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Secrecy in the Age of WikiLeaks

After the biggest document leak in history — on the Afghan War — all eyes are on WikiLeaks.  We’re looking at secrecy and transparency in the Wikileaks age.


WikiLeaks tag line...

We’re all learning this week, it’s a whole new world when it comes to busting out secret information.

A few keyboard clicks, a file passed to Wikileaks, and suddenly six years of classified US military field reports out of Afghanistan are naked online for all the world to see.

Missouri Senator Kit Bond says “somebody ought to be wearing an orange jumpsuit” – in prison to pay for the leak.

The Pentagon Papers’ Daniel Ellsberg welcomes a new era of transparency. There is a power shift here.

This hour On Point: Wikileaks, and the future – maybe the end – of secrecy.


Daniel Ellsberg, worked as an analyst at the RAND Corporation in 1971, when he leaked the so-called Pentagon Papers to the New York Times. They included classified high level discussions about the Vietnam War, and showed a belief among U.S. officials close to the war that it could not be won, even as it expanded scope.

Philip Shenon, contributing editor at The Daily Beast, where he’s reported on Julian Assange and Wikileaks. Author of “The Commission, The Uncensored History of The 9/11 Commission.”

Gabriel Schoenfeld, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute.  Author of “Necessary Secrets: National Security, the Media, and the Rule of Law.”

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  • michael

    woot Daniel Ellsberg, i hope tom treats him better than Talk of the Nation did on July 26th.

  • roger

    How about adding Seymour Hersh to the panel?

  • Ted Wade

    I echo Michael’s comment re. Daniel Ellsberg and yesterday’s Talk of the Nation. I found myself longing for a Tom Ashbrook-style interview with probing, yet respectful, questions.

  • http://www.richardsnotes.org Richard

    I agree Roger, Seymour Hersh would add an important point of view to this discussion.

  • Mr. Trees

    I woul;d be interested to hear the mission statement of the WikiLeaks organization as a whole. What is the organization after? Transparency? World Peace? What is the ends that this level of transparency is after? My thoughts are that there must be a give and take that they think is in play. If the give is security and public saftey, what is the take?

  • Steve

    Who says the traditional media — which often has interests other than disseminating truth — has the corner on these types of stories?

    In an age of slick marketing and incessant spin, this may be the only way ordinary citizens in a representative democracy can hold our power structures accountable say “no!” when they do not hold to our ideals.

  • Dub

    A few months ago Russia released documents showing Stalin’s signature on an order to massacre 20,000 people in 1940. Suppose something like Wikileaks had been around 70 years ago to release that document, might the world have been spared one of it’s worst monsters? Knowledge withheld is Power.

  • Jim

    First, I find it funny that folks are criticizing TOTN and their treatment of Ellsberg. The guy would not shut up when the programming called for it. He clearly loves his opinions and the sound of his own voice. But he was not treated disrespectfully.

    It is an interesting question, isn’t it? Should real world factual information be rationed out at the discretion of a government, or are all rational human beings entitled to hear the facts, even if they are unable or unwilling to contextualize and interpret those facts?

    In some ways, this is akin to the catholic church and their treatment of Galileo. Today, we see the suppression of the implications of Galileo’s findings to be intellectually retrograde. But at that time, a penalty of death was deemed very appropriate for possession of evidence that ran counter to established doctrine. And just so, Kit Bond thinks an orange jumpsuit is the right punishment today. Two hundred years from now, he may be viewed as a politician lacking a wise understanding of representative government. Who knows?

    While I appreciate the “national security” argument in the abstract, I think the U.S. Government has badly damaged their own credibility by employing “national security concerns” as flimsy cover for political CYA. Because of this, and because of the obviously innocuous nature of some of these “secret” correspondences, I tend to see Wikileak’s actions as more defensible than not. If I trusted the government (or at least it’s competence) more, I might feel differently.

  • katherine

    It’s about time! Too much secrecy and hidden layers under spin and “marketing” exist in our government. We the people never know anymore what is the truth. Perhaps the reality of the unabashed truth being close at hand will improve the integrity of our government which I fear has degraded disastrously for a while now.
    Of course I don’t want to kill our soldiers but perhaps we wouldn’t be there at war to begin with if the truth were available! Additionally at this point I feel that the governments point that “you are going to jeopardize our troops” is a counter-spin, fear-mongering marketing response.
    My mother says “the truth will out”! It’s about time.

  • Finnbarr Dunphy

    Dear Tom,
    If leaking is such a terrible crime, why isn’t Dick Cheney wearing an orange jumpsuit for leaking the identity of Valerie Plame?

