Staatsfeind Wikileaks: Harm minimization and the Afghan war logs

In WikiSecrets –  a special report on WikiLeaks aired last week by US broadcaster PBS, David Leigh repeats his allegations that Julian Assange had said that informants in Afghanistan ‘deserved to die‘.

Julian Assange denies that he ever said that, see transcript of the interview recorded for the PBS programme here.

Not only Guardian journalists but also SPIEGEL journalists were present at the meeting in question. How do the SPIEGEL journalists describe the story? I have translated the relevant pages (165-167)  from the German book Staatsfeind Wikileaks written by Marcel Rosenbach and Holger Stark.

My translation:

“For the participating media organizations, the intense work with the material soon lead to a number of possible stories, but also critical questions.

The classified documents from the field contained a lot of names: of militaries as well as of insurgents and their suspected collaborators. The documents also identified local sources, who provided the Isaf troups with warnings and information for their fight against the Talibans. Even the payment they received was reported. Furthermore, whoever was not mentioned directly by name could be identified through information about their location, since the GPS coordinates were supplied in all documents.

The Guardian and SPIEGEL reporters discussed the problem with their editors in chief and later, during a dinner, directly with Julian Assange. At this point, there was still a bit more than three weeks until the planned publication date. It was one of those moments, when the difference between WL and the established media would be clarified. The participating newspapers would not print the names, and during that evening in London we and the Guardian journalists urged Assange not to do that either.

For WikiLeaks – an organization which had been set up precisely in order to publish original documents – this was by no means self-evident. The platform, which had already published the private emails of Sarah Palin and the member list of the extreme right-wing party BNP, had no experience in respecting individual rights.

Only recently, Assange had at least allowed a so-called mitigation process. Behind that hid not much more than advance notice to the concerned individuals, and a small time delay of publication. In this way, Assange told us that evening, they had dealt with the BNP member list, for example. And nothing happened to anyone. >>Well<<, he added, >>some of them might have lost their jobs.<<

But the Afghanistan documents could not be compared with the member list of a British political party. In Afghanistan there was war. The Talibans killed their fellow citizens on much less grounds than betrayal to the enemy. Assange promised he would take care of this problem. He conceded that a lax management of this matter not only would put lives in danger, but also would discredit his organization. He envisioned a technical solution, he said, but he needed to speak with his people about it. The decision, however, he apparently made alone. Daniel Domscheit-Berg became aware of it only through der SPIEGEL and was perplexed with the breach of the hitherto principles of WikiLeaks.

With these vast amounts of data, completely excluding all danger would hardly be possible. >>We have already in the past been forced to make difficult decisions. WL will try to minimize damages but in any case publish. This archive belongs to the Afghanistan people.<<

And the expected outcries and protests from the Pentagon? Assange laughs, he enjoys the show already. In fact he is – three weeks before the publication – downright boisterous. >>Last time<<, he jokes, >>the American foreign minister criticized that the Bagdad incident video {Collateral Murder] showed only a moment, a small excerpt, like through a straw. This time they cannot complain, this time we show also what is before and after, the entire context, simply everything.<<

In the end, WL decides to hold back around 15,000 documents. Material, which possibly could constitute a potential danger for the people mentioned in it.”

Original text:

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Staatsfeind Wikileaks: Harm minimization and the Afghan war logs

  1. Leni

    I red the book and therefore I never really understood, why everyone is upset about the harm minimization.

    I really never heard that quote before the PBS report.
    Though I’m following the news about WikiLeaks, but I’m german and read der Spiegel and a little bit Guardian, maybe thats the reason I don’t really find anything offensive, because at least Spiegel is not biased?

  2. worldcitizen

    Witness A (AA) +18 days of complaint
    Witness B (SW) +19 days
    Witness C (AA) +19 days
    Witness D (SW) +24 days
    Witness E (JA) +31 days
    Witness F (JA) +31 days
    Witness G (SW) +47 days
    Witness H (SW) +63 days
    Witness I (SW) +63 days
    Witness J (JA?) +7 months <= Anna Troberg. I SVT-dokun tyckte jag hon misstänkliggjorde JA, med att säga typ: folk kan inte förstå att man kan göra jättebra saker och jättedåliga saker.
    http://www.swedenversusassange.com/Investigation.html

    http://nyheter24.se/nyheter/inrikes/543643-falkvinge-kallas-till-polisforhor
    21 april 2011 01:44

    Rick Falkvinges twitter om polisförhöret.
    😮 RT@Falkvinge: I have now been called to give defence testimony in investigation of #Assange here in SE. That should be the missing puzzle piece for some.

  3. worldcitizen

    Edit:

    Witness A (AA) +18 days of complaint
    Witness B (SW) +19 days
    Witness C (AA) +19 days
    Witness D (SW) +24 days
    Witness E (JA) +31 days
    Witness F (JA) +31 days
    Witness G (SW) +47 days
    Witness H (SW) +63 days
    Witness I (SW) +63 days
    Witness J (JA?) +7 months <= Anna Troberg.
    http://www.swedenversusassange.com/Investigation.html

    http://nyheter24.se/nyheter/inrikes/543643-falkvinge-kallas-till-polisforhor
    20 april 2011

    Rick Falkvinges twitter om polisförhöret.
    😮 RT@Falkvinge: I have now been called to give defence testimony in investigation of #Assange here in SE. That should be the missing puzzle piece for some.

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