Facts and Myths in the WikiLeaks/Guardian Saga

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Salon.com

Facts and Myths in the WikiLeaks/Guardian Saga

A series of unintentional though negligent acts by multiple parties -- WikiLeaks, The Guardian's investigative reporter David Leigh, and Open Leaks' Daniel Domscheit-Berg -- has resulted in the publication of all 251,287 diplomatic cables, in unredacted form, leaked last year to WikiLeaks (allegedly by Bradley Manning).  Der Spiegel (in English) has the best and most comprehensive step-by-step account of how this occurred. 

This incident is unfortunate in the extreme for multiple reasons: it's possible that diplomatic sources identified in the cables (including whistleblowers and human rights activists) will be harmed; this will be used by enemies of transparency and WikiLeaks to disparage both and even fuel efforts to prosecute the group; it implicates a newspaper, The Guardian, that generally produces very good and responsible journalism; it likely increases political pressure to impose more severe punishment on Bradley Manning if he's found guilty of having leaked these cables; and it will completely obscure the already-ignored, important revelations of serious wrongdoing from these documents.  It's a disaster from every angle.  But as usual with any controversy involving WikiLeaks, there are numerous important points being willfully distorted that need clarification.

Let's begin with the revelations that are being obscured and ignored by this controversy.  Several days ago, WikiLeaks compiled a list of 30 significant revelations from the newly released cables, and that was when only a fraction of them had been published; there are surely many more now, including ones still undiscovered in the trove of documents (here's just one example).  The cable receiving the most attention thus far -- first reported by John Glaser of Antiwar.com -- details a "heinous war crime [by U.S forces] during a house raid in Iraq in 2006, wherein one man, four women, two children, and three infants were summarily executed" and their house thereafter blown up by a U.S. airstrike in order to destroy the evidence.  Back in 2006, the incident was discussed in American papers as a mere unproven "allegation" ("Regardless of which account is correct . . "), and the U.S. military (as usual) cleared itself of any and all wrongdoing.  But the cable contains evidence vesting the allegations of Iraqis with substantial credibility, and that, in turn, has now prompted this:

Iraqi government officials say they will investigate newly surfaced allegations that U.S. soldiers shot women and children, then tried to cover it up with an airstrike, during a 2006 hunt for insurgents.

An adviser to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Ali Al-Moussawi, said Friday the government will revive its stalled probe now that new information about the March 15, 2006, raid has come to light.

As usual, many of those running around righteously condemning WikiLeaks for the potential, prospective, unintentional harm to innocents caused by this leak will have nothing to say about these actual, deliberate acts of wanton slaughter by the U.S.  The accidental release of these unredacted cables will receive far more attention and more outrage than the extreme, deliberate wrongdoing these cables expose.  That's because many of those condemning WikiLeaks care nothing about harm to civilians as long as it's done by the U.S. government and military; indeed, such acts are endemic to the American wars they routinely cheer on.  What they actually hate is transparency and exposure of wrongdoing by their government; "risk to civilians" is just the pretext for attacking those, such as WikiLeaks, who bring that about.

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Glenn Greenwald

Glenn Greenwald is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, constitutional lawyer, commentator, author of three New York Times best-selling books on politics and law, and a staff writer and editor at First Look media. His fifth and latest book is, No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State, about the U.S. surveillance state and his experiences reporting on the Snowden documents around the world. Prior to his collaboration with Pierre Omidyar, Glenn’s column was featured at Guardian US and Salon.  His previous books include: With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the PowerfulGreat American Hypocrites: Toppling the Big Myths of Republican PoliticsA Tragic Legacy: How a Good vs. Evil Mentality Destroyed the Bush Presidency, and How Would a Patriot Act? Defending American Values from a President Run Amok. He is the recipient of the first annual I.F. Stone Award for Independent Journalism, a George Polk Award, and was on The Guardian team that won the Pulitzer Prize for public interest journalism in 2014.

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