  • Ellen Dibble

    I heard Sange this morning telling either BBC or NPR that there are 15,000 more to come, after editing for security purposes, and I thought I heard ALL were screened by the government (whatever that means) first. And yesterday morning I heard there were 230,000 records in all, with two more groups to come — on Democracy Now.
    I’ve missed some of this discussion, but I’m thinking HOW MUCH? And were they prescreened or not?
    If the media have such divergent “stories,” it’s pretty wild trying to appraise.
    I think Democracy Now had the hacker Adrian Lamou, who outed Bradley Manning.
    Now, you’re hearing a quarter million files. So which is it? 90,000 plus 15,000 or 230,000? Are they screened; if so how? Besides the three newspapers. If Sange is being tailed (as reported) by a set of FBI/CIA types, is it for his protection or in hopes of catching him in some country that will hand him over???

  • Vince

    And you’re saying his opposition makes him wrong? LOL! Your view is tainted, I just don’t know who’s got their hand in your wallet. Thank you Wikileaks for giving me a bit more information to sift; information that shows what our gov’t is doing behind our backs.

  • Mari

    If the U.S. excursions into Afghanistan and Iraq had NOT killed uncountable numbers of innocent, non-combatant people, then Wikileaks would have found some other atrocities to reveal to the world.
    It’s the “mission” to humanity that matters here, not the politics of war-for-profit or which side one takes on that particular topic.

  • Ben

    There seems to be a clear bias on the issue of the war from WikiLeaks, but if they’re just leaking internal documents, that’s not entirely relevant. You could accuse the organization of only leaking information from one side, but they’re not coloring or adding to the information that is being released.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Hearing Bill say how are we harmed, I’d add, to the military mother, that we were deeply harmed by the lack of credibility (Colin Powell’s assertions about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, on and on and on). Soldiers are told, I believe, to bottle it up forever, and are thereby not much helped in emotional healing.
    From the Wikileaks, I seem to hear verification of a lot of things that maybe news buffs like me have picked up on. It tells us yes, we can believe this. And lots of grunt-level soldiers are saying these things. It begins to accrue credibility that none of the big news organizations can command right now. Credibility that the administration doesn’t have right now.
    In short, we don’t believe the media, we don’t believe the administration; but with these leaks, maybe we have an accumulation of bits that altogether do convey actuality. It’s a big relief.

  • paul

    Where was Kit Bond with ‘Orange Jumpsuit’ comments with regards to Valerie Plame? Why aren’t the Tea Party folks applauding this leak as the leak demonstrates significant government lies and deception, the wasting of taxpayer money and american lives. War advocates require secrecy – this kind of transparency undermines all their reasons for continuing this war.

  • Steve T

    Yes It’s about time. Our government needs to come clean but will they?

    Thees leaks don’t give away battle plans, but the political mess and stupid decisions made are out in the open. I think that the Gov is embarrassed and angry because their dress got ripped off in public and their bare a$$ is showing.

    The American people were not hurt by this truth but if the information is not used to stop this war it’s a shame because we’ve been lied to enough.

  • Vince

    Sorry to post twice. We call that fear your guest is sowing, FUD. The presence of an all-seeing, all-evil, all-pervasive evil, that is ready to swallow the country in its slobbery maw and take us into oblivion forever. Pshaw. “Protecting the country” is just the newest slogan being dragged along the bottom of CNN’s screen to justify keeping the citizenry off balance, out of the loop, and out of power.

  • JP


    I had to laugh when I heard your guest talk about Obama’s promises to be transparent and how well his administration has done so.

    He should really do his homework because the Obama Administration has been the least transparent administration in recent time.

    My comments could be east checked for accuracy by checking the number of freedom of information requests submitted and the number responded to Bush vs Obama. If you do you will see that Bush had about 2x the requests and Obama has about 1/2 of the responses.

  • pw

    I hope this doesn’t appear to be a rude addition to the comments — it’s not meant to be — but there’s a parallel conversation going on with Steve Roberts and members of the press, CIA, and Congress here: http://thedianerehmshow.org/shows/2010-07-27/leaked-documents-and-war-afghanistan

    Thank goodness for podcasts. Both of these discussions are must-hears.

  • http://cyberfumes.blogspot.com Dave Eger

    I welcome the new age of information freedom. Censorship has done terrible things to the progress of civilization, and I greatly respect Wikileaks for trying to steer the historic record straight.

    Last week, the excessive amount of tax dollars put into the American military effort was discussed, and Top Secret America revealed how big the clandestine beast has gotten. There has to be something that puts pressure against that expansion, and i think that the truth is the only thing that can do that.

    I think that we have to ask what is the endgame to all of this going to be. Are we going to continue with this unsustainable military budget, thinking we can pay more and more agents to keep secret all of this stuff that they know is going wrong? I understand why covert operatives might be afraid of these leaks for the sake of their employer, but at the end of the day, I think having this information out in the public eye might actually relieve pressure on their situation. The public can’t be kept in a padded room for ever, or else reality is really going to hurt bad when it starts to kick in.

    It’s good to see journalism actually being used to discuss real challenges rather than just fluff. If Wikileaks enables this to happen, then I say keep it coming.

  • michael

    National security now a days = Stopping foreign policy embarrassments and filtering information contrary to the spin currently presented by our military.

    The M.I.C. have been out in force trying to spin this, if someone is anti war so there can’t be trusted than would not this be the same if someone is Pro War.

