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Wikileaks takes new approach in latest release of documents
Wikileaks, an amorphous network run by volunteers in more than a dozen countries, gained global prominence this year when it posted a video of a secret U.S. military helicopter attack in Iraq that killed civilians. An edited, 17-minute version of the gunship-footage video appeared on the Wikileaks site on April 5 under the heading "collateral murder," a label that drew harsh criticism from military officials and many media commentators.
In this case, rather than conduct its own assessment of the documents, Wikileaks selectively provided the files to the Times, the London-based Guardian newspaper and the German magazine Der Spiegel. The three outlets agreed to publish simultaneously, though each organization did its own reporting and produced its own stories.
The move to let established journalistic organizations do the reporting and analysis "may reflect a maturing of the organization and model that they have adopted," Aftergood said.
The news organizations said they agreed they would not disclose anything likely to put lives at risk or jeopardize military or antiterrorist operations. The Guardian Web site noted that most of the material, though classified "secret" at the time, "is no longer militarily sensitive." At the request of the White House, the Times also urged Wikileaks to withhold harmful material from its Web site.
In a statement on its Web site, Wikileaks said it delayed the release of about 15,000 reports from the total archive "as part of a harm minimization process demanded by our source." After further review, Wikileaks said, "these reports will be released, with occasional redactions, and eventually, in full, as the security situation in Afghanistan permits."
Wikileaks has declined to identify the person behind the latest leak. Assange said the names of leakers are generally unknown, even to the organization.
Lt. Cmdr. Bill H. Speaks, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command, declined to say whether military officials are investigating if Pfc. Bradley Manning, recently charged with leaking classified military documents, provided this latest material to Wikileaks.
Wikileaks' methods have often overshadowed the significance of the documents it sought to publish. Governments and corporations around the world have sought to shut down the organization through the courts or, in some cases, through cyber attacks on the Web site. Both the Pentagon and CIA in internal documents have declared Wikileaks a national security threat.
Assange said he expects that Americans will respond as they did nearly 40 years ago to the Pentagon Papers.
"They will see the extensive range of abuses, and if they are intelligent they will say, 'This will not happen again; we will put in procedures to stop these abuses, to stop this,'" he said.
Staff writers Karen DeYoung and Craig Whitlock contributed to this report.