Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Investigations: WikiLeaks Raw Military Files Up for Public Study
Vast trove of Afghanistan-related internal U.S. military documents released by WikiLeaks here. The nonprofit has organized the files by category (e.g. from "assassination" to "unexploded ordinance"), region, date, severity, etc., including links explaining military jargon and Google maps locations. ProPublica has argued the files are "no Pentagon Papers" - the 1971 military leak that helped turn public opinion against the Vietnam War. But this analysis from Stratfor disagrees, suggesting WikiLeaks has published documents that are even more revealing, especially in what they tell us about Pakistan's support for the Taliban and the hopelessness of the U.S.-led mission in Afghanistan.
I think it's far too early to say the documents aren't significant - not just for their content but also the form in which they've been made available. The full 75,000-document release has yet to be studied thoroughly by more than a few reporters so far, and its full impacts will not be known for weeks or months. Or maybe, due to the sheer volume of files, the WikiLeaks release will overwhelm reporters and the public and fade - as often happens in our era of info overload. What's cool and different now, however, is we all have easy, searchable access to the digital raw files.
In their WikiLeaks form, we can all take a stab at trying to figure out what they mean, rather than a tiny handful of reporters or cognoscenti. Whether some commentators like it or not, this release is a signal event in the democratization of information in the digital era.