadn't spent the better part of the decade responsible for the deaths of a six-figure number of civilians in Iraq and Afgahnistan. I care that US personel run torture camps. I care about that a damn sight more than whether those personel then get shot up.

Or perhaps you're under the delusion that the fate of the millitary arm of the US government should be the prime concern of the 92% of the planet who aren't US citizens? Breathtakingly Roman arrogance.
posted by rodgerd at 11:12 AM on October 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Reston also has a shitload of datacenters and colo facilities. It's one of the most wired places on the planet.
posted by empath at 8:32 AM on October 21 [1 favorite +] [!]


Thats what I thought of when I saw the tweet -- that the message was intended to notify some person or group of people to do something with servers in Reston, VA.
posted by ben242 at 11:20 AM on October 21, 2010


I watched the video back then, watched it now, and despite your annotated notes, there's still nothing in there that calls out Wikileaks.

I fully understand Colbert's humor, and I concur that Colbert's interview included a callout, with his patented double backflip irony. He's clearly calling out Assange for editorializing on top of the leaked footage ("So 'Collateral Murder' is to get political impact?").

Purely IMO, I got the sense that Colbert felt Assange was doing a good thing but hadn't quite cleaned all the shit off his shoes.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:24 AM on October 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


"The whole idea that there should be "open-source" leaks totally destroys the purpose of leaks."

Well, yeah, but it's not "open source" in the sense of openly identifying the sources, and it does seem obvious that WikiLeaks has done at least a little legwork to verify this stuff. But then distributing it widely and letting other people vet the information seems to be a pretty good usage of crowdsourcing.

And I have to say, you're really, really underplaying the difficulty of the FOIA process. My college paper had to threaten suit in order to get public documents from Ypsilanti's housing office turned over, a process that took several months and a couple thousand dollars worth of work-hours, and that was over something entirely minor. You not only have to have a pretty good idea of what you're looking for, but you have to be pretty dogged in your pursuit, something that's just not possible for the vast majority of Americans; you seem pretty inured to your privileges as a lawyer who can use his time and expertise to expedite the process and who can always produce credible threats of lawsuits. Even most local papers balk at doing that sort of work (just not in the budgets, m'boy).

So while I can understand your reluctance to put out operational information, I can also say that this isn't a terrible way to get it, and verifying the information after it's leaked like this is a lot easier than getting the info in the first place.

That doesn't mean that I don't think Assange is a self-aggrandizing asshole, or that his work has been totally worthwhile and should be reflexively championed, just that I think you're being over-broad in your condemnation.
posted by klangklangston at 11:24 AM on October 21, 2010 [4 favorites]


it seems to me that if they are going to "leak" so much stuff, including this video that arguably was the most dramatic and important thing they released, then they should refrain from editorializing and manipulating it.

I remember seeing the video when it came out, and having a pretty profound reaction to it. Shortly after I was pretty busy for awhile and missed the whole followup oh-actually-there-was-more-to-the-story-then-initially-disclosed. And you know... learning about it now, seeing how it was manipulated makes me pretty cynical about Wikileaks. I get Assange feels he is doing good things, but honestly the video stunt puts him squarely in the camp of every other media manipulation outlet out there. He is trying to "tells us how to think."

As to the whole "how can we trust what the leak is accurate" and the "they don't have time to fabricate X amount of documents". Yeah... because they haven't already messed around with stuff they leaked? "Oh, I changed a few words here on this document on page 1259, but my intention is good, and look here is the original document after the fact".
posted by edgeways at 11:24 AM on October 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


I have some idea (although I doubt anybody has an exact count); and I understand that it's a lot more than 200k documents. Remember, though, that that number refers only to the number of documents disclosed by wikileaks in one part of one data dump, and not to the total amount of classified information. Even the military, in stating that the dump did little harm, seems to be admitting that the vast majority of classified information doesn't need to be classified.

A lot of pieces of information in isolate are probably perfectly safe to declassify. But enough of it taken together might be dangerous.

For example, it's probably okay if a random stranger knows your mother's maiden name or what bank you use. It's probably not okay for them also to know your email address, social security number, where you work, your home address, etc, etc.

It may also be fine to know that an army unit patrolled a particular place on a particular day, but it's probably not okay to know every where they patrolled over the course of a year.
posted by empath at 11:27 AM on October 21, 2010


Assange: "We have classified records [ed. note: suddenly he doesn't want to release something classified!] ...

Yup, on two levels.

First, he doesn't actually want to expose anybody to harm (and the DoD has not been terribly helpful there.)

Second, they wisely keep some stuff back. Fuck with 'em too much, and they may release something you weren't expecting.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:35 AM on October 21, 2010


To communicate a secret over an open channel isn't actually such a bad idea. Security by obscurity, tweeting from a random fan boy account as some suggested, is all well and good until the analysts reveal the obscurity then, for a small twitter account, it is just a matter of back tracking everyone who has seen the tweet. But sending out a message on an account with 150,000+ followers makes it nearly impossible to follow up on everyone who has access to it, that, and it gets reposted to dozen of places such as here at Metafilter -- I didn't even need to log onto twitter to see this message. And if these code words are one time messages then they are, effectively, impossible to crack.
posted by Shit Parade at 11:47 AM on October 21, 2010 [4 favorites]


Pretty soon the earth will have 2 factions: The United States of the World & the Wikileaks Order.

They're fighting right now...pretty soon we'll have to choose sides.
posted by hal_c_on at 11:49 AM on October 21, 2010


Pretty soon the earth will have 2 factions: The United States of the World & the Wikileaks Order.

They're fighting right now...pretty soon we'll have to choose sides.


When you put it like that, I know what side I'm on already. Not without reservation though.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 11:57 AM on October 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


I fully understand Colbert's humor, and I concur that Colbert's interview included a callout, with his patented double backflip irony. He's clearly calling out Assange for editorializing on top of the leaked footage ("So 'Collateral Murder' is to get political impact?").