  • Doug

    Dear Tom – I wonder what Assange would think of someone “leaking” his present physical location and list of planned future locations to the CIA? Would he still be for total transparency and freedom of information?-Doug

  • Genevieve Crain

    Does anyone think that the leaking of these documents is in any way related to the dismissal of General McCrystal? Could this be the work of a disgruntled loyalist to the former Commander of U.S. Forces in Afghanistan??

  • Greg

    While it has been pointed out that Julian Assange is openly against the Afghanistan war, one point that hasn’t been addressed is that Wikileaks is also attempting to raise $5.0MM in capital. As discussed in the attached article, John Young, who was listed on the original domain name registration, has distanced himself from the organization and has become a critic because of concerns over Wikileaks direction. Everyone has an agenda and to assume that they are as simple as strictly anti-war is a little naive.


    In an ironic twist, John Young leaked Wikileaks own emails against them! That’s a good chuckle!

  • Pete

    Add the Gulf of Tonkin, WMD’s “justifying” the Iraq Invasion,the Rolling Stone issue w/ General McChrystal…etc. etc. to MiLai. Noam Chomsky’s all over this –showing how in (so called)”democracies”, propaganda, AKA Official Lying, is used to manipulate public opinion and policy. And when you have an especially “dumbed down” public, which believes in Health Reform Death Panels, Tea Party and other reactionary, Right Wing blather, “transparency” might be the least we can expect to encourage “an educated, informed, citizenry”. What gets Protected, in the current state of affairs, is the possibility that The Elites, minions of the Military Industrial, Corporate Cabals that such Propaganda serves, will remain untouchable. If there were any possibility of “transparency”, the Bushes and their co-conspirators would be indicted for WAR CRIMES!

  • Spoke Umbra

    Look, tactical-related intelligence, raw information, particularly those produced in the field as after action reports, has virtually NO actionable value or risk to anyone after the passage of time. Certainly anything six months or older is worthless.

    Having once had and SCI clearance, rest assured there is an incredible amount of excessive classification. The net result of which is to undermine democracy, not protect us or our national security. Democracy depends on openness; secrecy is a tool of despotism.

    What can be more strategically sensitive are matters related to methods, future strategy, and current capability.

    Most of the problems & concerns being discussed would disappear if expiration time-stamps were mandated to automatically downgrade security claims. Maintaining secrecy levels on particular items needs to be taken out of the military’s hands.

    Don’t forget, to the paranoid, everything is top secret and potentially damaging to US Security.

  • John

    I wonder when our current administration that is all about transparency will release Obama’s Birth Certificate and educational history?

  • Jan

    You skimmed right over the point from the last caller that we are NOT getting enough information from the major media outlets. If they were doing their jobs (for example, WMD), the pressure for an outlet like WikiLeaks would be much less.

  • AndyF

    Its amazing to me that we are discussing “secrecy” in an age where what we define as “war” is FAR from what war actually is…

    For example, during the Vietnam War we Americans saw caskets returning regularly from that bungled endevour, but the good old Bush administration, which started the Iraq war based on TOTAL lies, was allowed to ensure that we NEVER saw this image – How’s that for “secrecy” when actually, it was nothing more than part of the BIG lie that Bush and friends were casting.

    Now, here we are in Afghanistan – a completely futile endevour yet again, and we are worried about “secrecy” when in fact, we are fighting something FAR from a “war”. This is NO war at all – its a police action – and one that is failing badly at that.

    The point is simply this… If America is going to continue to engage in what we like to call “wars” which are really idiotic police actions, then should we be trashing someone who brings us the unvarnished truth? Or should we, as we seem to love, just accept more and more and more lies and distortion while our tax dollars get invested in useless police actions that NEVER work.

    Is Iraq “free”? No, its a basket case country now.
    Is Vietnam “free”? No, we killed 53,000 good Americans in that botch-job for NOTHING!!!

    So, Afghanistan? What do we expect? Great victory in a “war” that is in NO WAY a real war?

    The problem is not Wikileaks. The problem is not these basketcase countries.

    THE PROBLEM IS US, WE TAX PAYERS WHO CONTINUE TO FUND LIES, DISTORTION, AND TOTALLY NEEDLESS AMERICAN DEATHS ALL FOR THE SAKE OF WHAT? Well, the WHAT is Ratheon, Halliburton, United Defense and all the REAL reasons we continue to indulge in these “wars” so that Americans have jobs, and Pentagon money gets spent. Which in the end, is MY money, your money and anybody who pays taxes money… All spent uselessly to kill our good soldiers, innocents, and anyone we need to fund the very miliarty-industrial complex that one of our greatest Generals (Eisenhower) warned us about – and WE CHOSE NOT TO LISTEN!!!

  • Susan Rittenhouse

    If we are entering the age of total transparency, can we expect to get leaks from China, Iran, Pakistan, Hamas, North Korea, or does this apply only to democratic countries where the greatest punishment is to wind up in an orange jumpsuit?

