How WikiLeaks Is Changing the World

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Photo: Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images

After dumping 90,000 documents from the war in Afghanistan, and with a treasure trove of millions of files on other topics from around the world waiting to be released, everywhere-and-nowhere Internet leak hub WikiLeaks is once again the center of a discussion about the changing landscape of investigative journalism and the relationship between the media and the state secrets it reports. Nobody questions the importance of WikiLeaks, but not everyone is pleased.

Alexis Madrigal, Atlantic:

[T]he truth is that we don't really know what Wikileaks is, or what the organization's ethics are, or why they've become such a stunningly good conduit of classified information. In the new asymmetrical journalism, it's not clear who is on what side or what the rules of engagement actually are. But the reason Wikileaks may have just changed the media is that we found out that it doesn't really matter. Their data is good, and that's what counts.


Jay Rosen, PressThink:

If you go to the Wikileaks Twitter profile, next to “location” it says: Everywhere. Which is one of the most striking things about it: the world’s first stateless news organization....

Appealing to national traditions of fair play in the conduct of news reporting misunderstands what Wikileaks is about: the release of information without regard for national interest. In media history up to now, the press is free to report on what the powerful wish to keep secret because the laws of a given nation protect it. But Wikileaks is able to report on what the powerful wish to keep secret because the logic of the Internet permits it. This is new. Just as the Internet has no terrestrial address or central office, neither does Wikileaks.


David Carr, Twitter:

Asymmetries of WikiLeaks has government (and MSM) back on heels .... Horses have left barn.


Dave Gilson, Mojo/Mother Jones:

[I]t's a bit unexpected to see WikLeaks emerge from the rabbit hole of intrigue to assume the the role of a fairly traditional source, stepping back and (so far) letting mainstream journalists do the analysis and presentation of its Afghan docs. It's an interesting decision for many reasons, not least of which is the possibility that WikiLeaks may have found the perfect way to balance its remarkable ability to obtain sensitive information with its paradoxically opaque M.O. But perhaps the approach is purely pragmatic: Spend some time with the raw data in the Afghan War Diary, and you'll probably soon want someone else to do the heavy lifting of translation, aggregation, and explanation.


Dan Gillmor, Salon:

What WikiLeaks represents is what governments and corporations fear: a threat to their cultures of secrecy and dominance in their domains.

Look for Washington and our corporate media to call for new laws to stop this kind of thing. Politicians and bureaucrats who don't trust us to know what's really going on — they are legion in both major parties — have allies among the traditional media and the entertainment industry that would gain enormously if the Internet were to be turned into a slightly more interactive version of 20th century print and broadcast media.


Glenn Greenwald, Salon:

Whatever else is true, WikiLeaks has yet again proven itself to be one of the most valuable and important organizations in the world. Just as was true for the video of the Apache helicopter attack in Baghdad, there is no valid justification for having kept most of these documents a secret. But that's what our National Security State does reflexively: it hides itself behind an essentially absolute wall of secrecy to ensure that the citizenry remains largely ignorant of what it is really doing.


Gabriel Schoenfeld, Corner/National Review:

The larger point one might draw from this episode is that democracies like ours have a vital need for secrecy in the conduct of foreign affairs and war. And Wikileaks, which appears to be beyond the reach of our laws, is engaging in an assault on democratic governance. Our best hope of avoiding future such episodes is to do a better job of protecting secrets. Part of this involves tighter security and harsher penalties for those who leak vital secrets. Another no less important part is tackling our government's penchant for overclassification and mis-classification, which breeds disrespect for legitimate secrecy and creates a climate in which even leaks of highly sensitive information are taken as a norm.


James Fallows, Atlantic:

This time, Wikileaks worked with the Times — and the Guardian and Der Spiegel — to organize, make sense of, and presumably vet the data. Wikileaks could have simply posted the raw info even without the news organizations' help. At first glance this is a very sophisticated illustration of how newly evolving media continually change the way we get information, but don't totally replace existing systems. The collaboration of three of the world's leading "traditional" news brands makes a difference in the way this news is received.