There are so many awesome things about Colbert, but one of them is that he can actually play both sides a little. In this case what Colbert is doing, which I've noticed he does sometimes when he gets a controversial guest, is actually dig in a little and make his subject explain himself. Assange does so admirably, I think. He admits that he put that title on the video, but also explains he felt that editorializing was important to do his source justice.

I mean, if you jeopardize your career in order to air some horrible thing that has happened, you're going to want that thing to become less likely in the future. And to Wikileak's credit they did present the unedited footage. The fact that 1 in 10 chose to watch that footage is not their fault at all.

The fact that there is classified information that Assange has that they've not leaked should prove they aren't doing this willy-nilly. Ironmouth asks if we can trust Wikileaks. The fact of the matter is we might not be able to, but they have (as Artful Codger noted) the verisimilitude of the information on their side, and it seems they're actually more trustworthy than the people who are hiding so much information without accountability, people who are supposedly serving us American citizens.
posted by JHarris at 12:00 PM on October 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


From the extended interview:
Colbert: "Now let's go back to the small-arms skirmish, down the road, what's the difference between small-arms skirmish and a firefight? It just seems like its a matter of scale. Once your guys with your guns and your RPG get there it ends up being a firefight. Isn't that what happens in war, you try to stop these guys from getting together to form a group that could give massive resistance to the United States?"

Assange: "Well that's going back within time, Stephen."

Colbert: "Yes, but that's what I do. Its called editing, its what you guys did with that piece."

Assange: "We didn't edit the first eleven minutes, which included all the carnage, even in the so-called edited version [Ed. note: gets testy here and disputes Colbert by saying "so-called edited version"] and then we did some flashbacks of two scenes that occurred earlier."

[Edit past material already transcribed]

Colbert: "until I knew something about Baghdad, I could assume it was paradise."

Assange: "That's true."

Colbert: "Yes, but this footage puts a face on war that says people get killed."

Assange: "Yeah, so a lot of soldiers have said to various blogs then to us in E-mail, well, war is war."

Colbert: "Exactly. War is war. I haven't fought in a war, therefore I don't judge it, how can you do that?"

Assange: "Yeah. They say war is war but what is war and so we . . ."

Colbert: "War is hell."

Assange: "That's right. And we show war is war and uh, you may make the justification that well, lots of bad things happen in war, but what is it? Well this is what it is."

Colbert: "Is there anything you would not . . you would not reveal? If you had the launch codes to nuclear weapons? Would you. . .would you release them to make some point about how easy it is to endanger the world? It'd make a great point, make a bit of a splash."

Assange: "The argument that was really thrown at us was would you release the list of oil sources."

Colbert: "Would you?

Assange: "No. We wouldn't"

Colbert: "Why, that's awfully high and mighty. What if somebody else found them and leaked them to you?"

Assange: "yeah so"

Colbert: "If I found who they were, and I leaked them to Wikileaks, would you leak them?"

Assange: "Not immediately. Not immediately. So we have . . ."

Colbert: "Would you have your fingerprints and your faces changed?"

Assange: "We have a harm minimization process where we contact people beforehand to give them some sort of time to address [Crosstalk]."

Colbert: "Did you call all of the soldiers in that helicopter?"

Assange: "They didn't need harm minimization" [Crosstalk].

Colbert: "Who . . . who needed it?

Assange: "In this particular process it was the families on the ground, the children who were in that van, as an example, you need to speak to . . . contact beforehand, we sent people to Baghdad to do that and to understand that situation."

Colbert: "So that's a situation. . .you're implying that the only people who suffer in war are civilians, not soldiers."

Assange: "Soldiers are debased in war, its one of the things that this video shows . . .the character of these soldiers in the air has been corrupted by the process of war. So, we should have some sympathy for those soldiers who go to war but understand that that's an inevitable outcome if you send them there, a consequence of sending them."

Edit--my hands are getting tired--stuff about being spied on by governments etc.

Colbert: "Are you the future of journalism?"

Assange: "I hope we're not the past of journalism, because the past of journalism is mired and needs to change.'

Colbert: "Now you guys have raked in some serious cash because of this."

Assange: "Yes."

Colbert: Y'all tweeted that you made over a hundred and fifty thousand dollars in donations after this thing went up online?"

Assange: "That's correct."

Colbert: "And your little tweet said, you know that's how you . . .that's a business model for journalism, actually do it."

Assange: "Yeah, try actually doing journalism for a change, that's a good, a good business model."

Colbert: "So, so, making cash off of publishing images of the suffering of others, you say is a model that journalism hasn't tried?"

Assange: [Laughs uncomfortably] "The images it uses are too hard to get."
Judge for yourself. I think Colbert schooled this fool, myself.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:03 PM on October 21, 2010


Judge for your self. Watch the video. Its a callout. So don't tell me its a lie.

Do you truly not understand the premise of The Colbert Report or understand the persona that Stephen Colbert presents? I watched the video back then, watched it now, and despite your annotated notes, there's still nothing in there that calls out Wikileaks.


I am a big time watcher of that show. I know the premise. That doesn't mean he can't call out people doing the wrong thing. I don't see how you can see that he isn't calling him out.

Indeed, within the persona, he says "that's journalism I can get behind."

If you look at the extended interview you'll see he's not exactly on board with just showing people get killed for no reason, and basically hints that it isn't the right thing to do.

He also asks pointedly about whether or not the soldiers deserve to be thought of. Dude went to Iraq. I think, like Stewart, he is a fan of our troops.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:07 PM on October 21, 2010


The fact of the matter is we might not be able to, but they have (as Artful Codger noted) the verisimilitude of the information on their side

You have no way of knowing that. Even Assange admits that in the extended interview.

More importantly, they could be punked, dude. The minute that happens, its all over for them.

