Foreign Policy Blogs

WikiLeaks's Material Out of Context and Confusing

Much has been made over WikiLeaks’s recent document leak on Afghanistan. Some of the most interesting commentary can be found from journalists.

The Columbia Journalism Review says in an article called “The Story Behind the Publication of WikiLeaks’s Afghanistan Log” that the most interesting part of the story is what happened behind the scenes before the logs were published:

You wouldn’t be reading the coverage of the so-called Afghanistan logs—in The New York Times, Der Spiegel, and The Guardian—if Nick Davies, a senior contributor to the British paper, hadn’t tracked down WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in Brussels one month ago.

Davies’s interest had been piqued in mid-June when Bradley Manning, a junior army intelligence analyst and the alleged source of several high-profile WikiLeaks disclosures, was quoted in chat transcripts claiming to have leaked a voluminous amount of yet-to-be disclosed diplomatic cables.

Editor & Publisher offered up the fact that this isn’t the first time WikiLeaks has published something without context:

An Internet activist with a clear political agenda posts a strategically-edited snippet of seemingly-explosive video on his website and sits back to enjoy the media fireworks.

Sounds like Andrew Breitbart, right?

But let’s not forget that Julian Assange, over at Wikileaks, did precisely the same thing back in April with the infamous “Collateral Murder” video of an attack by a U.S. Apache helicopter crew. Wikileaks claimed its edited version of the video “[depicted] the indiscriminate slaying of over a dozen people” in a Baghdad suburb — and the mainstream media quickly fell all over itself to help disseminate the damning excerpt.

It turned out, of course, that a viewing of the longer, unedited version of the video showed a “fog of war” situation that, while troubling, was considerably less clear-cut.

An analysis in The Epoch Times shows something surprising and less focused on by mainstream media reports on the leaked documents.

Reports Joshua Philipp:

Civilian casualties and corruption in the Afghan government have been among the largest topics surrounding the reports, yet the actual content is much different from the hype.

The Epoch Times sorted through the top 45 documents rated by severity.
When sorted by level of severity, the reports show that the overwhelming number of civilian casualties and injuries were caused by the Taliban and other insurgents. Also, all reports of contact with insurgent forces show what appear as large victories for U.S. troops, with limited civilian casualties.

The fact that the media and press organizations had to sort through the meaning and value of the WikiLeaks documents demonstrates the downside of acting as a source for leaked documents and video.

Without editorial context or ethical standards, the truth can become so hazy that the leaked information only raises questions–not provides answers. They don’t call it the fog of war for nothing.



Genevieve Belmaker

Genevieve Belmaker is a freelance journalist and contributing editor with The Epoch Times ( She also contributes to Quill, the magazine of the Society of Professional Journalists and Her blog on journalism is

Genevieve has traveled throughout the U.S., Asia, Central America, Israel and the West Bank for reporting assignments, including major investigative reports on the recovery of New Orleans, the encroaching presence of China in Costa Rica and Nicaragua, the dangerous import of melamine-contaminated milk into the U.S. and settlement outposts in the West Bank. She regularly reports on issues related to journalism, and the work of journalists.

She holds a BA from the University of Southern California in International Relations, and has been a member of several prominent national and international professional media organizations, including the Society of Professional Journalists, Investigative Reporters and Editors, the International Women’s Media Foundation, the New York Press Club, and the Newswomen’s Club of New York. She lives in Jerusalem, Israel with her husband and son.

Areas of Focus:
New Media; Journalism; Culture and Society