By and large I’ve been holding off on comments on the recent developments with WikiLeaks. I don’t have the time to figure out what aspects of the story are credible and what is inflated if not outright confabulation. I have tagged the bit about the group of citizen vigilantes online for a bit closer reading this weekend.
Otherwise, I think WikiLeaks is more symptomatic of deeper problems with modern journalism and the traditional free speech protections afforded it. I am not saying a clearing house of leaked documents is journalism or is even the best response to issues of accountability, journalistic rigor, and an uncertain future in terms of the resources need to undertake the sustained work that characterizes the best journalism. I merely think that in the absence of an up to date, Federal shield law and with the uncertainty brought on by media consolidation and outmoded revenue models, this happens to be one form that information has found to out itself.
A couple of things caught my attention all the same. First is news that the US Defense Department has asked WikiLeaks to destroy all copies of military documents it has received. The Register’s lede on this is dead on, it is impossible to undo whatever has been done, whether you see that as a benefit, a harm, or more realistically a stew of both. The savvier commentators I’ve heard weigh in are suggesting that the military needs to take better control over its own communications, even perhaps considering increased transparency as many of its civilian counterparts have been pursuing.
The second is a story originally broken by the Washington Times (but since removed) and picked up by Wired. The US Marine Corps, according to Wired which picked up the story, has forbidden its troops and civilian employees from accessing WikiLeaks. As the article has it from the Defense Department’s social media chief, this statement may actually be pro forma, disconnected from the War Logs and surrounding drama. I have to side with the Noah Shachtman on this one, failing to use this information merely puts our armed forces at a disadvantage over adversaries that have no such qualms.