Tuesday, December 28, 2010

As much as the Wikileaks saga has ended up being one of the biggest stories of the latter part of 2010 - and looks likely to continue well into 2011 - I continue to be surprised at how much of the story seems to be avoiding much media scrutiny.

On the one hand, you have Wikileaks, the website which is dedicated to giving whistleblowers of all stripes a place to turn if they want to "leak" some sensitive documents or point the finger at something they think is wrong. No one seems to be entirely sure how that process works, nor did any of the major media organizations seem to pay much attention until this most recent "leak" of US government diplomatic cables.

On the other hand, there is a well-designed and straightforward campaign to discredit the Wikileaks organization and especially its founder, Julian Assange. You're likely familiar with that part of the story.

But there is a tremendous backstory developing, which is being told by some - even if its not gaining enough traction with the "traditional" media venues.

One of those doing an impressive job of exploring and detailing the entire Wikileaks saga is Glenn Greenwald, a US lawyer, columnist, blogger, and author, He writes a blog at Salon.com and he's also appeared on network TV news shows.

I've linked to a few articles, by Greenwald and others, about the Wikileaks story as it's developed. Recently, Greenwald posted "The worsening journalistic disgrace at Wired," about U.S. Army PFC Bradley Manning,  who is alleged to have leaked the Apache helicopter video and the diplomatic cables to Wikileaks.  His column explores some fascinating - and seemingly ignored - issues with  the connections between Wired Senior Editor Kevin Poulsen and Adrian Lamo -  the chief source of the charges against Manning.
For more than six months, Wired's Senior Editor Kevin Poulsen has possessed -- but refuses to publish -- the key evidence in one of the year's most significant political stories:  the arrest of U.S. Army PFC Bradley Manning for allegedly acting as WikiLeaks' source. In late May, Adrian Lamo -- at the same time he was working with the FBI as a government informant against Manning -- gave Poulsen what he purported to be the full chat logs between Manning and Lamo in which the Army Private allegedly confessed to having been the source for the various cables, documents and video that WikiLeaks released throughout this year. In interviews with me in June, both Poulsen and Lamo confirmed that Lamo placed no substantive restrictions on Poulsen with regard to the chat logs:  Wired was and remains free to publish the logs in their entirety.

Despite that, on June 10, Wired published what it said was only "about 25 percent" of those logs, excerpts that it hand-picked. For the last six months, Poulsen has not only steadfastly refused to release any further excerpts, but worse, has refused to answer questions about what those logs do and do not contain. This is easily one of the worst journalistic disgraces of the year:  it is just inconceivable that someone who claims to be a "journalist" -- or who wants to be regarded as one -- would actively conceal from the public, for months on end, the key evidence in a political story that has generated headlines around the world.
There is a lot of stuff to explore in this story. I recommend you take some time to follow the links and look into some of the issues for yourself.

And there's plenty of fodder on the other side of the issue as well, by people who think that Julian Assange is the problem. Salon, to its credit, is giving all sides of the issue the space to make their cases.

You also might want to watch this video of Glenn Greenwald on CNN on Monday, to get a taste of the kind of biased, shoddy journalism that seems to be the norm on TV these days. Watch the video, then read Greenwald's thoughts about it in his latest post, "The merger of journalists and government officials." (UPDATE - I was going to link to the video on YouTube but I can't find it anymore. Strange. However, there is a link to it at the end of Greenwald's blog post.)

As this debate (or non-debate) continues, what is galling for me is that we seem to be losing our ability to debate an issue thoroughly. We all used to laugh at those kids in the debating club in high school, but true debate is a valuable and worthwhile skill. In fact, our democratic system is built on it. But we are rapidly evolving into a polarized society - where there are only two sides on an issue. Period.

That's not a good thing.

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