When I received word last night that WikiLeaks was about to set free a treasure trove of more than 91,000 secret military documents from the war in Afghanistan, a thrill ran down my spine.
Was it going to be another spectacular train wreck like their hyped “Collateral Murder” release? For those of you who missed that one, Julian Assange and his band of merry leaks had convinced themselves that the gun camera footage from an Apache helicopter was proof that U.S. servicemen were trigger-happy madmen that liked nothing better than blowing away innocent journalists, family men, and children. Unfortunately, the video actually proved quite the opposite.
Worse, the video was released to coincide with a fundraising appeal (the organization had only collected $370,000 of their estimated $600,000 operating budget), strongly suggesting the group was creating controversy merely to profit from it.
The newest release, the so-called “Afghan War Diary, 2004-2010,” is a document dump of over 91,000 classified military documents from our war in Afghanistan against the Taliban and al-Qaeda. The UK’s Guardian, Germany’s Der Spiegel, and the New York Times have had teams of reporters pouring over embargoed copies of the files for weeks. Sadly, what they found offers very little in the way of news, revelations, or even entertainment.
Imagine walking down to your local police department’s archives and printing out 91,000 pages of reports. The vast majority would be mundane. Traffic stops, property crime reports, accidents, and yes, on much more infrequent occasions, even violent crimes. You’d also find really exciting stuff, like how much the department spends on printer ink, toilet paper, handcuff keys, and uniform allowances. What WikiLeaks has reported, for the most part, seems to be of this nature.
This is not to completely discount the document dump. As reporters and investigators continue to search their way through the tens of thousands of files, they have hit upon interesting nuggets here and there. Readers may be nodding along, saying to themselves: “I thought so.” But if you are someone that has followed the war through the blogs and reporters that cover this isolated beat, you won’t find anything exciting.
Pakistan’s intelligence service is playing both sides?
Michael Isikoff of NBC (himself with an impressive body count) states that the Pentagon hasn’t yet found anything worrisome in the leaked documents they’ve reviewed, and that the documents they’ve seen are marked “secret,” the lowest level of classified document sensitivity.