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Posted at 1:03 PM ET, 06/28/2010

Anti-censorship leader Aftergood blasts WikiLeaks

By Jeff Stein

Steven Aftergood, a leading opponent of government censorship, strongly denounced WikiLeaks Monday as an “enemy” of openness “because it does not respect the rule of law nor does it honor the rights of individuals.”

“WikiLeaks says that it is dedicated to fighting censorship, so a casual observer might assume that it is more or less a conventional liberal enterprise committed to enlightened democratic policies,” wrote Aftergood, the longtime editor of Secrecy News, a publication of the Federation of American Scientists.

“But on closer inspection that is not quite the case.“

Aftergood denounced the organization, which gained global notoriety in April when it published a classified video of U.S. helicopter crew’s assault on civilians in Baghdad, for invading the privacy of non-governmental groups.

“In fact,” Aftergood wrote, “WikiLeaks routinely tramples on the privacy of non-governmental, non-corporate groups for no valid public policy reason.”

“Last year, for example, WikiLeaks published the 'secret ritual' of a college women's sorority called Alpha Sigma Tau. Now Alpha Sigma Tau (like several other sororities 'exposed' by WikiLeaks) is not known to have engaged in any form of misconduct, and WikiLeaks does not allege that it has. Rather, WikiLeaks chose to publish the group's confidential ritual just because it could.”

Aftergood, regularly cited as an authority on the government's penchant for over-classifying documents, also denounced the group for publishing the “private rites of Masons, Mormons and other groups that cultivate confidential relations among their members.”

“This is not whistleblowing and it is not journalism,” Aftergood declared. “It is a kind of information vandalism.”

Whistleblower advocacy groups did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who says he fears apprehension by U.S. authorities, could not be reached for comment.

But he and his supporters have argued that the secrecy used by governments to cover up crimes or unethical behavior makes Wikileaks necessary.

“The message of WikiLeaks to the controllers of information is this: You can either be transparent, or transparency will be brought to you,” Daniel Schmitt, one of WikiLeaks’ five core directors, told The Washington Post's Joby Warrick this spring.

“We’re not there to take journalists’ jobs away,” Schmitt said. “On the contrary, our goal is to make mainstream journalism cheaper. We enable them to do things that no single newspaper can do by itself.”

By Jeff Stein  | June 28, 2010; 1:03 PM ET
Categories:  Intelligence, Lawandcourts, Military  
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So interesting that Aftergood castigates WikiLeaks for exposing the ritual paganism practiced by secret societies, including some said to be favored by the the security state's dark side. This longtime mainstream (now "netstream") journalist tends to agree with Schmitt; the admittedly speculative article linked below would not have been possible without WikiLeaks: (lede articles and links therein)

Posted by: scrivener50 | June 28, 2010 3:23 PM | Report abuse

sounds like somebody's jealous and losing clout.

and it also sounds like Wikileaks needs to prioritize its leaks and spend its money more prudently... sorority rituals? who cares about that worthless garbage?

Posted by: millionea81 | June 29, 2010 9:59 AM | Report abuse

how dare he criticize the only group telling the truth of the brutality of our wars. who is he? a part of the establishment given orders to guard the gate? we don't want your lies anymore. we have had enough of this establishment.

Posted by: andrew588 | June 29, 2010 12:05 PM | Report abuse

Steven Aftergood is a pretty credible source, see this 2006 Mar 12 report from (David Kaplan)

"There are strong liberal and conservative arguments for reducing secrecy. Liberals tend to stress government accountability and responsiveness to public needs. Conservatives want to ensure that the government does not exceed its legitimate authority. Secrecy is at odds with both of those impulses. . . . We are on our way to having our national policies determined by unnamed and unknown bureaucrats who sit behind closed doors and are inaccessible. Look, we don't want a copy of every record in government, but we should want every record in government to be available, unless there is a very good reason for withholding it."

If you think about it, Aftergood does have a point. Pushing for across-the-board openness in government isn't aided by self-promotional info-stunts. Such openness, for example, could have blocked the Cheney-Rumsfeld-Woolsey etc. effort to feed false information about non-existent Iraqi WMDs to Congress - and may have blocked the abuses of the illegal domestic surveillance program as well.

Hence, this GAO oversight rule on intelligence agencies being promoted by Pelosi, for example, seems more important and effective than wikileaky:,8599,1999599,00.html

"She also wants the congressional intelligence committees to have the power to task the Government Accountability Office (GAO) with auditing any intelligence program, Democratic aides say, a power the GAO has for classified Pentagon programs but not for the intelligence agencies."

P.S. As far as the wikileaks air assault video in Iraq, it's worth noting that several helicopters had been shot down over the area just before the incident, which is the kind of contextual information that a real journalist would have included in the story, to help explain the mental state of the soldiers involved and their willingness to see a shoulder camera as an RPG launcher.