  • Radhika

    Hi Tom,

    I personally believe thag transparency is required. But wikileaks is only leaking info from american military and coalition forces. They have not and probably cannot leak info from pakistan, Saudi Arabia, china, Israel etc. who would dare leak info from these countries. they are totally biased. we cannot expect the whole world to be transparent. they may not even have info on computers.

  • michael

    Wow, talks points travel fast in the news, everything our conser guest said and some of the callers, were the same talking points repeated starting around 2pm the prior day.

    The military Captain was a disgrace as well and full well know that the military will cover up anything that embrasses them and has P.R. folks to spin it.

    You can actually apply for that job.

  • Mari

    The metaphorical building was already on fire. By throwing a huge bundle of paperwork into the “secret” conflagration, Wikileaks has only added more light, creating a beacon for all to see.
    If the folks who started the fire to begin with, thinking they’d never be seen, get slightly singed by the sudden flare- well, that’s what happens when you play with fire.

  • michael

    “I personally believe thag transparency is required. But wikileaks is only leaking info from american military and coalition forces. They have not and probably cannot leak info from pakistan, Saudi Arabia, china, Israel etc”

    There actually do leak information from those countries, most of those countries have access to wikileaks banned and block

  • William Maher

    What delicious irony! When David Ellsberg, a long time Kennedy stooge, leaked thousands of classified documents to wound the Nixon Administration, the Boston Globe, the New York Times, and the Chicago Tribune, couldn’t trip over themselves fast enough to publish everything possible–to the point where they were taken to court to face an injunction, at least temporarily. Now that the leaks are to disfavor the lefty socialist O’Bama regime, all of a sudden, the Boston Globe, the New York Times, and the Chicago Tribune, can’t seem to muster the “journalistic integrity” they so assiduously profess to worship. Hmmm, I am absolutely shocked. If NPR(aka, government radio) was worth an iota of their salt, they would’ve had the editors of the Boston Globe, New York Times, and Chicago Tribune on the program today–asking them if they plan to be as gung ho saturating their newspapers with excerpts of the leaks as they did with the Pentagon Papers. Whether the leaks are highly damaging or not is scarcely a worthwhile point– Do you think foreign governments are going to work with you once they understand anything they commit to could be front page news the next day in the New York Times? Thanks O’Bama for another bumbling, stumbling, episode. It will be hilarious watching the lefty socialists at the Boston Globe, New York Times, and Chicago Tribune, squirm and writhe to downplay this latest O’Bama debacle. Irony can be very sweet, indeed!

  • http://cyberfumes.blogspot.com Dave Eger

    Completely agree with AndyF. It’s we the taxpayers who aren’t able to differentiate what our taxes are being used for. It’s like the chocolate that big candy companies buy from African countries, where half of it is harvested by slaves, but it’s all mixed together so you buy all or nothing. I just read Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience last night, and it was ringing truer than ever.

  • Wes

    The original legal case on which state secret privilege was based has now been found to be based upon a government lie. Look up State Secrets Privilege and United States v. Reynolds in Wikipedia. There was no state secret within the accident report which was withheld. The claim of government secrecy was a deliberate cover-up to avoid responsibility for negligence. I support freedom of information as a check to government misuse of power. I welcome the work of Wikileaks.

  • William

    At what point do news organizations “step over the line” in publishing classified data? During WW-II a newspaper revealed that we were reading the Japanese codes. Was that in the public interest to reveal that classified information? Was it a good idea when NYTimes revealed we were listening into Bin Laden cell phone?

  • TomK

    I’m really sad that the lessons I thought we learned from vietnam, were, apparently, forgotten. Lesson #1 is that the gvt lies to justify wars that are harmful to the USA. After the Gulf of Tonkin and Saddam’s WMD, how can anyone sheepishly accept the stories about all the terrorists who will come after us if we don’t occupy Afghanistan? And where are the “deficit hawks”? They’d rather cut SS than do something about our 1984-ish state of perpetual war.

    The dominant theme in the USA is the corporate takeover. Follow the money flow from the middle class to the wealthy and the corporations to understand what is happening:

    Perpetual war is for the traditional mil-indu complex and the growing cancer of contractors.

    “Reform” of SS is for the financial corporations.

    “Reform” of education is for the corporations pushing lousy for-profit schools.

  • ThresherK

    He should really do his homework because the Obama Administration has been the least transparent administration in recent time.

    *yawn* Recent time goes back 18 months? Really, if you’re going to cheat on a test, don’t sit next to the class dunce. I’ve got an outed CIA spy and a vial of yellowcake that says otherwise.

  • michael

    there goes another few billions wasted


    US ‘fails to account’ for Iraq reconstruction billions

    A US federal watchdog has criticised the US military for failing to account properly for billions of dollars it received to help rebuild Iraq.

    The Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction says the US Department of Defence is unable to account properly for 96% of the money.