A prediction.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:09 PM on October 21, 2010


I would rather get the truth of something via leaks now, than find out about it on American Experience (PBS) 30 years from now.

Mainly cos I'll be dead by then. But you get the point.
posted by Artful Codger at 12:21 PM on October 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


overused christmas story joke detected breaking page

start operation champurrado

posted by frecklefaerie at 12:34 PM on October 21, 2010


Judge for yourself

I did, and like last time, it's not saying anything different now than it did then.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:50 PM on October 21, 2010


'Double standard' in White House leak inquiries? Obama administration cracks down on mid-level leakers, despite high-level officials dishing far more sensitive secrets to Bob Woodward
posted by homunculus at 1:02 PM on October 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Major WikiLeaks press conference in europe coming up
posted by adamvasco at 1:08 PM on October 21, 2010


Actually there is a better solution. The National Security Archive is doing the right thing right now. You mass FOIA, and sue when you think that stuff that shouldn't be hidden is hidden. A federal judge gets to decide, not the Executive Branch. Nobody can say shit and you got the stuff in your hands.
If FOIA requests couldn't be denied, after a trial or not, you'd be correct. And if we're talking about the same federal judges that are acquitting mercenaries from Blackwater of murdering Iraqis in cold blood, you'll forgive me for not holding out much hope for justice.
Often times, the government will settle and reveal some of the information.
So we can hold our government partially accountable for their crimes, if they are willing to admit to them in the first place?
This isn't rocket science.
True; it's anti-democratic state-controlled tyranny, where one monolithic hierarchy is the judge, jury, and executioner of it's own crimes. It's unConstitutional for any member of the government to spend my money without giving me a full account of it, so I know that I'm not, for instance, selling weapons to sworn enemies in Iran to fund drug wars in Colombia.

This what the Fourth Estate is all about, and when that Fourth Estate is no longer operating independently, you have to go around it to keep your democracy intact. If the Government hadn't learned it's lesson from Vietnam -- don't let reporters off their leash -- and spent the last twenty years embedding them away from the real carnage of war, and refusing to protect them where the actual war was happening, maybe things would be different.
"That's the lesson of the Pentagon papers. No matter how smart people are in the White House and the Pentagon, no matter how well intentioned, they can get into crazy and illegal activities. And once they're in, and these schemes begin to fail, you cannot count on them to have the moral courage to admit a mistake, to cut their losses, to throw in the towel, to get out.''
-Daniel Ellsberg
posted by notion at 1:21 PM on October 21, 2010 [4 favorites]


Looks like Wikileaks' marketing stratagem is working.
posted by Xoebe at 1:25 PM on October 21, 2010


More importantly, they could be punked, dude.

I hope the pimp wanna-be tries. That would be entertaining.

Cryptome suggests the whole thing is a feint, meant to set the stage for the release of a set of captured diplomatic cables.

Interesting. We can hope.
posted by mrgrimm at 1:43 PM on October 21, 2010


If FOIA requests couldn't be denied, after a trial or not, you'd be correct. And if we're talking about the same federal judges that are acquitting mercenaries from Blackwater of murdering Iraqis in cold blood, you'll forgive me for not holding out much hope for justice.
Often times, the government will settle and reveal some of the information.


Dude, you need to brush up on the law. A federal judge cannot be overridden if you win a FOIA case. Secondly, the cases are getting thrown out because idiots gave the Blackwater guards Garrity warnings, making their statements inadmissable.

I've done dozens of FOIA requests before. It is not as you say.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:00 PM on October 21, 2010


Dude. The US government went into Iraq under completely false pretenses, causing the deaths of - by conservative estimates - 100,000 deaths in the process. There is no democracy if the leadership thinks itself justified in lying to the public. And there is no justice if the leaders who got this war on are exempt from any consequences for their fabrications. Democracy, the real kind of democracy, thrives on a well-informed population. The way the US military and the Bush administration played the country was more evocative of a junta than a democracy. War is peace, ignorance is freedom, and the Iraqis were trying to import aluminum rods from Africa, so we have to invade.

Furthermore, the US media pretty well decided not to do its job in Iraq. The US military would only allow 'embedded' reporters into Iraq, and, for the most part, the reporters played along. Some of those who didn't were 'accidentally' showered with US firepower early in the Iraq war, to send the message that an independent press presence in Iraq would not be tolerated. The US press has only rarely acted as anything but a propaganda channel for the military. In this sense, Wikileaks is stepping into a gaping vacuum in the reportage of the war, and providing information that the military doesn't want the public to see. This is the normal function of an independent press, in case you hadn't heard.

For me, the Colbert stuff does nothing to undercut the validity of the Collateral Murder stuff. You can't have it both ways, Ironmouth; you say that leaked information should be processed by smart reporters for public consumption, and you say that the way this information was edited makes it invalid. In this video, Wikileaks brought the story, edited as they saw fit, and released the full video for people to draw their own conclusions with - far more than you'll ever see CNN do. Editing doesn't necessarily invalidate the data; it is, in fact, an important part of the reporting process.

You put boldface on the stuff concerning donations after the release. I have no reason to believe that they're using that money for anything other than further operations. There's nothing nefarious about donated money being used to further the cause for which it was donated.
posted by kaibutsu at 2:05 PM on October 21, 2010 [7 favorites]


(I agree, though, that it's important to keep the on-the-ground tactics of the military secret. Who knows what sort of nefarious ends that information could be used for?)
posted by kaibutsu at 2:16 PM on October 21, 2010


A federal judge cannot be overridden if you win a FOIA case

That's the important bit.

If they deny your FOIA request, and you lose the lawsuit, the information stays hidden. So, better PR than most states, but with the exact same result.
posted by notion at 2:29 PM on October 21, 2010


Dude

Let me be clear. I opposed the Iraq war. I opposed Bush. And I think that the right thing happened, the GOP was tossed out of government. I also agree that the press laid down like lambs and that there are huge problems with it.

