Today (12/2/10) the New York Times has another report based on the latest WikiLeaks cables. The focus is on U.S. policy toward the former Soviet republic of Georgia, and the upshot is that diplomats based there exercised little to no scrutiny of the claims made by Georgian government regarding South Ossetia and Russia. The conflict there led eventually to a brief war in 2008, which was often inaccurately portrayed in U.S. media as unprovoked Russian aggression against a U.S. ally. The Times reports: The cables show that for several years, as Georgia entered an escalating contest with the Kremlin for […]
They don't show–at least in any significant way, with the caveat that thousands of e-mails still remain to be released–the U.S. government seriously misleading its allies. They don't show unauthorized war, fraudulent procurement practices or unexpected assassination. They don't show America forming significant alliances with sworn enemies or visiting unexpected deceit on friends. –James Rainey on the "dearth of scandalous behavior" in the WikiLeaks material (L.A. Times, 12/1/10) How good do you have to be to qualify as good? I haven't killed anybody. See, that's good, right? I haven't committed any felonies. I didn't start any wars. I don't practice […]
If a single foreign national is rounded up and put in jail because of a leaked cable, this entire, anarchic exercise in "freedom" stands as a human disaster. Assange is a criminal. He's the one who should be in jail. –Joe Klein, Swampland (12/1/10) Actually, Julian Assange didn't leak anything–he can't, because he didn't have access to classified documents. Someone (or someones) who did have such access leaked those documents to Assange's WikiLeaks, which, as a journalistic organization, made them available to the world, both directly and through other media partners. This distinction, which is widely ignored in commentary on […]
Last night's broadcast of the PBS NewsHour (11/29/10) offered a discussion of the WikiLeaks documents. Who were the guests? As Judy Woodruff announced: "We turn to two former national security advisers with extensive experience in making and carrying out U.S. foreign policy. " That would be Carter's Zbigniew Brzezinski and George W. Bush's Stephen Hadley. The discussion was about as illuminating as one might expect. Hours later on the Charlie Rose show, guest host Jon Meacham featured a typical Charlie Rose discussion: two reporters from the New York Times and former Clinton State Department aide Jamie Rubin. The Times reporters […]
WikiLeaks document dumps are largely what media want to make of them. There's one conventional response, which goes something like this: "There's nothing new here, but WikiLeaks is dangerous!" But there's another option: "There's nothing here, except for the part that confirms a storyline we've been pushing." In those cases, WikiLeaks is deemed very, very useful. That was the case with the last batch of WikiLeaks documents, when the New York Times wrote a long piece about what the documents alleged about Iran's involvement in the Iraq War. Journalist Ali Gharib wrote about that issue (and talked to CounterSpin about […]
From one of the Washington Post's stories about WikiLeaks: A senior U.S. intelligence officer, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to be identified, said: "No one should think of American diplomats as spies. But our diplomats do, in fact, help add to our country's body of knowledge on a wide range of important issues. That's logical and entirely appropriate, and they do so in strict accord with American law." The source is anonymous because he must remain…anonymous. Got it.
After being fired by NPR, Juan Williams made an appearance with Fox host Bill O'Reilly (10/21/10) where he explained that he wasn't likely to get support from prominent African-American leaders like Al Sharpton because "I'm not a predictable black liberal." It's not totally clear what he means by that, but Williams does a pretty good job as a Fox News Liberal– i.e., someone willing to attack left-liberal groups and leaders while doing very little topromote an actual left-leaningperspective.This point was echoed in a column penned by Newsmax's Ronald Kessler (10/25/10), who wrote that he's known Williams since the 1970s and […]
On the October 22 broadcast of ABC World News With Diane Sawyer,the anchor weighed in on the WikiLeaks Iraq War documents by noting, "Arab television is already trumpeting the revelations." Not exactly a promising start, but the correspondent Martha Raddatz did a pretty good job of conveying the findings: hundreds of Iraqi civilians killed at checkpoints, thousands of unreported civilian deaths and torture of detainees. Then the report went back to Sawyer for a follow-up question: "I know there's a lot of outrage about this again tonight, Martha. But tell me, anything more about prosecuting the WikiLeaks group?"
Agence France Presse (9/28/10) has an interview with Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales about WikiLeaks–apparently because of their proximity in alphabetical order. Wales says that he wishes WikiLeaks didn't have "wiki" in its name–fair enough; he's free to wish that. But he goes on to say: In the most recent round of leaks, the New York Times…actually redacted certain information that could put people in harm's way whereas WikiLeaks is planning to publish absolutely everything…. I think it is really important, when we have sensitive information, that we do rely on responsible journalists to sort through it for us…. It's much […]
We often heard during the WikiLeaks controversy that civilian deaths in Afghanistan are well-covered in the corporate media, so the revelations in the documents about such incidents were "old news." A report in today's Times from Rod Nordland ("Afghans Say NATO Strikes Killed Civilians," 8/6/10) teaches a useful lesson in how such reporting appears. There are actually two different attacks discussed in the piece, but the more revealing coverage concerns fallout from a July 26 attack. The Afghans say 52 civilians died. But the verdict from the U.S./NATO side is very different–and the Times delivers it via an anonymous source […]
The Afghanistan documents posted by WikiLeaks were obviously the big story of the week. So how did the network Sunday shows react to these disclosures, which have the potential to open up a real debate about the Afghan War? NBC's Meet the Press interviewed chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen. ABC's This Week featured an interview with Defense Secretary Robert Gates. On CBS, Face The Nation had Mike Mullen. What would state broadcasting look like again? CBS also had an interview with Richard Haass of the Council on Foreign Relations (formerly of the Bush administration), who urged […]
In case you thought the WikiLeaks story might change everything: The forthcoming Time magazine (out tomorrow) has a cover photo of a disfigured Afghan woman with the headline "What Happens If We Leave Afghanistan." The implication would seem to be that the Taliban will commit similar atrocities without the presence of U.S. forces. You can see the cover (and a portion of the story) here. Something tells me that no one at a the magazine's editorial meeting suggested a "What Happens If We Stay in Afghanistan" cover headline, which would have been accompanied by a photo of the corpse of an […]
Fresh from her comments slamming Rolling Stone's Michael Hastings for reporting things the military wouldn't like, CBS reporter Lara Logan weighed in on the WikiLeaks story on last night's CBS Evening News, where she argued that reporters should do more to stress the Taliban's record of killing civilians: KATIE COURIC: Also mentioned in these documents is the number of Afghan civilians who have been killed. How do you think this will damage the war effort? LARA LOGAN: Well, the issue of civilian casualties is a major one. And the U.S. has taken a lot of criticism because of this. However, […]