  • Gloria in Spokane

    I am fully supportive of any pressure that will help end these middle-eastern wars any more quickly. Our federal government absolutely needs to know that the American people are sick of this conflict and we are calling for an end to it. However, as to the possible end of secrecy, I do not have faith enough in human nature or the average American to believe that absolute transparency will ever be a good idea.

  • AndyW

    Hi Tom,

    I’m surprised that no one has discussed computer security and how it has changed as a result of wikileaks and the information they now posses.

    Government computers, that the documents were copied from, are generally not connected to the Internet, and when they are, the communication is highly encrypted.

    But what is wikileaks security model? They published information up to December 2009, but they may have more recent information on internet connected servers. Further, they are not required to report on security breaches to their servers.

    We see companies, such as Google, and other theoretically secure systems get breached all the time, but they mostly contain personal information that does not put anyone in danger beyond credit and identity theft- nothing life threatening.

    The obvious question is whether we can trust that wikileaks’ own security measures are adequate to protect our national security and the associated lives.

  • Brian

    The Wikilinks ideology of total openness is dangerous. Not because it exposes classified information (which is wrong). But because the world does not tolerate extremes in any form. If you expose this information without authorization then you are setting yourself up for a massive crackdown on free speech. Wikilinks is a short sighted organization that thinks that transperancy equals freedom when in reality it is the secrets that keep us safe.

  • James

    Interesting that we heard mostly from the right( the Husdson Institute and Ny times guy interested mostly in the status quo)

    Strange fixation on potential harm to troops from old info and almost no mention of the death and harm actually inflicted on civilians and the less than accurate reports of the troops about those killings.
    (yes I know that Americans are always supposed to say ‘collateral damage’ but the words stick in my throat)

    Also strange is the slant given by Americans and the times when compared to the Guardian ( see: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/jul/25/afghanistan-civilian-deaths-rules-engagement)

    And once again Tom Ashbrook seems more intent on his next question rather than listening to what people are saying and asking the pertinent follow up:

    All the talk of harm to the troops and the need for secrecy and no mention or question of McChrystal’s well documented role in inventing stories and covering up Pat Tillman’s shooting by friendly fire.
    As the British often say as they talk about shots on goal after clear opportunities
    ” He should have done better with that one.”

    These people (Obama and the military)are killing people in our name and sending others out to die in our name and the willingness and even endorsement of efforts to hide those actions show us how far we have come along the orwellian path.

  • Erik

    What will happen when a potential terrorist threat is exposed by wikileaks? Will our democratic double standards be okay with that?

  • michael

    Five agents from the United States Department of Homeland Security tried to pay him a visit two weeks ago, just before he was scheduled to speak at a conference in New York. But their efforts were in vain. Assange decided to stay in England after his attorney had told him that various other US government agencies were also very interested in speaking with him.


    also on todays show July 27th on here and know it was found that the NYT contacted the whitehouse last thursday and told them what they had and and some of what there were going to publish

  • GMG

    I think AndyF has it about right. Secrecy usually exists to protect people from embarrassment and to manipulate domestic public opinion. I don’t think that, as citizens, we should be in favor of being manipulated – it’s anti-democratic, and leads to poor choices in the long run. I suppose there is a case for it in special circumstances, but as a habit of government I think it has led to some very counter-productive policies.

  • john smith

    The idea of looking to the ny times as a model or trusting their judgment, distance fromthe government or their commitment to the public’s right to know is ludicrous. Think everything from scotty reston to the bay of pigs to jayson blair to judith miller.

    The arguments about causing deaths are also off the point. first, assuming that the released info will cause deaths, what about the lives saved because he govenrment’s policies were changed by a public with full knowledge of whats really going on or the government being forced to chang really stupid and dangerous procedures because they were exposed.

    More importantly, if secrets being revealed is the only way for americans to get info and then demand changes in policies, whose fault is that? The leakers or the govenrment that lies in public and then in secret carries out policies that they know the public would never agree with?

    How about suggesting another way that we can fin d out the truth and then change what the government is doing?

  • michael


    As members of the US Congress raised questions about Pakistan’s alleged support for the Taliban, officials in Islamabad and Kabul also traded angry accusations on the same issue.

    Further disclosures reveal more evidence of attempts by coalition commanders to cover up civilian casualties in the conflict

    The war logs show how a group of US marines who went on a shooting rampage after coming under attack near Jalalabad in 2007 recorded false information about the incident, in which they killed 19 unarmed civilians and wounded a further 50.

    Series: Afghanistan: The war logsPrevious | Next | Index Afghanistan war logs: tensions increase after revelation of more leaked files• Coalition commanders hid civilian deaths, war logs reveal
    • US, Afghanistan and Pakistan trade angry accusations
    • Leak poses ‘very real threat’ to US forces – White House
    (237)Tweet this (108)Comments (196)
    David Leigh and Matthew Taylor The Guardian, Tuesday 27 July 2010 Article history
    The Pentagon said it was conducting an investigation into whether information in the logs placed coalition forces or their informants in danger. Photograph: John Moore/Getty Images
    Tensions between the US, Afghanistan and Pakistan were further strained today after the leak of thousands of military documents about the Afghan war.

