WikiLeaks coverage part of the job
Media handles fiasco as it should
Published: Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Updated: Thursday, December 2, 2010 22:12
When WikiLeaks released countless government documents on operations in Iraq and Afghanistan earlier in 2010, the media naturally jumped on the topic. Military and government officials condemned the leaks and the ensuing media firestorm was as harmful to U.S. troops as it proved to be to allies abroad; now, after the leak of diplomatic cables, they are doing the same. But the press is simply doing its job by reporting on an unprecedented release of classified documents. The individuals who leaked these secret documents are the only parties truly responsible for casualties that might occur because of the publication of such state secrets. Men like Bradley Manning and even WikiLeaks' director, Julian Assange, are really the ones to blame.
The press did an admirable job handling the situation. All three news sources given access to the Afghan War Diaries waited to release their information simultaneously, and in the case of the Iraq War Logs news organizations were doing the same until one (Al Jazeera) jumped the gun. Perhaps New York Times Public Editor Arthur Brisbane said it best by explaining that "WikiLeaks, with or without The Times, could publish its material on the Internet. So The Times' choice was whether to use its resources to organize and filter material that was going public, one way or another."
Americans and indeed all global citizens rely on the media for information—for the truth. Reporting on WikiLeak's insider information did not and does not constitute any felonious or seditious act, or even a morally corrupt decision. Again, the Times put it well. "Deciding whether to publish secret information is always difficult, and after weighing the risks and public interest, we sometimes chose not to publish. But there are times when the information is of significant public interest, and this is one of those times," read a note to the readers. Whether or not the papers had reported on the issue, the information would still be available. The media simply provides condensed content, analysis and background to the majority of the world that has neither the time nor the inclination to sift through endless bureacuratic babble. If anyone is to be criticized for these leaks, it is those who are actually releasing the information.
An informant like Bradley Manning, the U.S. soldier responsible for some of WikiLeaks' documents, has betrayed his country. Freedom of speech is certainly a crucial part of the American way of life, but Bradley Manning was not sharing his knowledge for the greater good; he said himself that he hoped the leaks would lead to "worldwide anarchy."
Perhaps if Manning's reason for leaking such vital information was to reveal crimes against humanity, his exposure would be more understandable, admirable even. But as it is, he and Julian Assange both have blood on their hands. The media simply disseminated information that Manning and Assange were determined to release. The media cannot change the facts; it can only report them. And so it did.