Paul Rieckhoff is the Executive Director and Founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), a non-partisan non-profit group with over 100,000 members around the world. Since founding IAVA in 2004, it has become America’s first and largest Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans organization. Rieckhoff is now a nationally recognized authority on the war in Iraq and issues affecting troops, military families and veterans.
After graduating from Amherst College in 1998 with a degree in Political Science, Rieckhoff coached high school football, worked on Wall Street, participated in the rescue efforts at Ground Zero on 9/11, and served as an infantry platoon leader in Iraq from 2003-2004. In the spring of 2004, Rieckhoff became one of the first Iraq veterans to publicly criticize the war, call for better care for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, and demand accountability from elected officials. In 2006 Rieckhoff also published Chasing Ghosts, a critically acclaimed account of his experiences in Iraq and activism on behalf of veterans.
Question: What should happen to Bradley Manning, the WikiLeaker?
Paul Rieckhoff: Bradley Manning should go to jail, and Bradley Manning will go to jail because Bradley Manning, and this is... granted, we have to see how the trial pans out – it appears as though Bradley Manning broke the law. If you have a security clearance within the military, and you take it upon yourself to download classified information onto a datastick and send it to Julian Assange, you have broken the law, and you will go to jail. Everybody in the military understands that, down to the most basic private.
So this entire situation with Bradley Manning and WikiLeaks has undoubtedly put people's lives in danger—both American and Afghan, and Iraqi. As an example, Julian Assange has said that he has not personally read the 91,000 documents that were included in this latest leak. So then, how can he possibly know what's in those documents and what's not? How can he possibly responsibly assure us that there aren't the names of informants, that there aren't vulnerabilities to vehicle systems, as an example. He can't. And now, over time, we've found that there are, for example, the names of Afghan informants in some of these documents. And Al Qaeda has said, “We are reading these documents. We are studying these documents, and we will kill the people we can figure out.”
Julian Assange is not doing a public service by disclosing confidential information. And for the folks who are calling for transparency and openness in government, I understand that, and I agree: we do need transparency and openness. But do we need to have, for example, the President's travel schedule down the to the minute detail published on the Internet? Do we need to have the locations of nuke sites published on the Internet? Should we tell everybody exactly when a humvee is moving from a gate to an objective? No. It doesn't pass the common sense test.
When you talk about WikiLeaks and you think about Julian Assange, you see a real division between people who have dealt with classified information and who have come from the military community, and folks who haven't. There's a huge divide there, but I think over time we're gonna see that Julian Assange and WikiLeaks have been incredibly irresponsible, they are not journalists, and they are not upholding the level of integrity that I think they claim to do. That's why you've seen such a pushback from the White House, and Department of Defense, and pretty much everybody who knows anything about military affairs. And I think over time the general public will understand why we've been so concerned about this, but at the end of the day I think Admiral Mullen is right. I think Julian Assange and WikiLeaks already probably have blood on their hands.
The one last thing I'll say about WikiLeaks that I think is really important was that it kind of felt like a flashback for me to 2004 where I was watching tons of people on TV and in the news who had no idea what the hell they were talking about. There were very few people who understood even what classified information was, much less the details of what was disclosed in some of these documents. So I would argue that for folks watching right now, demand knowledgeable sources. Demand people who understand what the hell they're talking about when you're trying to dig into these issues. You wouldn't have some random guy in the street talk about performing an appendectomy. So why would you have some random guy in the street talking about Special Forces operations in Iraq? You need to get credible people who understand the subject matter in order to drive an educated debate, and that's what I think has really been lacking in much of the mainstream media.
Recorded August 2, 2010
Interviewed By Max Miller
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