    As members of the US Congress raised questions about Pakistan’s alleged support for the Taliban, officials in Islamabad and Kabul also traded angry accusations on the same issue.

    Further disclosures reveal more evidence of attempts by coalition commanders to cover up civilian casualties in the conflict.

    The details emerge from more than 90,000 secret US military files, covering six years of the war, which caused a worldwide uproar when they were leaked yesterday.

    The war logs show how a group of US marines who went on a shooting rampage after coming under attack near Jalalabad in 2007 recorded false information about the incident, in which they killed 19 unarmed civilians and wounded a further 50.

    In another case that year, the logs detail how US special forces dropped six 2,000lb bombs on a compound where they believed a “high-value individual” was hiding, after “ensuring there were no innocent Afghans in the surrounding area”. A senior US commander reported that 150 Taliban had been killed. Locals, however, reported that up to 300 civilians had died.

    Coalition commanders received numerous intelligence reports about the whereabouts and activity of Osama bin Laden between 2004 and 2009, even though the CIA chief has said there has been no precise information about the al-Qaida leader since 2003.

    • The hopelessly ineffective attempts of US troops to win the “hearts and minds” of Afghans.

    • How a notorious criminal was appointed chief of police in the south-western province of Farrah

  • michael

    The marines made a frenzied escape, opening fire with automatic weapons as they tore down a six-mile stretch of highway, hitting almost anyone in their way – teenage girls in fields, motorists in their cars, old men as they walked along the road. Nineteen unarmed civilians were killed and 50 wounded.

    None of this, however, was captured in the initial military account, written by the marines themselves. It simply says that, simultaneous to the suicide explosion, “the patrol received small arms fire from three directions


    Afghan war logs: How the US is losing the battle for hearts and mindsLeaked Afghanistan war logs reveal villagers’ unenthusiastic responses to US army attempts to build bridges

    Winning hearts and minds in Afghanistan can be uphill work, as US soldiers attached to Task Force Catamount discovered when they visited the remote village of Mamadi in Paktika province, near the Pakistan border.

    “It seems to always be this way when we go there. No one wants anything to do with us,” the mission report’s author complained sadly. Nor does the Mamadi patrol’s experience appear to be untypical.

    The village of Mamadi is definitely anti-coalition. They want nothing to do with US or ANA [Afghan national army] forces. Nothing further to report.”

  • michael

    A report from the Sharana military-led provincial reconstruction team (PRT) in July 2007 also points to problems with the benchmark coalition policy of reinforcing tribal structures fractured by decades of internecine fighting, warlordism and foreign intervention. The idea of a national government running the country from Kabul also seems to lack popular appeal.

    On another occasion, when an apparent suicide bomber is intercepted at Shiva bus station in the Kuz Kunar district of Nangarhar province, it is Afghan rather than American innocence that seems most striking. The bomber turns out to be an elderly woman named Hasan Tari. Improbably, she is wearing a suicide vest under her burqa. But the batteries for detonation are not connected and there are none of the usual ball bearings and shrapnel.

    When questioned, the woman denies any evil intent. She explains “she was only transporting the vest to its intended user in Jalalabad whose name she did not give”. Afghans are friendly people. And she personally would never dream of blowing anybody up.

    Two hours later Americans returned to the scene of the bombing to conduct an “exploitation of the blast site with pictures/grid cords as well as debriefing ANP leadership on scene”. Journalists on the spot gave a more detailed account. They said angry marines tore their cameras from their hands, insisting they delete the pictures they had taken of bullet-pocked vehicles on the roadside. Rahmat Gul, a freelance photographer working for the Associated Press, said two soldiers and a translator came up to him and asked: “Why are you taking pictures? You don’t have permission.” Then they deleted his photographs.

    Later, Gul said, one of the soldiers came up to him and raised his arm, as if to hit him. Taqiullah Taqi, a reporter for the private Tolo TV channel, said the Americans told him through a translator: “Delete them, or we will delete you.”

    But the Americans could not prevent anger surging through the local community. In those months, as the fighting escalated, concern about careless, trigger-happy Americans was rising in Afghanistan. The previous May, riots had spread across Kabul after a US military truck with faulty brakes careered into traffic, killing one man.

    The logs report that nine hours after the shooting, the governor of Nangarhar province appealed to the marines to stay at home. “He did not want more CF [coalition forces] in the area due to public hostility.” At about the same time the Americans stopped issuing internal reports. “Event closed at 1349Z” it read. But that was not the end of the affair.

    Demonstrations ran through the streets of Jalalabad over the following days, the logs report, in which protesters broke windows and blocked roads.

    A month later, in April 2007, the Afghan Human Rights Commission published a report into the shooting which said the victims included a 16-year-old newlywed girl carrying a bundle of grass and a 75-year-old man walking back from the shops. The report said the marines may have come under fire from one source straight after the suicide bomb but challenged the assertion they suffered a “complex ambush from several directions”.

