Working the WikiLeaks beat (updated)

The old round-up of my WikiLeaks coverage was starting to get unruly, so here’s a new, chronological index, which I will update regularly. I must say, it’s kind of weird being a “WikiLeaks observer,” because not only is this an incredibly fast-moving story, but the learning curve is quite steep, as it entwines simultaneously the most theoretical and most lived parts of biography, ethics, history, international diplomacy, war, journalism, and cryptography. It’s very exciting and meaningful material, and in all due seriousness, I thank God, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), and neweurasia.net (not to mention Julian Assange!) for the opportunity to cover it in such an in-depth manner.

Except when otherwise noted, all posts have been published on RFE/RL.

27 July, 2010: Interview with Julian Assange, which I conducted with one of RFE/RL’s senior war correspondents (and Prague Dead Souls bass guitarist) Ron Synovitz. Assange didn’t have much time to speak with us, so we were brief. I eventually talked with him again later.

27 July, 2010: WikiLeaks’ Afghan War Reports Stirs Debate on Journalism, Law by Ron with contributions from moi. It’s a sprawling piece of radio journalism (which Ron wrote hurriedly beside me) and touches upon many of the issues that I have since taken up as my “WikiLeaks beat”.

28 July, 2010: The power of information — to hurt or to help?, my first editorial about WikiLeaks for neweurasia.net, in which I’m critical of the Afghan War Logs and WikiLeaks in general. My views on both have since evolved and I like to think have become more complex.

30 July, 2010: Central Asian views on WikiLeaks: truth, trust, and tech, for neweurasia.net and Transitions Online, which was among the few editorials on the internet to really examine the global aspirations of WikiLeaks and responses to it from around the world — a theme to which I later returned in a blog post for RFE/RL (see: below).

By the way, readers who are curious about non-Western views on WikiLeaks should check out “Turkmenistan Needs WikiLeaks”, written by neweurasia’s chief Turkmen blogger, Annasoltan; , not to mention the rest of neweurasia’s coverage on WikiLeaks.

11 August, 2010: Interview with Jeff Jarvis, an academic from the City University of New York with whom I feel very sympathetic intellectually.

11 August, 2010: Interview with Janine Wedel, an academic from George Mason University whose innovative concept of the “shadow elite” is perhaps the best framework for understanding WikiLeaks, not to mention the general problem of accountability today. Essentially, she updates Juvenal’s ancient question, Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?, for the digital-capitalist era. (She’s kind of sexy, too).

23 August, 2010: “It’s time to open the archives”, which surveys how WikiLeaks has been using Twitter against the Pentagon, particularly to cast doubt on the latter’s moral integrity. Might be somewhat interesting for students of public relations, the history of propaganda, and how social media can be used to shape public discourse.

26 August, 2010: Why is WikiLeaks so Focused on the United States? — a rhetorical question actually, precisely because WikiLeaks isn’t focused solely on the United States, a fact overlooked by American commentators.

08 September, 2010: Is there a civil war in WikiLeaks? Ever since Icelandic Parliamentarian and important WikiLeaks ally Birgitta Jonsdottir called for Julian Assange to “step aside” from his prominent position in the organization, the internet has been roaring that there’s an insider revolt in the offing. Well, here’s what Jonsdottir and Assange themselves have to say about it.

23 October, 2010: Will They or Won’t They? WikiLeaks and the next data dump is my piece right before the release of the Iraq War Logs (the press conference for which I was invited, but unfortunately I was unable to attend). This post reviews the controversy with Wired magazine’s blogs.

A note about the content of the Iraq War Logs: I personally feel they have had far more political and historical impact than the Afghan War Logs. I also have a personal connection to some of the content therein…

26 November, 2010: WikiLeaks and Its Brave New world concerns the leak of American diplomatic cables, which at the time was imminent. Specifically, I explain what I believe to be WikiLeaks’ strategy, namely, to undress the international system by undressing the United States. This has proven to be one of my most popular posts, with lots of great comments from friends and readers alike. I’m personally proud of its level of articulation, as well (and some of the comments are awesome!)

