Newsnight interview: Wikileaks

I took part in a Newsnight interview to discuss the leak of Afghan War intelligence documents to whistleblower site Wikileaks. Adrian Lamo, the journalist who disclosed the source of the leak, also appeared.


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One Response to “Newsnight interview: Wikileaks”

  1. Anthony says:

    A bit confused about your argument regarding speculative harm versus real harm.

    The principle of protecting journalists sources is based on speculative harm. You don’t expose the person who leaked material to you, on the basis they would lose their job, face a prison sentence, or worse. The same goes for journalists who change the names of individuals in stories were an individual might be placed at risk under threat from a regime like Mugabee’s or the Taliban.

    I assume if you were a reporter in Afghanistan, you would not reveal the location and name of a person who was critical of the Taliban in one of your news reports for fear of reprisals to the individual. The principle stands whether you are talking about one individual or 1000 individuals. And that is the ethical issue Assange has failed to confront. He has exposed Afghan civilians to a risk. He may like to present wikileaks as some sort of automatic conduit for information without editorial input (which it isn’t given he does hold some material back), but he is a publisher and has an ethical obligation to Afghans within the documents. It’s notable that The Guardian and New York Times didn’t expose Afghans to harm.

    Think of it another way, if the Pentagon was leaving details of Afghans who helped them in a non-secure environment, then I’m sure reporters would be writing pieces titled “Pentagon endangers Afghan helpers with poor intelligence security”. It is totally unacceptable.

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