Anti-censorship leader Aftergood blasts WikiLeaks
Steven Aftergood, a leading opponent of government censorship, strongly denounced WikiLeaks Monday as an “enemy” of openness “because it does not respect the rule of law nor does it honor the rights of individuals.”
“WikiLeaks says that it is dedicated to fighting censorship, so a casual observer might assume that it is more or less a conventional liberal enterprise committed to enlightened democratic policies,” wrote Aftergood, the longtime editor of Secrecy News, a publication of the Federation of American Scientists.
“But on closer inspection that is not quite the case.“
Aftergood denounced the organization, which gained global notoriety in April when it published a classified video of U.S. helicopter crew’s assault on civilians in Baghdad, for invading the privacy of non-governmental groups.
“In fact,” Aftergood wrote, “WikiLeaks routinely tramples on the privacy of non-governmental, non-corporate groups for no valid public policy reason.”
“Last year, for example, WikiLeaks published the 'secret ritual' of a college women's sorority called Alpha Sigma Tau. Now Alpha Sigma Tau (like several other sororities 'exposed' by WikiLeaks) is not known to have engaged in any form of misconduct, and WikiLeaks does not allege that it has. Rather, WikiLeaks chose to publish the group's confidential ritual just because it could.”
Aftergood, regularly cited as an authority on the government's penchant for over-classifying documents, also denounced the group for publishing the “private rites of Masons, Mormons and other groups that cultivate confidential relations among their members.”
“This is not whistleblowing and it is not journalism,” Aftergood declared. “It is a kind of information vandalism.”
Whistleblower advocacy groups did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who says he fears apprehension by U.S. authorities, could not be reached for comment.
But he and his supporters have argued that the secrecy used by governments to cover up crimes or unethical behavior makes Wikileaks necessary.
“The message of WikiLeaks to the controllers of information is this: You can either be transparent, or transparency will be brought to you,” Daniel Schmitt, one of WikiLeaks’ five core directors, told The Washington Post's Joby Warrick this spring.
“We’re not there to take journalists’ jobs away,” Schmitt said. “On the contrary, our goal is to make mainstream journalism cheaper. We enable them to do things that no single newspaper can do by itself.”
| June 28, 2010; 1:03 PM ET
Categories: Intelligence, Lawandcourts, Military
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