Foreign Policy Blogs

The WikiLeaks Debate

Patrick Frost of the FPA Afghanistan blog took a strong stand against the WikiLeaks revelations yesterday, condemning The New York Times, Guardian, and Der Speigel.  I debate him in the comments section.  Stop by and join in if you feel inclined.

The revelations in the leaked documents were not revelations.  As Robert Gibbs noted yesterday:

I don’t know that what is being said or what is being reported isn’t something that hasn’t been discussed fairly publicly, again, by named U.S. officials and in many news stories.  I mean, The New York Times had a story on this topic in March of 2009 written by the same authors.

And an exchange later in the Gibbs press briefing gets to the heart of the matter:

MR. GIBBS:  Well, I’m not saying it’s — yes, I said there weren’t any new revelations in the material.

Q    So how does it harm national security if we’ve known this already?

MR. GIBBS:  Well, because you’ve got — it’s not the content as much as it is their names, their operations, there’s logistics, there are sources — all of that information out in a public way has the potential, Ed, to do harm.  If somebody is cooperating with the federal government and their name is listed in an action report, I don’t think it’s a stretch to believe that that could potentially put a group or an individual at great personal risk.

But is this a genuine concern?  The Times defended its decision today:

The Times and the two other news organizations agreed not to disclose anything that was likely to put lives at risk or jeopardize military or antiterrorist operations, and The Times redacted the names of Afghan informants and other delicate information from the documents it published. WikiLeaks said it withheld posting about 15,000 documents for the same reason.

So what is Gibbs tlaking about?  Did The Times et al. miss something in their redactions?  If so, does Patrick Frost win the debate?