Analysts: WikiLeaks Following New Strategy in Document Release

Homepage of Wikileaks (file photo)
Homepage of Wikileaks (file photo)
Gary Thomas

The activist Internet websiteWikiLeaks continues to post secret U.S. State Department documents, even as it comes under attacks from opponents, and newspapers partnering with the group continue to publish them. Analysts see the gradual release of the leaked documents as part of WikiLeaks' strategy to keep the story alive in the media. WikiLeaks is also portraying itself as a news organization.

This is the third time thatWikiLeaks has released secret government documents. But in the first two instances, which related to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, WikiLeaks released government documents all at once. Now it is following a different strategy.

Only a fraction of the reported 250,000 documents in the organization's possession has been released and published - less than one percent. In an online session last week on the website of the Guardian , a British newspaper that is collaborating with the group,WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said that his website posts documents after they have first been published by what he called "mainstream media partners."

Former Washington Post managing editor Phil Bennett, who now teaches journalism at Duke University, says Assange is parceling the documents out because he was dissatisfied that stories about the previous documents fell from public attention relatively quickly.

"He was unhappy about the way those stayed in the news and wanted 'more bang for the buck' [more attention over a longer period of time]," said Bennett. "And I think there's no doubt that they're parceling out the information in a way to keep the story alive and sustain interest in it."

This piecemeal release of classified cables has troubled U.S. officials.

Former CIA deputy director John McLaughlin says officials do not like surprises, and they are getting new ones every day.

"The fact that this is dribbling out, if you're in government now you have to wonder, 'What's next, and what am I going to have to cope with?' And it's likely to come at a bad time when you already have your hands full," said McLaughlin. "So it's another volatile factor in a world that's already too volatile."

The arrangement between WikiLeaks and the news organizations publishing the material - Le Monde in France, El Pais in Spain, the Guardian in Britain, and Der Spiegel in Germany - is unusual. It links media organizations to a group that is under what U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder calls "active, ongoing, serious investigation."

But the newspapers are not publishing every document, focusing on what they consider interesting. One document, for example, listing infrastructure sites around the world that the United States views as critical was posted byWikiLeaks , but not by the media outlets.

Julian Assange says he is acting as a journalist and thatWikiLeaks is a journalistic institution. In a posting this week on the website CommonDreams, Assange said thatWikiLeaks has invented a new type of reporting that he calls "scientific journalism" in which people can read a news story, then click online to see its veracity.

But journalist Phil Bennett saysWikiLeaks has been secretive, which makes Assange's claim of journalistic status difficult to justify.

"There's not a lot of transparency to how these documents are being handled," he said. "And that is part of the problem in assessing what kind of organizationWikiLeaks is, what intent it has, and whether or not it's applying real journalistic standards to assessing, to verifying, and to discussing how to publish this information."

It is unclear how long the daily release of U.S. embassy cables will continue.

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs