No Evidence WikiLeaks Disclosed Names of Afghan Informants

Following up on Monday’s post about WikiLeaks, today I address the moral correctness of the organization. There is no evidence that WikiLeaks disclosed the names of Afghan informants; there is inductive evidence that suggests they didn't.


WikiLeaks clearly acted in violation of U.S. law, law which, in light of the Washington Post’s feature on the bloated and overly secretive intelligence culture, does not seem entirely virtuous. So, an important moral question, which most news organizations (in their myopic defense of the rule of law) stop short of asking is: Did WikiLeaks bring net good or net harm to the world by releasing the secret documents? And more generally: Is Wikileaks a net gain or a net loss for justice in the world?

The second question is most effectively answered by responding to the first, by looking at the concrete consequences of WikiLeak’s actions. If we do this, it is impossible to conclude that WikiLeaks has performed an injustice by releasing these Afghan war logs.

Firstly, the U.S. government has alleged WikiLeaks released the identities of Afghans serving the U.S. as informants against the Taliban. Absent this allegation, no case has been made that WikiLeaks caused any demonstrable harm. The U.S., to its credit, has said it has a “moral responsibility” to protect those informants. If it is fulfilling that obligation, those informants, on whom there is evidently very precise data, are already out of Afghanistan or in protective custody. That no evidence has come forward proving the government’s allegation is highly suspicious. I’m not a lawyer, but presumably it would be easy enough to present the evidence to a judge, the judge would confirm the presence of the informants’ names without disclosing them, and the government will have won the propaganda war against WikiLeaks. To date, there have been no reports of attacks or reprisals in Afghanistan based on information released by WikiLeaks.

Unfortunately, the government has phrased its “moral responsibility” in a way that claims the moral high ground while implying that WikiLeaks is a band of firebrand anarchists (which they are) and idiots lacking a moral sense (which they are not). “Do the right thing,” said the spider to the fly. Let’s recall Max Weber’s definition of the sovereign: that entity which has a monopoly on the legitimate use of violence.

WikiLeak’s decision to withhold 15,000 documents from their purge because they did not want to release sensitive information prematurely, that is, before the sensitive information could be blotted out, makes its intentions seem more consistent with the possibility that it did not release the names of Afghan informants.

NYTimes exposé reveals how Facebook handled scandals

Delay, deny and deflect were the strategies Facebook has used to navigate scandals it's faced in recent years, according to the New York Times.

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Politics & Current Affairs
  • The exhaustive report is based on interviews with more than 50 people with ties to the company.
  • It outlines how senior executives misled the public and lawmakers in regards to what it had discovered about privacy breaches and Russian interference in U.S. politics.
  • On Thursday, Facebook cut ties with one of the companies, Definers Public Relations, listed in the report.
Keep reading Show less

Russian reporters discover 101 'tortured' whales jammed in offshore pens

Protected animals are feared to be headed for the black market.

(VL.ru)
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Russian news network discovers 101 black-market whales.
  • Orcas and belugas are seen crammed into tiny pens.
  • Marine parks continue to create a high-price demand for illegal captures.
Keep reading Show less

Unraveling the mystery behind dogs' floppy ears

Dogs' floppy ears may be part of why they and other domesticated animals love humans so much.

Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash
Surprising Science
  • Nearly all domestic animals share several key traits in addition to friendliness to humans, traits such as floppy ears, a spotted coat, a shorter snout, and so on.
  • Researchers have been puzzled as to why these traits keep showing up in disparate species, even when they aren't being bred for those qualities. This is known as "domestication syndrome."
  • Now, researchers are pointing to a group of a cells called neural crest cells as the key to understanding domestication syndrome.
Keep reading Show less