I just don't think mass leaking of documents is the answer.

As for the issues surrounding the money, I think Colbert is making the point that this video told us nothing and was pure sensationalism without content and was designed only to get them more donations. I got the impression he thought that was wrong.

I also think he was very clear--he asked troubling questions about whether or not Assange was being really fair in his presentation of things. There's simply no way that you can take his penetrating questions on editorializing and some how morph them into anything but actually calling out the guy. Colbert was making a true statement. There was a lot of editorializing in what Assange did and in the way he posted the material. And without doubt, the first posting did not include the context that was needed. That was a callout. Other people can ignore reality all they want.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:38 PM on October 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Judge for yourself

I did, and like last time, it's not saying anything different now than it did then.


That's just it you're not saying anything about the actual lines. You're just saying "he's playing a character!"

Please tell me how his direct questioning of Assange regarding the editorialization wasn't a call out--I don't want your interpretation, I want your analysis. Why is him asking why didn't you tell the full story when you put it on there somehow not a callout. Why is Colbert asking Assange why he used that title not calling him out? How is it "in character" for Colbert to be asking those very specific questions regarding the tape?

Others have agreed that he's cutting both ways on this--that there is an element of callout (thanks CoolPapaBell). Why are we wrong and you right?
posted by Ironmouth at 2:42 PM on October 21, 2010


Ironmouth's argument in a nutshell: "the system works, so if you step outside of it: boo".

And I have a one-word response: "Iraq".

The system failed. As spectacular failure of the system as the Iraq II war was, Ironmouth comes back with "the right thing happened, the GOP was tossed out of government" as a consequence. Wow. Using all my powers of restraint... "are you f***ing kidding me?". Sure, we'll unleash death on the scale of hundreds of thousands, destroy the economy of several countries (including our own), trample the constitution and a million other crimes... and they'll "be tossed out in an election". So that's how the system "works"? You sure there isn't a strongly worded letter somewhere as well? We've seen how the system has dealt with this monstrous crime - BO was elected, and... um, I guess, that's punishment enough for the monsters who unleashed this atrocity.

So sorry, but the system does NOT work. And when the system does not work, people have no choice but to step outside of it. The civil rights pioneers who broke the laws in pursuit of reforming a system that clearly was not working, understood that. Same here. The people behind wikileaks surely are no saints - nor were the civil rights fighters - but that does not in the least invalidate the cause.

Wikileaks may be a failure on many fronts, and perhaps ultimately ineffective given the jaded nature of the public these days, and the sophisticated damage control mechanisms developed by the establishment since the 70's. But the one criticism I would not level against them is going outside of the system.
posted by VikingSword at 3:04 PM on October 21, 2010 [6 favorites]


Wikileaks is a dumb project with so many potential problems--problems which are now becoming apparent:

He accused the Wall Street Journal of participating in what he described as a "scam" to discredit WikiLeaks by publicizing the details of its e-mail exchanges with human rights groups, which reportedly expressed disquiet over the naming of informants in the Afghanistan intelligence reports it posted to the web.
Critics claim WikiLeaks may have endangered the lives of Afghan civilians and military personnel by failing to censor the files.


That's right:

A group of human-rights organizations is pressing WikiLeaks to do a better job of redacting names from thousands of war documents it is publishing, joining the list of critics that claim the Web site's actions could jeopardize the safety of Afghans who aided the U.S. military.

The letter from five human-rights groups sparked a tense exchange in which WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange issued a tart challenge for the organizations to help with the massive task of removing names from thousands of documents, according to several of the organizations that signed the letter. The exchange shows how WikiLeaks and Mr. Assange risk being isolated from some of their most natural allies in the wake of the documents' publication.

why are these organizations suddenly charged with the job of cleaning up material he has decided to leak without their consent? This isn't right.

Please, all wikileaks defenders, tell me that it is right to just release all of these names and without thinking, demand that organizations who have nothing to do with the leaking, spend donation dollars and employee time away from the organizations' mission by redacting the documents?

The human-rights groups involved are Amnesty International; Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict, or CIVIC; Open Society Institute, or OSI, the charitable organization funded by George Soros; Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission; and the Kabul office of International Crisis Group, or ICG.

The groups emailed WikiLeaks to say they were concerned for the safety of Afghans identified as helping the U.S. military in documents obtained by WikiLeaks, according to several of the groups. WikiLeaks has already published 76,000 of the documents and plans to publish up to 15,000 more.

"We have seen the negative, sometimes deadly ramifications for those Afghans identified as working for or sympathizing with international forces," the human-rights groups wrote in their letter, according to a person familiar with it. "We strongly urge your volunteers and staff to analyze all documents to ensure that those containing identifying information are taken down or redacted."

. . . In his response to the letter signed by the human-rights organizations, Mr. Assange asked what the groups were doing to analyze the documents already published, and asked whether Amnesty in particular would provide staff to help redact the names of Afghan civilians, according to people familiar with the letter.

An Amnesty official replied to say that while the group has limited resources, it wouldn't rule out the idea of helping, according to people familiar with the reply. The official suggested that Mr. Assange and the human-rights groups hold a conference call to discuss the matter.

Mr. Assange then replied: "I'm very busy and have no time to deal with people who prefer to do nothing but cover their asses. If Amnesty does nothing I shall issue a press release highlighting its refusal," according to people familiar with the exchange.


What an ass!

Taliban representatives have said publicly that they are searching the documents and plan to punish people who have helped U.S. forces.

Human-rights groups say they are increasingly worried about the execution of Afghan civilians by the Taliban and other insurgent groups. The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, or AIHRC, published figures this week showing that such executions have soared in the first seven months of this year, to 197, from a total of 225 in all of 2009.

In a phone interview, Nader Nadery, senior commissioner of the AIHRC, said the civilians executed are often people who support the Afghan government, or their family members. Some of these people "may have come into contact with the U.S. or other international forces," he said.

