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Reporters Without Borders Savages Assange Over Release of Classified Memos

'Revealing the identity of hundreds of people who collaborated with the coalition in Afghanistan is highly dangerous.'

2:35 PM, Aug 13, 2010 • By BILL ROGGIO
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The pressure on WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange, from human rights groups continues to mount. One day after five human rights groups critized WikiLeaks and Assange for endangering Afghans who cooperated with Coalition forces and the Afghan government by leaking more than 76,000 U.S. military documents (one human rights leader said WikiLeaks made "no consideration about civilian lives"), Jean-François Julliard, the secretary general of Reporters Without Borders, issued a scathing letter addressed directly to Assange. Julliard called Assange's release of the memos "highly dangerous" and his "imprudence endangers your own sources and, beyond that, the future of the Internet as an information medium." 

But revealing the identity of hundreds of people who collaborated with the coalition in Afghanistan is highly dangerous. It would not be hard for the Taliban and other armed groups to use these documents to draw up a list of people for targeting in deadly revenge attacks.

Defending yourself, you said that it was about “ending the war in Afghanistan.” You also argued that: “Principled leaking has changed the course of history for the better; it can alter the course of history in the present; it can lead us to a better future.” However, the US government has been under significant pressure for some time as regards the advisability of its military presence in Afghanistan, not just since your article’s publication. We are not convinced that your wish to “end the war in Afghanistan” will be so easily granted and meanwhile, you have unintentionally provided supposedly democratic governments with good grounds for putting the Internet under closer surveillance.

It is true that you said that “a further 15,000 potentially sensitive reports” were excluded from the 25 July mass posting, that they were being “reviewed further” and that some of them would be released “once it was deemed safe to do so.”

Nonetheless, indiscriminately publishing 92,000 classified reports reflects a real problem of methodology and, therefore, of credibility. Journalistic work involves the selection of information. The argument with which you defend yourself, namely that Wikileaks is not made up of journalists, is not convincing. Wikileaks is an information outlet and, as such, is subject to the same rules of publishing responsibility as any other media.

When the White House, Pentagon, Amnesty International, Reporters Without Borders, and other human rights groups can agree on a particular issue, perhaps Assange should pay attention. It is time for Assange to reevaluate his stand on the righteousness of his decision to leak the documents without at the very least editing out the names of Afghan civilians from the reports.

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