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Believe It or Not, WikiLeaks Can Be an Organization That Accepts Leaks & Archives Information

The material in WikiLeaks most recent release of US diplomatic records from 1973 to 1976 called the “Kissinger Cables” is not information from a “leak.” Much of the information had already been declassified and published by the National Security Archive at George Washington University. It puts the material in a cutting edge searchable database. This has prompted suggestions from critics that WikiLeaks is getting away from its mission.

James Ball, a disaffected former staff member of WikiLeaks, seems to be the most prominent voice putting forth this argument. In a column for The Guardian, he sanctimoniously asks, “Do we need WikiLeaks any more?”

He makes a claim that he cannot prove, “WikiLeaks would not be dealing with 40-year-old material – however significant at the time – if it had anything more recent,”  which is incorrect. WikiLeaks has material that Pfc. Bradley Manning said in a statement in court he provided to WikiLeaks. The organization has just made the decision (whether proper or not) to withhold publishing of the material until after his court martial is over.

Then, Ball argues, “There are masses of public and private funding for specialist groups to make such archives more accessible and complete (and to prevent pulldown). Organisations like the British Library are extending their online archiving efforts for present-day material.” In other words, he is suggesting WikiLeaks may not be a valuable organization if it is taking already public information, curating the content and making it more accessible to the world. He is also suggesting that because there are other organizations out there, the world does not have to look to WikiLeaks for this service (nor should the world do so either).

Ball adds, “WikiLeaks has persuaded several outlets to trawl the archives and write up some of the illuminating material,” as if he thinks this is some kind of con job the organization is perpetrating on press organizations. He notes this is what “journalists do as new material is released under 30-year rules.” But, that should not mean WikiLeaks or some other organization cannot recruit journalists to cover information that may have been declassified but not widely known.

Succinctly, he states: “With WikiLeaks essentially “pivoting” its operations to look at making archive material, it’s perhaps worth reflecting on its original, assumed, mission: to fulfill an unmet need of people who wish to leak sensitive documents to get them published and covered.” Such a statement presumes incorrectly that WikiLeaks cannot do both simultaneously. It also suggests that WikiLeaks may be considering not meeting this “need” anymore, which is unlikely true.

Addressing the time between the largest leaks in US history—the Pentagon Papers and the information Manning disclosed—he makes a few valid points, “Whistleblowers are rare,” and, “Whistleblowers also, often, need cultivation. This can arise through day-to-day contact, slow building of trust, even regular patch reporting.” Then, the animosity he has toward WikiLeaks leads him to utter this conclusion, “But for these sources, the approach of mainstream outlets may be more appropriate.” [cont’d.]

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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."