Army Intel ACORNing WikiLeaks? Web Publisher Under Attack

Michael Collins

U.S. Army Counterterrorism issued a report that said WikiLeaks is a threat to U.S. security, particularly in Afghanistan. The report says that the organization should be destroyed and offered a plan. Does the government really think it can destroy WikiLeaks or is the leaked report part of a plan to smear the organization so badly, it will lose supporters and money?

Since its launch three years ago, WikiLeaks has produced more scoops than the Washington Post has in the past thirty years according to a report by The Guardian.   The web based service was “founded by Chinese dissidents, journalists, mathematicians and start-up company technologists, from the US, Taiwan, Europe, Australia and South Africa” according to their “About” page.  WikiLeaks targets oppressive regimes throughout the world, as well as regimes seeking to repress information on illegal and unethical government actions and policies.

The organization pays a price for its activism.  A study by the Army Counterintelligence Center concluded that WikiLeaks is a security risk to the United States.  Their information “could be used … by FISS (foreign intelligence services), foreign terrorist organizations, and other potential adversaries for intelligence collection, planning, or targeting purposes.”  Further, the report concluded that the publications at the website, “could increase the risk to US forces and could potentially provide potential attackers with sufficient information to plan conventional or terrorist attacks in locations such as Iraq or Afghanistan” – An Online Reference to Foreign Intelligence Services, Insurgents, or Terrorist Groups? WikiLeaks, March 15, p. 22).

Those extremely serious charges by Army resulted in a plan to destroy WikiLeaks:

“ uses trust as a center of gravity by assuring insiders, leakers, and whistleblowers who pass information to personnel or who post information to the Web site that they will remain anonymous. The identification, exposure, or termination of employment of or legal actions against current or former insiders, leakers, or whistleblowers could damage or destroy this center of gravity and deter others from using to make such information public.” (Army Counterintelligence report, March 15, p. 3)

Ironically, the same report failed to reach a conclusion on the legality of WikiLeak’s publishing activities.

Do they hate them for their freedoms?

WikiLeaks has more than a million documents on file, anonymous leaks from within various government organizations.  It has published documents on Guantánamo Bay torture methods, Scientology, and secret reports from Bildergerg Group meetings.

Recently, the organization posted a document that outlined the CIA’s public relations plan to shore up European support for the war in Afghanistan.  There are also major leaks posted on the Icelandic financial meltdown with more leaks on the involvement of Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank, Credit Suisse, and other major financial institutions in that banking scandal.

And then there’s this (right) from the WikiLeaks twitter account on February 20.

The  the top message refers to an attack in Afghanistan that killed civilians and reporters.  Russian Television (4:24) provided an audio clip from General David Petraeus in which he said he’d show some videotape when questions were raised about civilian deaths in Afghanistan, the basis for the WikiLeaks tweet of February 20.   No videotape has been shown.

WikiLeaks has a press conference scheduled in Washington, D.C. on April 5 to show the decrypted video.

On March 23, the middle and bottom messages were posted.  The middle message is a reaction to claimed harassment by U.S. intelligence indicated in other recent tweets.  The bottom message and this article reflect agitation at claimed surveillance by U.S. government agents following board member and frequent spokesman Julian Assange.

Assange speculates that the ongoing harassment is due to the planned video of civilian and press casualties, the release of the destroy-WikiLeaks Army study, or revelations of financial improprieties concerning Iceland’s financial crisis.

The harassment of WikiLeaks staff is an emerging story on the internet.  However, the reality and significance of the leaked video to be shown on April 5 may propel the organization to worldwide attention.  If the tape is less than promised, the April 5 showing may deliver a blow to WikiLeaks that might just meet the goals of U.S. Army Counterintelligence outlined in the leaked report.

Hardest cases

WikiLeaks has some significant organizations behind it.  Associated Press, the Gannett Company, and the Hearst Corporation are listed as steadfast supporters.  Their support is explained in this statement by Julian Assange:  “We take the hardest publishing cases in the world and deal with them and by doing that we create a space behind us that admits other people to successfully publish.” The Guardian, (7:40).

This space created by the leaks allows some of the mainstream press to pick up coverage without risking harassment by federal prosecutors on sourcing and the publication of classified materials.  WikiLeaks is protected by its international status on the internet which allows it to skirt specific national laws restricting a free press.  It’s a symbiotic relationship.  The mainstream media and other contributions to WikiLeaks come in the form of legal support when the organization is challenged in court.

What’s Army Counterintelligence up to?

Occasionally, someone says what they really mean in the nation’s capitol.  It’s risky to conclude that in the case of the Army Counterintelligence report on WikiLeaks.  The proposed strategy, catching former insiders, leakers, or whistleblowers then doling out harsh penalties, has very limited credibility.  Whistleblowers are often intimidated and harassed.   But leakers, insiders, and  former insiders are almost never caught.  If they are, they’re rarely prosecuted or sanctioned.  There will be more than enough leaks.  This strategy fails even a cursory evaluation if the goal is to stop leaks.

An alternative motive for the language in the report and perhaps the leaked report  might have more to do with smearing WikiLeaks as the community organizing group ACORN was smeared.  A highly partisan operative created a slanted video report alleging that community organizers associated with the group supported prostitution.  There was a flood of negative press with Congress rushing to bar ACORN from long standing government contracts.  When the truth came out and the New York Times admitted it got the story wrong, it was too late.  Acorn was destroyed.

The highly inflammatory language in the leaked Army Counterintelligence report may be an attempt to ACORN WikiLeaks. The accuracy of the report findings will not be the issue if it hits the mainstream media.  The focus will be on the charge that WikiLeaks somehow helps terrorists.  In this scenario, the organization would likely lose sponsors rapidly and face more than just the temporary service interruption recently due to funding problems.

If WikiLeaks produces a clearly damning decrypted videotape that shows the bombing of civilians and reporters by U.S. forces or it gets another more damning leak, then the organization will move to a new level of causing major anxiety, at least, for governments and politicians all over the world.  That would support the claim by WikiLeak’s Julian Assange, that for “the first time in history that there has been a truly free press” Guardian, (The Guardian, (5:44).


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