Sunday, July 25, 2010

Afghanistan WikiLeaks: White House offered 'On Background' advice to reporters, which was promptly LEAKED

From The NY Times' At War blog:
The White House e-mailed the following statement with the subject line “Thoughts on Wikileaks” to reporters on Sunday evening. In the memo, the White House advised journalists on possible reporting tacks to take on the documents and pointed them to an excerpt from The Guardian newspaper’s report:

You all should have received a written statement from General Jones [see update below] about the wikileaks release. Please let me know if you didn’t.

A few thoughts about these stories on background: (emphasis added)

1) I don’t think anyone who follows this issue will find it surprising that there are concerns about ISI and safe havens in Pakistan. In fact, we’ve said as much repeatedly and on the record. Attached please find a document with some relevant quotes from senior USG officials.

2) The period of time covered in these documents (January 2004-December 2009) is before the President announced his new strategy. Some of the disconcerting things reported are exactly why the President ordered a three month policy review and a change in strategy.

3) Note the interesting graphs (pasted below) from the Guardian’s wikileaks story. I think they help put these documents in context.

4) As you report on this issue, it’s worth noting that wikileaks is not an objective news outlet but rather an organization that opposes US policy in Afghanistan.

From the Guardian:

But for all their eye-popping details, the intelligence files, which are mostly collated by junior officers relying on informants and Afghan officials, fail to provide a convincing smoking gun for ISI complicity. Most of the reports are vague, filled with incongruent detail, or crudely fabricated. The same characters – famous Taliban commanders, well-known ISI officials – and scenarios repeatedly pop up. And few of the events predicted in the reports subsequently occurred.

A retired senior American officer said ground-level reports were considered to be a mixture of “rumours, bullshit and second-hand information” and were weeded out as they passed up the chain of command. “As someone who had to sift through thousands of these reports, I can say that the chances of finding any real information are pretty slim,” said the officer, who has years of experience in the region.

If anything, the jumble of allegations highlights the perils of collecting accurate intelligence in a complex arena where all sides have an interest in distorting the truth.

The memo also provided excerpts of comments that President Obama has made on issues addressed in the documents.

There is much more to this developing story: WikiLeaks Says It Seeks 'Transparency' ... A Note to Readers: Deciding What to Publish ... Pakistan Aids Insurgency in Afghanistan, Reports Assert ... Strategic Plans Spawned Bitter End for a Lonely Outpost ... Inside the Fog of War: Reports From the Ground in Afghanistan

This is a big story, and it should promote a lot of debate about what we're doing in Afghanistan.


Joie Vouet said...

Is the NY Times the only paper I read?

Joie Vouet said...

The UK Guardian's War Logs, which has links to several article's they have published about the database published by WikiLeaks.

Joie Vouet said...

For those of you who may not know, when someone in D.C. offers information "on background" it is not for publication. The Times went out on a limb here.