    By then a US army colonel had admitted to the Afghans that the shootings were a “terrible, terrible mistake” and “a stain on our honour”. He paid $2,000 to the families of each victim. The special forces commander in Afghanistan, Major General Francis Kearney, ordered the marines to pull the 120-man company out of the country, an unprecedented step.

  • TomK

    The whole “hearts and minds” thing is a joke and reminds me of the “strategic hamlets” in vietnam. With war raging, our plan is apparently to build a school or hand out some cash or some such PR gesture to get the support of the locals. However they know that we are just passing through and that the local forces will be their neighbors all their lives. How stupid do we think they are? I bet those schools end up being used to teach islam.

  • millard_fillmore

    “For example, during the Vietnam War we Americans saw caskets returning regularly from that bungled endevour, but the good old Bush administration, which started the Iraq war based on TOTAL lies, was allowed to ensure that we NEVER saw this image – How’s that for “secrecy” when actually, it was nothing more than part of the BIG lie that Bush and friends were casting.”

    Not to negate the lies re: Iraq war, but the specific policy you state above had been in place during 8 years of Clinton administration, as well as Bush Sr. administration. And it’s not as if the Obama administration is radically different from the previous administration, when it comes to its war policies.

    So, what exactly is the point you’re trying to make here by mentioning the policy re: images of caskets of soldiers?

    That if the images were shown, things would’ve been different?

    That hypothesis assumes that somehow not showing of images – when the casualties in Iraq were on the front pages of newspapers till Obama took office – is the only factor in shaping people’s perceptions about war and its casualties.

    Learn to be critical of what you see and how you think, instead of letting the media yank your chain in predictable manner.

  • http://n/a George Peters

    There is a degree of irony.There was admittedly several layers of secrecy needed to insulate the leakers. If that insulation were removed, we’d be back at square one. Somehow anything is secret that portrays the powers that be as anything other than paragons of virtue. Officials and citizens would have to GROW UP. Fat chance!

  • peter nelson

    Everyone has an agenda and to assume that they are as simple as strictly anti-war is a little naive.

    I don’t think anyone’s being naive – we all know that everyone has an agenda. But regardless of Wikileaks’ agenda no one is suggesting that they are fabricating any of these leaks – they are still providing valuable information that governments around the worls are witholding from us.

  • peter nelson

    If we are entering the age of total transparency, can we expect to get leaks from China, Iran, Pakistan, Hamas, North Korea, or does this apply only to democratic countries where the greatest punishment is to wind up in an orange jumpsuit?

    What’s your point? That western nations must lie to their citizens because tyrannies lie to theirs?

  • peter nelson

    The obvious question is whether we can trust that wikileaks’ own security measures are adequate to protect our national security and the associated lives

    Since when is it Wikileaks’ job to protect American security? These leaks were from sources who DID have a legal obligation to keep secret stuff secret. If you’re worried about this stuff falling into the wrong hands direct your concerns to the government.

  • jeffe

    As I read some of the comments here I am left wondering.
    What the hell do you people think is going on over there?
    It’s a country that has been at war for the past 30 years and is backward, corrupt, impossible to govern. Just being there is a risk.

  • david

    I bet if one would look hard enough at Wikileaks, the name George Soros may appear. This man’s name is coming up all over the place, I wonder what he is up to????

  • joshua

    julian assange is a hero. I knew ON pOInt would have these crazy people on supporting conformity, silence, and conspiracy. the government has become a very very bad institution. All one has to do is look at the connections of these people. Everyone in gov. is taking huge bribes from big oil and big pharma and Halliburton and lockheed, etc. and serve corporate america–never american citizens. Most people in governemnt, if not elected official–all their aids-exist in a revolving door opening to these powerful corporations and lobbyist companies supporting these war-mongering, earth-destroying corporations. NOthing–absolutely nothing is done in the interest of the people. Even obama’s health-care plan is a complete useless fraud–anything slightly ood about it is meant to go into effect in years to come–when Replublithugs take over and scrap it. Another complete giveaway to th ecorporations–the death panels who say–if you aint got money–DIE!
    It is as simple as that. his so cruel–its disgusting. A reflection of American society and people–30 percent of them.

    Julian Assange–no surprise–is not American–but he is a hero.

    Nothing wikileaks can say will harm anyone–the war, American policy–harms everyone! Again, propaganda is complete nonsense–and there is sooo much of it.

    Keep it up Assange! U deserve a bronze statue in the white house.

    Assange has never made his viewpoints clear–ur guest is a total liar. And so what if he against the war–the war is a terrorist crime against humanity!

  • joshua

    Tom–we don’t have a democracy. And the guests comment about the founding fathers setting up our government to protect government secrets is absurd. so absurd its the truth–the biggest conspiracy is that our government is a democracy–it has always been a secret boy’s club devoted to fascism with a few heroes dedicated to democracy. Our gov, has always been a paradox–war is peace. Slavery is equality…feudalism is progressive and democratic….

