National / News / November 3, 2010

Iraq War documents leaked

WikiLeaks, the independent organization that released classified material on the war in Afghanistan, has recently leaked another set of documents. This time, they provide some insight into the war in Iraq.

Like WikiLeaks’ information on Afghanistan, the Iraqi war documents were given to several major newspapers around the world, including the New York Times, and made public on WikiLeaks’ website, While the the information revealed may not all be seen as groundbreaking, it provides a deeper look into murkier aspects of the conflict, including the abuse of detainees, the war’s dependence on private contractors and the actual death toll of Iraq civilians.

The press secretary of the Defense Department, Geoff Morrell, criticized WikiLeaks for jeopardizing the lives of American soldiers. Making such information open to the public, he argued, could benefit the operations of terrorist groups.

“Just as with the leaked Afghan documents, we know our enemies will mine this information, looking for insights into how we operate, cultivate sources and react in combat situations, even the capability of our equipment,” he said. “This security breach could very well get our troops and those they are fighting with killed.”

Prior to publishing some of the documents, the New York Times had communicated with the Pentagon, letting it know which documents it intended to publish and what sort of editing the material had gone through. It omitted information that could harm ongoing military maneuvers or put the lives of military informants at risk. Even though the Pentagon was opposed to the publication, it did not suggest any further redactions.

Currently, WikiLeaks is fraught by struggles from inside and out. Other than for the strain being put on it from the United States and other governments, WikiLeaks’s controversial founder, Julian Assange, is causing divisiveness within its ranks. A 39-year-old computer hacker from Australia, Assange is described by many of his followers as an idealist and a genius.

However, Assange’s support has gradually been dwindling, as many of his collaborators disagree with his seemingly brash approach. Most of the tension is due to Assange’s decision to include the names of Afghan informants in WikiLeaks’s previous release of information, although it was “with the knowledge of the tremendous good and prevention of harm that is caused,” according to Assange

With Assange currently on the run and 391,832 documents on Iraq leaked to the leading papers in the world, some valid questions to ask are: what is being put at risk by making this information publicly available? And even if the risk is minimal, is it worth it?

Many Knox students certainly think so. Freshman Alex Burik is one student who believes that spreading awareness about national matters allows for good citizenship.

“During the Vietnam War, there was a lot of protesting. Now nobody cares because everything is censored or not shown,” he said.

Freshman David Sa said that he could “see the trade off” but supported “the revealing of the truth.”

Other students are concerned with the possible dangers involved with the release of the documents. Freshman Joe Rogers believes, “We can know the nature of what our government is doing, but not details that could put the lives of soldiers in danger.”

In response to whether or not WikiLeaks is justified in what it did, freshman Paras Pattell said, “If it hurts someone, no. But in general, the government should be more open with that kind of information.”

Whether there is any debate at all between the value of transparency and concerns for safety is questionable. It illustrates the variety of ideas that can collide when these sensitive political questions are brought to the table. The futures of Assange and WikiLeaks remain to be known.

Stephen Danilovich

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