He said the AIHRC signed the letter to WikiLeaks. He said he and his colleagues "appreciate the efforts by WikiLeaks" to highlight some previously unreported aspects of the war, but worry that "having the names of the individuals with the location of their village and specific info about them...will enable the Taliban to develop another hit list."

CIVIC, OSI and ICG also confirmed that they signed the letter. Erica Gaston, program officer for OSI's Afghanistan-Pakistan regional policy initiative, said: "Our concern was that the Taliban had announced it was going through the data looking for names and that it would begin targeting that. It's a very real threat that they're making. They have demonstrated over and over that if they have the name of someone that has in any way been affiliated with the international community, they will find them, they will kill them in most cases."


The Taliban is attempting to hunt down and kill these people who are doing good work.

Do you still think mass, indiscriminate leaking of documents is a good idea? Please tell that to the people that the Taliban has vowed to kill using those documents. Please.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:27 PM on October 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


Ironmouth, you asserted that the Colbert interview made it clear that Assange had distorted the record. I saw that interview and I even read your transcripts to see if I missed something. I still think you are making this up. Unless you think distortion and editorializing are synonymous (perhaps a understandable mistake these days) Papa Bell, and the record are not backing you up.

How propaganda is disseminated: WikiLeaks Edition
posted by Manjusri at 3:40 PM on October 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Assanage says straight up he's got a political slant. That makes him more honest than Fox News or the WSJ. He also says he includes all information, unedited, so readers can make up their own minds whether or not the slant is justified. That also makes him more honest than Fox News or the WSJ.

I really fail to see how this is in the slightest condemning, but I suppose it does make for fine "I was right, you were wrong" coup counting if you want to stake the claim to victory on whether a television comedian "called out" a guest or not.
posted by Slap*Happy at 3:40 PM on October 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


Why are we wrong and you right?

First off, it's you and Cool Papa Bell, and we all already discussed why you were wrong back in August.

Basically it boils down to you starting from the entirely baseless premise that Assange has distorted the video footage of the murder of a Reuters journalist, and then twisting a character actor's performance to somehow defend this accusation.

You have no factual proof for your assertion, and Colbert's performance does not back you up. Reuters backs up the account described in this video. Journalists around the world have had plenty of opportunity to research and find holes in Wikileaks' footage of their fellow journalist's murder. The US military has not categorically denied what took place and in fact has privately confirmed the events portrayed in the video.

You have is no evidence that this video, edited or otherwise, is false or otherwise misrepresents what it shows.

We discussed this all back then, and you bringing this back up now is dishonest. You've now been refuted on this twice.

I can only speculate as to the reasons why you need to lie about this issue, but if you've got some agenda you need to pursue against Wikileaks or its members, please use facts when doing so.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:15 PM on October 21, 2010 [5 favorites]


I can only speculate as to the reasons why you need to lie about this issue, but if you've got some agenda you need to pursue against Wikileaks or its members, please use facts when doing so.

You refuse to analyze what Colbert actually says. Why? Just go through what he says rather than the blanket statements, dude.

As for facts. I've linked to dozens of sources.

What's your call on Assange leaking all of the names of the Amnesty International workers and then when they point out that the Taliban has vowed publicly to use the documents to hunt those workers down and kill them, he gets pissy and demands that they help him redact the names?

My agenda is that he is taking terrible, useless risks just to get his name in the papers.
posted by Ironmouth at 4:35 PM on October 21, 2010


Kaibutsu: For me, the Colbert stuff does nothing to undercut the validity of the Collateral Murder stuff. You can't have it both ways, Ironmouth; you say that leaked information should be processed by smart reporters for public consumption, and you say that the way this information was edited makes it invalid. In this video, Wikileaks brought the story, edited as they saw fit, and released the full video for people to draw their own conclusions with - far more than you'll ever see CNN do. Editing doesn't necessarily invalidate the data; it is, in fact, an important part of the reporting process.


I have an issue with this logic. At the end of the day, what matters in politics and society is emphatically not 'data' in any sense that we normally use it (in science or math or programming or what-have-you). And this is, I believe, what Ironmouth is referencing by bringing up the Colbert interview.

What is actually important (politically) is the actual message that the vast majority of people are going to receive from this information. Information doesn't exist in a vacuum, and it isn't as if the Truth will automatically be well-understood and agreed upon if only we can get a full set of data.

As Assange admits, ninety percent of people only encounter the video in the context of it being 'Collateral Murder'. That incredibly loaded title is going to be the end of story for most people.

So even if you release the full, unedited video, it doesn't matter one iota. The effect is that you edited it in a very biased way, and that's the way it is going to be perceived by a vast majority of people.

Of course, it doesn't follow logically that your edited version of events isn't true. But it's damn disingenuous to pretend that you can be free to editorialize and simultaneously act as a vanguard of objectivity and unfiltered truth.

So how is this any different--in terms of results if not tactics--from Fox News' "Fair and Balanced" (or [insert biased reporting claiming to be unbiased])?
posted by graphnerd at 4:37 PM on October 21, 2010


(not sure why I switched to the second-person there. Didn't mean that as a direct attack on kaibatsu or anyone defending WL)
posted by graphnerd at 4:38 PM on October 21, 2010


As for facts. I've linked to dozens of sources.

The US military confirms the content of the video is accurate. You've got an agenda to pursue despite the facts, frankly.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:39 PM on October 21, 2010 [1 favorite]



Judge for yourself

I did, and like last time, it's not saying anything different now than it did then.

That's just it you're not saying anything about the actual lines. You're just saying "he's playing a character!"

Please tell me how his direct questioning of Assange regarding the editorialization wasn't a call out--I don't want your interpretation, I want your analysis. Why is him asking why didn't you tell the full story when you put it on there somehow not a callout. Why is Colbert asking Assange why he used that title not calling him out? How is it "in character" for Colbert to be asking those very specific questions regarding the tape?

