Here at On Violence, to inaugurate the new year, we like to look back at the old one. Specifically--instead of doing a recap, or a top ten list, or a most important person--we like to pick the single most thought provoking event. Last year, we annointed the “On V’s Most Thought Provoking Foreign Affairs Event of the Year”, the Iranian “Green Revolution”. Predicting the importance of something or someone is the job of historians, not bloggers, so we just pick the event that made us think the most.
This year nothing tops Wikileaks, except Wikileaks. Start with a video of Army helicopters killing civilians in Iraq--with shock around the military community--followed with an even larger of leak tens of thousands of Afghanistan war documents--this stunned the world--trumped by even more Iraq war documents (over 100,000)--now you have anger and disbelief--and rounding out the year with hundreds of thousands of State Department cables--with resulting outrage and sheer confusion. Oh, and after the State Department cables, you finally had the Pentagon hurriedly closing the barn door--blocking Wikileaks, forbidding intelligence officers from viewing them, the Air Force banning the NY Times website, and other ridiculous measures I can’t specifically talk about--as the cows crested the farthest hill.
But while we--government, media and military--had most of a year to digest the Wikileaks phenomenon, we still don’t get it. The underlying problems that caused the leaks haven’t gone away. We've diagnosed symptoms, but not the disease.
The Wikileaks news coverage has focused almost exclusively on Julian Assange and Bradley Manning, the two individuals allegedly at the heart of this problem. By focusing our attention on those two individuals, we missed the larger structural issues endemic in our intelligence community.
Information has not just increased, it has increased exponentially. (Lack of) Intelligence sharing helped cause Wikileaks, but that doesn’t mean that any of our intelligence agencies actually got better at sharing intelligence (as opposed to information). What is the main story that the media missed, and the Pentagon/Intelligence Community/State Department/Government ignored though? That we still rely on all the technology and programs that allowed Wikileaks to occur, and that Wikileaks--not the website but the massive leak--will probably happen again.
To help remedy the Wikileaks misperception, the rest of the week is dedicated to analyzing the various angles of Wikileaks. We can’t answer every question, but hopefully we can raise some good points that have so far been ignored.
(I’ll finish with this caveat. Covering Wikileaks as an intelligence officer is tough. Often I stumble across knowledge that isn’t for public distribution. I have access to all the same secrets as Pfc. Bradley Manning, and more. Choosing the right path between my clearance and this blog is a never ending struggle. I’ll do what I can.
If you want to read the rest of "On Violence's Most Thought Provoking Event of 2010, click below: