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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Distinguishing “Wikileaks” from the Pentagon Papers: One PJP Fellow’s Insight

Ever since Wikileaks burst onto the scene a few months ago, comparisons have been made linking the story of Julian Assange, the Wikileaks founder, with Daniel Ellsberg, the defense analyst who in 1971 exposed the Pentagon's secret history of the Vietnam War, revealing gross misrepresentations on the part of the government. Ellsberg's leak, which led to the publication of the Papers by the New York Times, resulted in a constitutional challenge and one of the most dramatic decisions in Supreme Court history, extending the reach of First Amendment protections and a reassertion of the doctrine of prior restraint. Ellsberg, now 79, has even spoken out in support of Assange and of PFC Bradley Manning, who leaked defense documents on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, to Assange. But can the two stories -- the Pentagon Papers and Wikileaks -- really be equated? PJP Fellow Trudy Rubin says no.

"...this dump of secret documents has nothing in common with the Pentagon Papers, despite Daniel Ellsberg’s mistaken praise of WikiLeaks. Ellsberg’s act aimed to reveal government dissembling in the launch of the Vietnam War, as laid out in particular documents. These recent leaks reveal no plots or scandals...Instead, by dumping large amounts of unfiltered data without concern for the contents, Assange has endangered lives. The documents expose U.S. informants who could be arrested. Human-rights organizations fear the leaks will endanger activists and journalists whose names are in U.S. cables. Newspapers that received the leaks have carefully redacted any such names, but as Assange puts secret cables online, he might not be so discreet...
And although journalists have extracted some good stories from the material — on Pakistan, Iran, China and North Korea — there is little that has not been written about before."

Trudy Rubin, Philadelphia Inquirer

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