Others have agreed that he's cutting both ways on this--that there is an element of callout (thanks CoolPapaBell). Why are we wrong and you right?
posted by Ironmouth at 2:42 PM on October 21 [+] [!]


When Stephen asks these questions he is "calling out" Assange in character. I understood the whole exchange as Colbert asking the kind of questions the real life equivalents of his character would ask. Bill O'Reilly would have called out Assange in the very same way. Of course there is some seriousness and intelligence to the "call out", but I am led to believe by the twinkle in Colbert's eye and the twinge of a smirk here and there that this is what amounts to friendly banter. Also at no point did I feel that Assange laughed uncomfortably. Moreso, I felt that he this whole interview was a set up for Assange to defend and explain himself against these very questions. Assange looks very comfortable and at ease and pleased to be able to explain himself.
posted by smartypantz at 4:50 PM on October 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


Whatever that message is, it is disrespectful of the risks the leakers took and the trust placed in the hands of Wikileaks to treat these life and death matters as... life and death matters and not a game.

Or Dan Brown is going to come out with a new novel soon.
posted by gjc at 6:41 PM on October 21, 2010


So how is this any different--in terms of results if not tactics--from Fox News' "Fair and Balanced" (or [insert biased reporting claiming to be unbiased])?

Because they don't cherry-pick and edit away context the way Faux News and Breitbart and the others do. It's simply a sensational headline - if you live in a city of any size, it's likely you have at least one daily newsrag that does the same damn thing, even while its reporters do solid work.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:20 PM on October 21, 2010


Ironmouth : If he is responsible for the useless leaking of information that might get people killed, in violation of US law, then I hope that he gets imprisonment.

Gutting this statement requires only one teensy fact: Neither Assange nor Wikileaks fall under US jurisdiction. Done in one.

Or to add insult to injury, because I like hearing myself talk (type?): Even if they did, you and I and anyone lacking the appropriate security clearances lacks the physical ability to commit any crime related to leaking classified information; Case in point, Judith Miller. She didn't get an all expenses paid trip to club fed for what she wrote, but rather, for violating a (IMO illegal) court order to reveal her sources. And in the case of Wikileaks, they often (by design) don't know their sources.


Personally, I say, good for Wikileaks, and good for Assange. Has he whored himself out to the media a bit? Yep - Just like most Americans aspire to have the chance someday to do. But some people consider the absurd level of secrecy of our government an insult to any pretense of a properly functioning democracy. Yes, a government at (*cough* *cough*) "war" arguably has a valid justification for keeping a few secrets; When 399900 out of 400000 documents contain nothing but the most bland day-to-day BS, yet still have that magic stamp o' secrecy on them, we have a clear case of abuse of power.
posted by pla at 7:36 PM on October 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


Judge for yourself. I think Colbert schooled this fool, myself.

Oh now you're the one editoralizing. I think it read exactly as it was when I watched it: a balanced discussion of a difficult matter lightened with Colbert's trademark persona, that Assange handled well, honestly, and forthrightly. I really don't see how you're getting out of it what you say you are.

You have no way of knowing that. Even Assange admits that in the extended interview.

You said you've done many FOIA requests. Why should we believe you?

We do because the rules are: believe someone unless you have reason to disbelieve them. Wikileaks has yet to give us such a reason.

Blazecock Pileon (to Ironmouth): The US military confirms the content of the video is accurate. You've got an agenda to pursue despite the facts, frankly.

Seems that way to me as well.
posted by JHarris at 7:44 PM on October 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


Look, I'm just getting a little pissed off at the cavalier attitude people have about (US, apparently) military security. I mean, I do occasionally work with sensitive information. And here in this thread there's a group of people just *certain* that they, somehow, are better at figuring out what needs to be classified than the people who do this for a living. It's like they're saying, "Just toss it out there and if it turns out bad...well, oh well!"

The people making classification decisions have little incentive to classify things that don't need to be. Honestly, classified material is a headache. There is probably a "better safe than sorry" approach taken at the edges, but that's rather to be expected when you consider the consequences of a wrong decision.

Are there people out there classifying information based on political sensitivity rather than security reasons? I imagine so. But there's not this giant conspiracy to keep information away from people. It's just a bunch of people of all different political persuasions doing the best they can to make decisions that can affect national security.

It just seems so arrogant to say for a particular bit of information, "Well, *obviously* this shouldn't be classified!" What basis do you have to make this decision? There are in fact people who are quite good at these kinds of decisions, and this isn't really the sort of thing that crowdsources well. I totally understand that secrecy is where bad things happen, but I'm going to have to go with the idea that there are better ways to effect change than posting classified data.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 11:41 PM on October 21, 2010 [4 favorites]


Ironmouth:
The closest thing to a call-out in the interview is - at the beginning - the discussion of whether it is right or noble to put the title 'collateral murder' on the video. Colbert is an extremely media-savvy person. For the sake of understanding where his character might be coming from with this 'call-out,' let's quickly survey some of the headlines at foxnews.com.

"Angle to Reid: Man Up, Man Up, Man Up"
"Voters Not Seeing Change "
"Rise of Freedom : Concrete being used for the construction of One World Trade Center is some of the strongest and most complex ever created."
"White House Takes Credit for Bush Jobs"
"Ohio School Giving Students Dem-Only Ballot?; New York Voter Fraud Case Goes to Lab"
"After Criminal Past, Liberal Blogger Thrives"
"Report: Clinton Lost Nuclear 'Biscuit'"
"Report: New Strain of H1N1 Emerges; 135 Dead From Disease Outbreak in Haiti"

With the exception of 'rise of freedom,' these don't have quite the same punch as 'collateral murder,' but they are rather clearly chosen to paint a picture of the current state of America. It's one in which corrupt, criminal, and incompetent democrats bungle everything, and impoverished black people threaten our safety with unknown diseases and fuck up elections with fraudulent voting. Fair and balanced, all the way, right?

