When stories broke back in June that WikiLeaks was releasing sensitive military documents pertaining to the War in Afghanistan (see "Social Media Journalism By Wikileaks' Whistleblower Unfolds In Real-Time"), the world was aghast that a social media site that patterns itself after Wikipedia could have gained such access at such peril. Founder Julian Assange actually had to seek protection from the authorities and Iceland initiated a proposal for their country to become a global safe haven for journalists like Assange where freedom of expression could be protected.
WikileaksThe New York Times, The Guardian and Der Spiegel, the same three newspapers that collaborated with WikiLeaks on the Afghan Diary in July are expected to release the documents shortly concurrently.
Now with announced release of over 400,000 additional documents pertaining to the Afghan War, the Pentagon is in stealth mode to prepare for the potential fall-out. According to an AFP news release, a Pentagon spokesperson indicated that they had set up a 120-person task force weeks ago to analyze the potential implications and damage these reports can do the United States of America.
Julian AssangeBased on Assange's aggressive reporting style, there are are several actions afoot that look to undermine the man and his whistleblowing organization. In August, Bloomberg Business Week reported that the Pentagon demanded that WikiLeaks return all of the documents or it would "compel them to do the right thing."
Coupled with this military reprisal, it appears that the US' position to quiet WikiLeaks is shared by others. In August, The Guardian in the UK was one of the first news outlets to run with a "rape" accusation leveled against Assange by Swedish authorities, only to be cancelled a week later, when the controversial founder accused his accusers of a "smear campaign." However, even with Daniel Domschelt-Bergthe charges being dropped, the incident caused a lot of internal strife within the WikiLeaks' organization and led Daniel Domschelt-Berg, one of Wikileasks' spokesman to resign from the Web site.
In another Guardian report, WikiLeaks states funding has been blocked after the Australian government blacklisted the organization. Moneybookers, a British-registered Internet payment company that collects WikiLeaks' donations emailed the company to say it had closed down its account because it had been put on an official US watchlist. Moneybookers' decision was preceded by PayPal freezing WikiLeaks' account dating all the way back to January, 2010.
Obviously all of these actions undermine the credibility of an organization that's been built on exposing unreported and covert activity surrounding the Taliban attacks, civilian deaths, NATO's strategy and Pakistan's insurgency. Whether it's the right moral decision for a social media news group to expose these type of reports is a source of great controversy. By 'leaking' highly sensitive and classified Intel to the enemy is cause for great alarm. However, there are those that believe the 'truth' should be made available no matter what, so that the public can decide on the outcome and protest if need be.
This is a dilemma that has plagued countries in war for centuries. The major difference today is the ability of a social media outlet to surface and deliver the news at a much faster clip. Is this immediacy a sign of rash decision-making? And if so, is it reason to put WikiLeaks' power base in check? Will undermining their credibility control the media from clouding the judgement of others? Or should outside organizations not be allowed to make these decisions for us? Your thoughts readers?