Friday, June 18, 2010

Wikileaks has taken on a noble task of unearthing censored and secret information to expose corruption and human rights abuses from governments around the world. In their quest for complete openness and transparency, they've scored a number of significant hits, from exposing corruption in Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi, unearthing toxic chemical dumping in the Ivory Coast, to leaking secret Scientology manuals. The problem with Wikileaks is not their mission, but their execution, particularly in the manner in which they mis-represent some of their material. The most egregious example is of course the infamous Apache gun video, where they completely ignore the fact that the journalists killed were traveling with armed combatants in the middle of an active battlefield.

A number of recent news stories have made reference to Wikileaks posting procedures for secret CIA rendition flights, so I went looking for these. On their site, I found unclassified military procedures for transporting detainees, labeled as relating to secret CIA rendition flights. But the CIA is a different orginization that the military, and rendition is a very different thing than detainment. There is no evidence the the military has ever been involved in rendition. In a similar fashion, on the same page Wikileaks put scare quotes around an excerpt referring to detainees with no intelligence value; the clear implication is that this is somehow not in line with human rights objectives. But, the military has full rights to detain any enemy combatants regardless of their intelligence value. In other times these were known as POWs. The result is that Wikileaks comes across as sloppy and amateurish. This is unfortunate, as these controversies threaten to overshadow what is a noble goal.
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