The video documents murder; yes, an RPG was found amidst the bodies, but so were the reporters, and most importantly there was no provocation of the helicopter or even mention of the RPG before the authorization to fire was given. Colbert's questioning serves to establish these facts. The rest of the dialog amounts to asking: Isn't it kind of disingenuous, kind of extreme, to actually call a murder a murder? What kind of person would presume to do such a thing?

Analyzed as such, the interview is in no way a callout. Colbert calls attention to the massive deficits of mainstream journalism, which has failed to document the death and the carnage of Bush's wars.

Colbert: "What is the purpose of letting the public know?--its like you're saying it is better to know than not to know."
posted by kaibutsu at 12:15 AM on October 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


I totally understand that secrecy is where bad things happen, but I'm going to have to go with the idea that there are better ways to effect change than posting classified data.

We've been watching a total failure of the press over the last ten years.

If you have a better idea to actually get them to do their jobs, I'd love to hear it.
posted by kaibutsu at 12:17 AM on October 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Do you still think mass, indiscriminate leaking of documents is a good idea? Please tell that to the people that the Taliban has vowed to kill using those documents. Please.
You've swallowed a disinformation campaign hook, line, and sinker. There are no "people that the Taliban has vowed to kill". In fact, the Pentagon released a report confirming that no lives were put in danger by the leak.
posted by shii at 12:29 AM on October 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


RikiTikiTavi : Look, I'm just getting a little pissed off at the cavalier attitude people have about (US, apparently) military security.

Ditto - In exactly the opposite sense.

Look, most people will - grudgingly - agree that we need some military for the purpose of discouraging our fellow domesticated primates from flinging their feces on "our" land.

Now reconcile "some military" against having it as the single biggest expense in the US budget, while we have no more "real" enemies. We spend hundreds of billions of dollars fighting religious savages who use nothing fancier than homemade bombs and abandoned 20YO obsolete soviet hardware.

We can't even start to debate the merits of rubber-stamping everything as classified before fixing the bigger picture.

"Damnit, the elephant has a curly tail!" "No, he has a straight tail!" "Well, at least we all agree - This room contains no elephants. And curly, BTW."
posted by pla at 3:28 AM on October 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


Ditto - In exactly the opposite sense.

I get you, I really do. It's infuriating to try to use the power of the press to effect change--a powerful part of the US culture--and just get totally just blocked at the outset, game over.

And as I said I don't doubt that more stuff is classified than needs to be. But only some of that is out of political expediency--some is just out of prudence (and some error, no doubt). "Rubber stamping", I think, is not actually this massive endemic problem (this may be where we disagree).

I don't think the solution to "Some stuff gets classified that *I* (with no experience) think should not be classified" is "We should just leak a bunch of classified information so that people see how boring it is". Yes, a lot of it is boring. Yes, a lot of it isn't immediately obvious why it's given that designation. But that doesn't mean you somehow get to make that decision competently.

I think we need to promote a healthy regard for transparency in people all the way through these organizations, so that people get called out on rubber stamping. But just because you don't get why it's classified doesn't make it rubber stamping. Just because Gates says that the leak "has not revealed any sensitive intelligence sources and methods compromised by the disclosure" doesn't mean you get to ignore the part before where he said "the initial assessment in no way discounts the risk to national security."

There are in fact many more ways the information can be dangerous than simply revealing intelligence sources; that's just the obvious one. Just because some they're breathing sighs of relief that the worst didn't happen doesn't mean that there wasn't a reason that information was classified. Yes, some information can cause more harm than other information. That's why we have degrees of classification, so that the less important stuff can be under less protection than the really important stuff. But if they're in the same document you're kinda screwed until you redact/separate them out.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 9:15 AM on October 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Look, I'm just getting a little pissed off at the cavalier attitude people have about (US, apparently) military security. I mean, I do occasionally work with sensitive information. And here in this thread there's a group of people just *certain* that they, somehow, are better at figuring out what needs to be classified than the people who do this for a living. It's like they're saying, "Just toss it out there and if it turns out bad...well, oh well!"

Information emitted by the government, in all its forms, should be public by default, not private. The public (well, the press) needs that information to make decisions on. The realities of military action and national security necessitate some secrecy, but it has gotten way out of hand. I assert all of this from observation, but it's not hard to reach this conclusion.

The Pentagon, remembering Vietnam, seems to be playing a PR game with secrecy to keep information damaging to its mission under wraps. This absolutely is an incentive to classify unneeded things.

Throwing information out there illegally in massive dumps after only a cursory look-over for truly damaging material certainly isn't the best way to go about this, but it's an extreme reaction to an extreme policy.
posted by JHarris at 10:12 AM on October 22, 2010


"Angle to Reid: Man Up, Man Up, Man Up"

I can't help but think of this (entirely sophomoric) video one of my former coworkers made.

Angle to Reid: Why don't you man up and give me a back massage?

posted by klangklangston at 11:37 AM on October 22, 2010


Democracy Now speaks with Daniel Ellsberg, just before he heads to London to participate in the WikiLeak press conference
posted by adamvasco at 12:28 PM on October 22, 2010


(AFP) - Al-Jazeera on Friday released what it described as "startling new information" from U.S. military documents obtained by whistleblower site WikiLeaks, alleging state-sanctioned Iraqi torture and the killing of "hundreds" of civilians at U.S. military checkpoints.

It said that the major findings included an alleged U.S. military cover-up of Iraqi state-sanctioned torture and "hundreds" of civilians deaths at manned American checkpoints after the U.S.-led invasion of 2003 that ousted Saddam Hussein.