P.P.S. @scrivener - I don't think them enviro-fascist socialists blew up the BP Deepwater to make a point - anymore than I think the CIA (in cahoots with the International Jew?) blew up the WTC and the Pentagon to create a causus belli for invading Iraq. Quit smokin' the jimson weed, would you?

Posted by: cargocult | June 29, 2010 1:11 PM | Report abuse

TO: "cargocult" @ 1:11 p.m.

Nowhere did I speculate what individual or group or entity may have used a purported U.S. Army Unconventional Warfare manual as a playbook for geopolitical chaos and cataclysm... so please refrain from employing such a transparent psy ops technique on someone who is aware.

Was this one of your ops, too?

Posted by: scrivener50 | June 29, 2010 1:57 PM | Report abuse

cargocult. What is the matter with you? ..."it's worth noting that several helicopters had been shot down over the area just before the incident"... That is your justification for them gunning down children and journalists from an attack helicopter in the cover of darkness from about 2 kilometers away? The reason it wasn't mentioned is because it is completely irrelevant.(If its even true, because the other hallmark of a good journo is to avoid repeating hearsay, which is what this is if you cant back it up. Worse than that it is a clear lie because we would have heard all about it, had the US lost helicopters in combat)
Aftergood has revealed himself to be a counterfeit anti-censorship activist. The secret activities of societies is at the root of corruption on every level from local traffic enforcement to the highest offices of government.

Posted by: mgw2 | June 29, 2010 10:58 PM | Report abuse

Comment: "We would have heard all about it, had the US lost helicopters in combat..."

In the weeks and months before the July 12 2007 slaughter depicted in the wikileaks video, the U.S. had been losing helicopters at an accelerating rate:

Stars and Stripes May 30, 2007

"Two soldiers were killed Monday when their helicopter was shot down and six others were killed when their vehicles — part of quick reaction forces headed to the scene in Diyala province — were hit by roadside bombs, U.S. military officials said Tuesday."

That was preceded by months of escalating attacks against helicopters:

BBC Feb 7 2007: "But whatever the reason, five helicopters have now been lost already this year with the US admitting at the weekend that the other four had been shot down."

NYT Feb 11 2007: "A deputy commanding general in Iraq whose duties include aviation said Sunday that insurgents had adopted new tactics and stepped up their efforts to shoot down American helicopters."

San Diego,, 2007: "An insurgent group posted a Web video in February, showing what it said was the downing of a U.S. military helicopter. The two-minute video shows a helicopter that appears to be a Sea Knight flying and later exploding after being hit by an object trailing smoke, according to The Associated Press."

The total count, from 2003 to March 2007 was ~125 helicopters lost, roughly half shot down by ground fire, including shoulder-launched missiles smuggled in from Iran.

That would explain, somewhat, why soldiers saw a shoulder camera as an RPG and some innocent Good Samaritans as hostile insurgents.

125 helicopter pilots and crews if a lot of people to throw away on some debacle based on lies about WMDs. That's why the military didn't bring up this angle - they don't want people to remember that in 2003 they were predicting minimal casualties, rapid victory, another "liberation of France", etc.

The result is all a direct result of greed for oil by the neocons and tycoons - and that's also why Afghanistan was neglected from 2003 onwards, allowing the Taliban to retake much of the country.

Posted by: cargocult | June 30, 2010 2:13 PM | Report abuse

I found Aftergood's blog post to be very disturbing and wrong-headed.

First off, he makes an astonishingly underbaked judgment in equating the Knight Foundation's non-selection of WikiLeaks for one of their grants with an 'independent review of WikiLeaks.' That's not how the KF grant application process works. The KF receives thousands of applications and judges them according to the criteria for the grants. This is in no way an 'independent review' of any applicant. There are thousands of very worthy individuals, organizations and businesses that apply for these grants and do not receive them. If Aftergood is to be believed, not winning a grant means that the KF has judged them all to be without value. Ridiculous.

Second, Aftergood criticizes WikiLeaks for publishing private ritual manuals like the Mormon Handbook of Instruction, saying that WikiLeaks is violating the LDS' freedom of association. But this handbook is only given to the male hierarchy of the Mormon church and it outlines doctrine used to control the general membership and promote discriminatory and outdated social values. Given that the LDS patriarchy has a long history of punishing women who try to affect church doctrine (which is one reason why they keep the actual doctrine secret from them), the handbook could be an important tool for LDS members who are trying to end this ongoing institutional discrimination. Freedom of association is good -- but people also need the freedom to know who they're associating with. This is how an organization like WikiLeaks can help empower those without a voice.

Posted by: jr1029 | July 1, 2010 6:53 PM | Report abuse

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