29 November, 2010: Of Bluffs and Secrets concerns the mysterious file, “insurance.aes256″, that’s been spread around by WikiLeaks. This is to date my longest post about WikiLeaks and my most analytical. Alas, it’s a topic I’m very weak on, namely, cryptography. Nevertheless, I try my best.

01 December, 2010: What You Should Know About the WikiLeaks Cables is my application of some very elementary philosophical epistemology, in particular the principle of charity, to the massive cable leak. I use an interesting cable from Mongolia as my test case. Originally written mostly just for fun, but my argument for “cognitive independence” vis-a-vis WikiLeaks (as well as its naysayers) has quickly proven to be something of a core position of mine.

02 December, 2010: The other diplomatic cables leak, posted here on this blog, about another, albeit smaller but no less interesting, cache of State Department cables that have been published by the pseudonymous historian-blogger “History Punk”.

08 December, 2010: The Latest On The Mysterious insurance.aes256 File, the secret to “Of Bluffs and Secrets,” with a review of the small-scale cyberwar that has broken out between WikiLeaks’ supporters and opponents over the diplomatic cables release. Some of the comments are very heated.

08 December, 2010: How secret are these cables really? Another piece inspired by History Punk, who appears to have discovered one of WikiLeaks’ revealed cables through the more normal and mundane process of filing an FOIA request. (By the way, History Punk has another good post about the American Embassy in the Vatican that reveals what some diplomatic staffers consider to merit the “Secret” designation.)

08 December, 2010: Let’s take a moment to breathe and think about WikiLeaks, essentially the summation of my current views on WikiLeaks, as well as a plea for calm, posted on neweurasia.

08 February, 2011: My comment on Joshua Foust’s blog post, “True Colors”, regarding a very nasty thing Assange said back in July before the release of the Afghan War Logs (make sure to read the Washington Post story to which Josh links).

11 April, 2011: The Dark Side of Radical Transparency concerns the emergence of a scary new WikiLeaks spawn, “Porn WikiLeaks”, and how this site represents the perversion of the logic of its namesake and raises troubling questions about the relationship between crowdsourcing and privacy.

11 April, 2011: Wiki-Orwellianism is the companion piece to “Dark Side”, published here on my personal blog. With this one I explore how crowdsourcing could be exploited toward authoritarian aims:

Imagine: what if the East German secret police had access to today’s Internet technology, and one day simply decided to publish their vast database of the citizenry’s private lives as a mass-readable/mass-editable Wikipedia-like website?

05 May, 2011: “We use Astana as a symbol to show Kazakhstan”, an interview with Kazakhstan’s big Aikyn newspaper. Although the interview began about CyberChaikhana, questions quickly turned to the ethics of WikiLeaks, the future of Kazakhstan (wow) and American Muslims’ online activity. Interview in Kazakh.

03 June, 2011: Social leaking/social-whisteblowing explores another way of conceptualizing digital leaking or whistleblowing as the unintentional releasing of information by the rank-and-file of an organization that at an authority, whether it be cultural, governmental or corporate, would have preferred not to be released.

08 June, 2011: A conversation with an anti-mafia Slavoj Žižek, namely, Vincenzo Fatigati, a philosopher fighting the Camorra of Naples. It was a nice conversation and we talked a lot about Assange et al within some broader contexts.

05 September, 2011: Scientific Journalism Un-Redax was a direct response to the decision by WikiLeaks to publish the unredacted diplomatic cables in response to a bungle on the part of The Guardian. I wrote this while in Kyrgyzstan, where strangely there was little awareness of the crisis. One source close to Assange has called it the “best analysis” they have read about the situation.

04 October, 2011: “If they’re collecting all of this information, they’re surely using it, right?” WikiLeaks’ Impact on Post-Soviet Central Asia” is my big academic essay on, as the title indicates, the Central Asian journalistic community’s responses to WikiLeaks, particularly Cablegate, as well as how Assange et al may or may not have affected the media landscape in the region.

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