The WikiLeaks Hoax, Part II
This may well be true. But contrast this treatment to the treatment that WikiLeaks reserved for a story one year earlier on internet activity, including Wikipedia edits, traceable to U.S. military computers at the Guantánamo Bay detention center. Note that the story involved no leak whatsoever. The activity in question was traceable because -- unlike the BND’s online activity -- it had never in fact been hidden. The domain name associated with the IP address of the computers was jtfgtmo.southcom.mil: namely, for the “Joint Task Force Guantánamo” of the U.S. military’s Southern Command. Nonetheless, the headline on the WikiLeaks article crows, “Wikileaks busts Gitmo propaganda team.”
The author of the piece happens to have been none other than Julian Assange, the future “WikiLeaks founder” who at the time was identified merely as a WikiLeaks “investigative editor.” In accusing the U.S. military of propaganda, it is clear that Assange had already discovered his own propagandistic calling. Thus, in a classic example of the incestuous self-referential nature of disinformation, the piece cites a blog post from NY Daily News correspondent James Gordon Meek as confirmation that the “job” of one JTF member was “posting positive comments on the Internet about Gitmo.” Assange even puts the phrase in bold, as if it had some special importance. But in fact the phrase is nothing more than Meek’s notably chummy clin d’œil toward the allegations in the original WikiLeaks article.
The full list of the Wikipedia edits made from the “busted” Gitmo IP address is available here. Note that the U.S. Southern Command was so rattled by being “busted” by Assange that it has continued to use the IP address. This behavior also contrasts with that of the BND, which -- with the help of Deutsche Telekom -- rapidly ditched its outed IP addresses after they were published on WikiLeaks.
Readers may judge for themselves whether the edits bear the hallmarks of a propaganda operation. Unsurprisingly, many have to do with military topics; some directly concern Guantánamo; and others are on totally unrelated subjects like South Park and Pokémon. A Wikipedia entry such as that on Michael Winterbottom’s anti-Gitmo film The Road to Guantanamo would seem to be ripe for editing by a Gitmo-based “propaganda team.” And, lo and behold, we discover that on October 29, 2007 -- only weeks before being “busted” by Julian Assange -- the Gitmo IP address was indeed used to edit the entry -- namely, in order to change the word “organisations” to the American-English spelling “organizations.”
Perhaps the last major leak to turn up on the old WikiLeaks site was a classified German report on a German-ordered airstrike in Kunduz, Afghanistan, in which numerous civilians were killed. About two weeks later, the site went down. The new site has yet to rediscover the old site’s taste for classified German material.
The pleas of financial duress notwithstanding, the fact is we do not know why the site went down. Nor do we know why it returned in such a radically altered form, with the very heart of the old WikiLeaks project, the “secure submissions” form, essentially cut out of it. In fact, we know virtually nothing about the WikiLeaks organization or even if there really is such an organization.
What the world needs now are some useful leaks about WikiLeaks. Disaffected participants in the old project undoubtedly would have some tales to tell. As the current site’s motto puts it, “Courage is courageous.”