Some commenters on some broader significances of the WikiLeaks publication of more than 90,000 classified military documents on the war in Afghanistan (not to say that the information these records reveal on the war is not significant in and by itself).
Alexis Madrigal at The Atlantic sees WikiLeaks as a new form of journalistic institution, that can cooperate with the old ones:
The rogue, rather mysterious website provided the raw data; the newspapers provided the context, corroboration, analysis, and distribution. … Traditional media organizations are increasingly reaching out to different kinds of smaller outfits for help compiling data and conducting investigations. NPR is partnering with several journalism startups to deliver their information out to a larger audience. The Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University broke a large story on renewable energy in association with ABC’s World News Tonight. ProPublica’s 32 full-time investigative reporters offer their stories exclusively to a traditional media player.
A similar point is made by Londonstani at the CNAS blog, who broadens it to include new media in general:
There does seem to be a growing trend internationally away from control and direction by organisations and governments towards impetus for action coming from groups of individuals who are somehow harnessing technology. Organisations like Wikileaks leave grand old names like Reuters, BBC and the New York Times rewriting news they didn’t break. (That said, the NYT is one of a few organisations investing heavily in original reporting, which shows in their output.) At the same time, a leaked video of a girl getting beaten by the Taliban in Swat presented the Pakistani government with the political cover it needed to launch a campaign against the Pakistani Taliban last year.
Jay Rosen at PressThink points to the transnational character of the WikiLeaks organization, and what this means for national security (or better put: government secrecy):
If you go to the Wikileaks Twitter profile, next to “location” it says: Everywhere. Which is one of the most striking things about it: the world’s first stateless news organization. I can’t think of any prior examples of that. (Dave Winer in the comments: “The blogosphere is a stateless news organization.”) Wikileaks is organized so that if the crackdown comes in one country, the servers can be switched on in another. This is meant to put it beyond the reach of any government or legal system. That’s what so odd about the White House crying, “They didn’t even contact us!”
Appealing to national traditions of fair play in the conduct of news reporting misunderstands what Wikileaks is about: the release of information without regard for national interest. In media history up to now, the press is free to report on what the powerful wish to keep secret because the laws of a given nation protect it. But Wikileaks is able to report on what the powerful wish to keep secret because the logic of the Internet permits it. This is new. Just as the Internet has no terrestrial address or central office, neither does Wikileaks.
And, finally, Marc Ambinder at The Atlantic notes that the release of these documents gives investigators the opportunity to find out more about what happened to Afghan detainees captured by elusive special forces units:
WikiLeaks has given journalists and researchers a road map to begin tracking Afghan detainees and the activities of special forces units.
There are about 100 detailed references to something called “OCF” detainee transfers to the Bagram Theatre Internment Facility. OCF stands for “Other Coalition Forces.” Other Coalition Forces is the approved euphemism for special forces units, usually belonging to the Joint Special Operations Command. Researchers can now begin to track the dates when people disappeared and when they were transferred. By the time of the strategy turn, there were more than 750 people in custody in Bagram, out of more than 4,500 detainees that were there at one point. Where did the rest go? When where they released?