The Public Eye

Reports from the Bee's investigative team

June 29, 2010
Wikileaks - "whistleblower" or "information vandal"?

Wikileaks, a website that has gotten substantial attention by posting classified material, official records and a wide range of other information - from the vitally important to simple oddities - has taken a broadside from what one might consider a natural ally: the Federation of American Scientists "Secrecy News" blog.

Many "who are engaged in open government, anti-corruption and whistleblower protection activities are wary of WikiLeaks or disdainful of it," wrote Steven Aftergood, the blogger and an outspoken advocate of reducing government secrecy. Aftergood criticized Wikileaks for sometimes engaging in "unethical behavior," such as publishing online a pirated version of the full text of a book about Kenyan corruption.

"WikiLeaks has published a considerable number of valuable official records that had been kept unnecessarily secret and were otherwise unavailable," Aftergood wrote. "Its most spectacular disclosure was the formerly classified videotape  (still image of carnage, from Wikileaks, below) copter strike.JPG showing an attack by a U.S. Army helicopter crew in Baghdad in 2007 which led to the deaths of several non-combatants...it also published numerous documents that have no particular policy significance or that were already placed in the public domain by others (including a few that were taken from the FAS web site)."

Aftergood went to far as to count WikiLeaks "among the enemies of open society because it does not respect the rule of law nor does it honor the rights of individuals. Last year, for example, WikiLeaks published the "secret ritual" of a college women's sorority called Alpha Sigma Tau. Now Alpha Sigma Tau (like several other sororities "exposed" by WikiLeaks) is not known to have engaged in any form of misconduct, and WikiLeaks does not allege that it has. Rather, WikiLeaks chose to publish the group's confidential ritual just because it could. This is not whistleblowing and it is not journalism. It is a kind of information vandalism."

-Charles Piller

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About The Public Eye

Welcome to The Bee's newest blog: Public Eye. In the coming months, you will see us breaking news here as well as following up on investigations we have published with tidbits, news breaks and behind-the-scenes descriptions of our news-gathering process. Know of a wrong we could right? Send our fraud squad your tips at: fraudsquad@sacbee.com.

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