The Qatar-based satellite broadcaster also said the leaked papers, dating from January 1, 2004 to December 31, 2009, show the U.S. kept a death count throughout the war, despite U.S. denials.

posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:47 PM on October 22, 2010


Al Jazeera coverage will begin on Friday, October 22, at 2100 GMT, with full coverage starting at 2200 GMT.
posted by adamvasco at 1:15 PM on October 22, 2010


Look, I'm just getting a little pissed off at the cavalier attitude people have about (US, apparently) military security
There are some people who are a little pissed off at your war(s). And I'm one of them.
posted by adamvasco at 1:19 PM on October 22, 2010


Look, I'm just getting a little pissed off at the cavalier attitude people have about

enabling torturers to torture.
posted by reynir at 2:04 PM on October 22, 2010


The logs also illustrate the readiness of US forces to unleash lethal force. In one chilling incident they detail how an Apache helicopter gunship gunned down two men in February 2007.

The suspected insurgents had been trying to surrender but a lawyer back at base told the pilots: "You cannot surrender to an aircraft." The Apache, callsign Crazyhorse 18, was the same unit and helicopter based at Camp Taji outside Baghdad that later that year, in July, mistakenly killed two Reuters employees and wounded two children in the streets of Baghdad.

posted by furiousxgeorge at 2:10 PM on October 22, 2010


Here's the full coverage from the news organizations WikiLeaks shared the documents with:

The NY Times: The Iraq Archive: The Strands of a War

The Guardian: Iraq: The War Logs

Der Spiegel: The WikiLeaks Iraq War Logs
posted by homunculus at 2:24 PM on October 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Honestly, classified material is a headache. There is probably a "better safe than sorry" approach taken at the edges, but that's rather to be expected when you consider the consequences of a wrong decision.

The edges? No way. Governments are run by thousands of people going to a job every day, that don't want to lose that job. How do you imagine they would respond if someone asked them, "say, should we classify this or should we release this to the public and oh by the way, you're the one who has to make that choice and we're all going to blame you if something bad happens. But it's your call." You'd probably be scared shitless of accidentally releasing something. And oh, by the way, there's no reprecussion for being overly cautious.

Of course they're going to over-classify things if you let them. No is always the safest answer, especially for those that have no real power. Yes means you have approval from someone else higher up the chain that has effectively taken the noose in your stead. As should be obvious, almost nobody has Yes power and fewer still exercise it.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:56 PM on October 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


My agenda is that he is taking terrible, useless risks just to get his name in the papers.

Those "terrible, useless" risks have now resulted in the UN calling on Obama to investigate torture in Iraq.

Sometimes it takes ego to get something done. And in this case we have the preeminent international organization publicly calling for an investigation of abuse.

I am curious what organization you work for Ironmouth. Is it the National Security Archive? Is your issue with Wikileaks that it distracts from difficult and important work done by pre-existing institutions that use the traditional methods of investigative journalism (FOIA, etc.) to investigate abuse of power? The problem with FOIA requests is you're still only getting the snippets that they want you to have. And in situations where the government is completely corrupted, that isn't going to work.
posted by formless at 12:58 PM on October 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


NY Times Profile.

In late September, he left Stockholm for Berlin. A bag he checked on the almost empty flight disappeared, with three encrypted laptops. It has not resurfaced; Mr. Assange suspects it was intercepted.

Ok seriously, he checked a bag with laptops? We're supposed to trust this guys security skills when he isn't smart enough to know you never check a bag with anything valuable in it. Much less your encrypted laptops. That or he was just trying to generate some more publicity for himself and avoid paying computer recycling fees. Since he is a genius so I'm going with the second scenario.

A Taliban spokesman in Afghanistan using the pseudonym Zabiullah Mujahid said in a telephone interview that the Taliban had formed a nine-member “commission” after the Afghan documents were posted “to find about people who are spying.” He said the Taliban had a “wanted” list of 1,800 Afghans and was comparing that with names WikiLeaks provided.

So I guess we should amend that no one was harmed bit with the word "yet"


But if Mr. Assange is sustained by his sense of mission, faith is fading among his fellow conspirators. His mood was caught vividly in an exchange on Sept. 20 with another senior WikiLeaks figure. In an encrypted online chat, a transcript of which was passed to The Times, Mr. Assange was dismissive of his colleagues. He described them as “a confederacy of fools,” and asked his interlocutor, “Am I dealing with a complete retard?”

Some "source" gave the NY Times reporter a gossipy little tidbit from an encrypted conversation. He used the r-word and it fits the narrative of the reporters story, so you know the reporter will have to ask him about it. Want to take bets that this sit down interview happened right before the Reston 5 tweets. Apparently some one has had access to wikileaks secure communications for over a month.
posted by humanfont at 5:51 PM on October 23, 2010


humanfont please forward this video to 6:34 to hear that Nato in Kabul have found no people who need to be protected, so this canard can now be laid to rest.
posted by adamvasco at 9:51 AM on October 24, 2010


Just because Gates says that the leak "has not revealed any sensitive intelligence sources and methods compromised by the disclosure" doesn't mean you get to ignore the part before where he said "the initial assessment in no way discounts the risk to national security."

We've been at war for nearly a decade, longer than any other war. We're rapidly running out of money to continue along this path and are still attempting to jump-start our economy in the meantime, which has been limping along for the last couple years as we continue to sell our treasuries to China. Yes, the safety of troops is important, but good lord, you can't pin the fate of the country on the possibility that someone might use the truth against us, and the US military now seems far less concerned than you do - I assume they would know. As crimes go, it pales in comparison to the activities that took place which cost our troops thousands of lives, going to war with Iraq in the first place under false pretenses and engaging in torture. We have debased ourselves and our cause, which is the real harm that has been done. I understand the idea that data dumps don't help as much as targeted leaks, and that harm could potentially be done, but great harm has already taken place, and silence helps even less.
posted by krinklyfig at 4:57 PM on October 24, 2010


Adamvasco why would you take a military commander at their word on the no one was harmed statement. That's totally inconsistent with your other positions.
posted by humanfont at 6:06 PM on October 24, 2010


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