  • joshua

    To the caller–the Captain–who says leaking American terroism and lies is disgusting–the war is disgusting–its a war crime. Its illegal. You don ot protect democracy–you destroy it. Democracy cannot exist in continuous warfare–look at american history buddy.

    These leaks wil not get oyu killed–being in a war will however—

    Oh my god–now the guests says assange is dishonest–this guy is a compoete tosser!

    If we cared about the whereabouts of Osama then why has the gov. continuously said its not looking for osama. Reaching for extremes here buddy. He calls himself a journalist and then supports government conspiracy and fascism–my friend–you are not a journalist. You work for the same powerful corporations and lobbyists and government officials mongering war. You are not a journalist–you are not honest–you are a propaganda minister. a fraud. a traitor.

    On point–why are your discussions never balanced–its always the powerful superstructure opinion–propaganda. Same old same old–u should have put somebody on with strong analysis who is pro-democracy and equality and justice–not these hacks!

  • Joe Medic

    I served 5 years of active duty in combat units. The Captain from Ft. Drum mispoke when he suggested that the safety of units on the ground should be considered first and foremost when it comes to disclosure of classified information. The Pentagon Papers and the conduct of every war since ’71 make the case that the greatest threats to soldiers are citizen passivity and poor planning and policy at the highest levels.

    However, in a culture that values the appearance of strength, confidence, and security, over actual success, can we expect more?

    As we used to say in the infantry, the biggest threat to us on the ground was a new second lieutenant with a map.

  • Rob L

    The military may not be a democracy, but they work for one. And they’ve done a lousy job lately of letting their employers know what they’re working on. My bet is that if they were fighting wars that Americans actually believed in, rather than “Islamo Facist” boogiemen, then the American people would be far less accepting of Wikileaks and the people that supply the information.

    Gabriel Schoenfeld is a born statist. I’m sure would have been just as comfortable dissembling for Stalin or Mao if it had turned out that way.

  • http://onpointradio.org chas

    to leak classified information has a simple label. It’s called Treason. This guy who is publishing the classified information, I consider him and his organization to be guilty of espeonage.

  • Tracy Licklider

    I am astonished that, in all of this discussion, there has been no talk of encryption. I do not believe that the Internet will necessarily usher in an end to secrecy nor an era of greater transparency.

    Effective governments, corporations, and organizations (good and bad) will simply encrypt secrets worth keeping. And they will do so with effectively unbreakable encryption. Such encryption exists today.

    In the current Wikileaks/Afghan operational notes case, the files were kept unencrypted. In the future, the military might encrypt each such incident report with a different key. In a breach, the leaker could at best post unencrypted documents to Wikileaks or any similar site or news organization for which he had the key(s).

    I am not saying that there would be no leaks. but leaks could be more contained. As long as someone sees a secret or participates in creating it, they can tell about it or leak it –perhaps only by recollecting the details.

    A field report (or anything like it) sent in by a soldier could be encrypted without the soldier receiving the key.

    Of course, encryption systems may be compromised — in World War II the British decrypted the German Enigma machine messages. However, encryption schemes are vastly more sophisticated today. Even with these fancier encryption schemes, people slip up operationally — and some information will leak out. Nevertheless, with proper procedures, the leaks can be limited.

    In theory, this means that the 800,000 people with Top Secret clearance could keep their clearance but only see “Top Secrets” to which they had keys.

    So, I expect that use of encryption will become widespread — for individuals as well — and secrets will be better kept. I fear that there will be no transparency bonanza.

    –Tracy Licklider

    p.s. Then, on the other hand, governments — particularly the US governement — have shown themselves to be woefully behind the times in information technology. Many military sites have been hacked, and the non-Defense agencies are way behind the military. So I imagine the US and other governments will continue to embarrass themselves for some time to come.

  • joshua

    Chas-illegal wars or terror enacted by American officials–lies–are treason–and crimes against the humanity–crimes against Americans. 911 is treason. We are meant to have a democracy–in a democracy the military and the government works for the people-they are entitled to disclose information and not lead us into hateful, deceptive wars against humanity in the interests of the wealthy elite and multi-national corporations that have no allegiance to america–but have much faith in profit. True patriots expose the lies and act against war.

    You have no concept of the impact our wars have on our people, our country, our infrastructure, our psychological health, our environment, our soldiers–esp. those who believe they are fighting for justice and freedom but are really just mesmerized by a powerful spell of lies and deception.

    To put it more simply–we are darth vader–and the world is our victim. We are the rebel alliance-we are not the heroes–we are the villains.

Sep 18, 2014
Flickr/Steve Rhodes

After a summer of deadly clashes between Gaza and Israel, we talk to Jews on the left and right about the future of liberal Zionism. Some say it’s over.

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Billionaires. We’ll look at the super super rich, and their global shaping of our world.

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Bob Dylan and Victor Maymudes at "The Castle" in LA before the 1965 world tour. Lisa Law/The Archive Agency)

A new take on the life and music of Bob Dylan, from way inside the Dylan story. “Another Side of Bob Dylan.”

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