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Early Questions About The Newly Leaked Classified Data on Guantanamo…

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… which hit the stands this evening via NYT, WAPO, the Telegraph and numerous other media outlets; courtesy of Wikileaks, many say.

Interestingly, NYT reports Wikileaks was not responsible for this release, claiming the documents were originally leaked to Wikileaks but were released to the media by “another party”:

These articles are based on a huge trove of secret documents leaked last year to the anti-secrecy organization WikiLeaks and made available to The New York Times by another source on the condition of anonymity.

If not Wikileaks, who? Well, who knows? Openleaks, founded by defectors from Wikileaks last year, might be the source, given that a) those who founded Openleaks claim they took the submissions architecture with them along with access to materials that had been submitted prior to the split and b) the scattershot media strategy is a contrast to Assange’s erstwhile special relationship with NYT, Guardian and Der Spiegel – a relationship criticized by Wikileaks insiders that had contributed to the splintering of the organization last year.

However, an anonymous, indiscriminate release regarding a vulnerable human population strikes me as a strange inaugral effort from Openleaks, an organization who claims to be more transparent and careful with human subjects concerns than its predecessor. There is also nothing on the Openleaks website that suggests to me that they believe they’re ready for prime-time.

Additionally, Daniel Domscheit-Berg, founder of Openleaks, wrote in his new memoir Inside Wikileaks: My Time With Julian Assange at the World’s Most Dangerous Website that Openleaks had no intention of publishing material removed from Assange’s control along with the submissions platform (presumably because of security risks):

Children shouldn’t play with guns. That was our argument for removing the submissions platform from Julian’s control… we did tnot take this step to damage Julian personally. We were not motivated by revenge. And we did not want to get our own hands on the material, or divert it to Openleaks. We just decided to take away these dangerous toys so that Julian could not do harm to anyone else. We will only return the material to Julian if and when he can prove that he can store the material securely and handle it carefully and responsibly…

If Domsheit-Berg is a credible source (the entire memoir outlines just how insecure sensitive WL materials were during much of its existence – reviews here and here), another possibility is that materials still under Assange’s control ended up in a third party’s hands through another means.

Or Wikileaks did the release after all. Or both Wikileaks and Openleaks had the information and tied to get the jump on one another. Or a third party did the leak but Wikileaks wants to get credit by tweeting all the news coverage with “Wikileaks” in the headline while blaming Openleaks – whoever is handling the Wikileaks twitter feed these days is presenting the second version of events:

Domschiet, NYT, Guardian, attempted Gitmo spoiler against our 8 group coalition. We had intel on them and published first.

Thoughts, links and info from readers as things develop are most welcome. If both Wikileaks and Openleaks are behind this release, it may be interesting to watch what variation in the reportage tells us about the contrast in how the two organizations operate. At any rate, the politics of the leak itself will be just as interesting as the evidence in the documents.

My only other reaction for now is that while the past four major WL releases were carefully framed to make US foreign policy decisions in the war on terror look bad, this new release may well have – or have been calculated to have – the opposite effect. While some news sources are stressing that “children and senile old men are among the detainees” other are almost making Obama look too soft on Guantanamo detainees (breaking news from the leak includes detainees’ threats against interrogators and claims of a nuclear holocaust if bin Laden is captured). Benajmin Wittes has a few similar thoughts.

The Administration’s response as of an hour ago is here.

[cross-posted at Duck of Minerva]

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  • News Nag

    Was all the leaking meant to eventually, if not from the beginning, give certain intelligence agencies a platform to push their agendas?

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  • Simple mind

    Do you still want to see Assange in irons, Charli? We all know that Gitmo was the US version of Devil’s Island, and now we have the facts.

  • Flypaper

    Soooo… Indiscriminately releasing these reports is going to do *what*? Negatively influence the jury that’s never going to exist? Lead an otherwise implausibly impartial military tribunal to give undue weight to their own interrogators’ opinions?

    …Scuttle the prosecutors’ good-faith attempts (heh) to bring Teh Bad Guys to justice by working within the system? Seriously, the whole argument seems to assume a measure of genuflection to the rule of law that hasn’t been in evidence for what, eight years?

  • Bill Murray

    Focusing on the picayune point of who leaked the material seems a classical diversionary attempt. Were there no incorrectly spelled words or salacious gossip you could focus on?

    • norbizness

      Chief Wiggum: Oh my God! Someone’s taken a bite out of the big Rice Krispie square! Oh yeah, and the waiter’s been brutally beaten. Heh.

  • If we assume Wittes is correct (“I have spent a great deal of time over the years trying to shed light on the Guantanamo population. This sort of wholesale document dump is exactly the wrong way to do it.”)—and I do in the short- and medium-term—then the motivation for the data dump should be assumed to be to obfuscate the issues with hyperbole.

    Given that, the NYT is the logical place to release it.

  • kathleen

    McClatchy and Tom Lasseter did a series of articles at least two years ago about the Guantanamo population, based on information then available. I checked, and McClatchy apparently had these, or similar documents in the latest leak. But I think obsessing about the source is the wrong focus.
    It’s interesting, assuming they all got the same documents (which is a big assumption) that different news organizations highlighted different things. Almost like an ink-blot test.

  • herr doktor bimler

    claims of a nuclear holocaust if bin Laden is captured

    10 days later, bin Laden has been captured, and oh look, no nuclear holocaust. That’s my reason for belatedly wondering whether Charli still regards the release of these cables as “making Obama look too soft on Guantanamo detainees”.

    To my eyes at least, the cables are a testimony to the fact that torturing detainees will produce whatever bullshit the interrogators want to hear. Papers like the Daily Torygraph have pored through them looking for sinister bits that will scare the readers but they would do that however innocuous the raw data might be. For instance, the part of the story where the supposed nuclear weapon is not being used at the moment but is rather held in reserve for the capture of bin Laden… that’s not in the cables. The Torygraph made it up.

    The reports on al-Qaeda’s supposed nuclear capability were crap, and anyone who reads the leaked PDFs can see they’re crap. These are the same interrogators, after all, who record with a straight face that

    “Detainee [Abd al-Rahim Hussein Muhammad Abdah al-Nashiri] is so dedicated to jihad that he reportedly received injections to promote impotence and recommended the injections to others.”

    Anyone credulous enough to look at these outcomes of “enhanced interrogation” and credit them, and see them as making Obama look soft on the treatment of detainees, has a problem.

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