Last week, I wrote about the odd story of U.S. Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning. He apparently passed classified secrets to Wikileaks, a site dedicated to releasing "sensitive materials" to the public.
I wrote about the moral and ethical issues Wikileaks needs to deal with in order to be good citizens of society. I also wrote about the strange story of Manning's contact with noted hacker Adrian Lamo.
Blogging is a different sort of process than investigative research. When I wrote my book about White House email, I spent a year on that project. I spent a full six months writing just the first third of How To Save Jobs. But when I write a blog post, I generally have less than a day to put a story together.
So, when I wrote my story on Wikileaks and Lamo last week, I took details from trusted sources, like Wired Magazine and The New York Times. Since I didn't have the time to investigate every detail, I linked back to the original stories so you could follow the trail as far as you wanted.
As it turns out, there are some question about the details of Lamo's involvement, Manning's actions, and Wikileak's role in all of this. The whole mess seems to have become something of a cause célèbre for certain antiwar protesters.
I learned of this because I started to get threatening email messages from these so-called peace-lovers. I find the cognitive disconnect between the idea that people claim to want peace and yet advocate violence to be strange in the extreme. It's as baffling as people who call themselves "pro life" and then go off and murder doctors.
In any case, the antiwar crowd apparently set about doing their best to debunk my ethical analysis article, which basically said that Wikileaks needed to have some ethics in order to prevent possible loss of life.
The antiwar mafia started by extracting sentences from my article and misrepresenting them on various Web sites. For example, I said something to the effect of "you might think blah, but that would be simplistic" and they wrote "he's simplistic because he says blah".
On both Web sites and in email messages, they tried to debunk my analysis by discussing my upbringing, my family, my professional affiliations, my appearance (yes, I know, I have a face for radio), making anti-Semitic comments, and even criticizing the nonprofit I volunteer for -- whose only crime against humanity has been trying to help create jobs for Americans.
(Last week was interesting...I got a similar spew of hate mail for an article I wrote about buying an iPad. The Apple fanboy hate mail was a little less threatening and far more stylish, but, still...people are craazy!)
The weird thing is I'm not particularly in favor of war. Most military and national security people aren't. I think the Iraq war was highly inadvisable, and I'm deeply concerned that Afghanistan has turned into the longest war in American history. It's weird. You'd think that if the antiwar fascists wanted me to see their side, they might want to find out if I already do -- and not set about doing their best to portray me as the enemy.
These are important issues and difficult times. We need to discuss these issues, look at them from all sides, and evaluate them based on their individual merits. When sites with particular political leanings take real information and distort it simply for the purpose of feeding red meat to their audiences, that diminishes all our efforts. It's disappointing and ill-advised.
Fortunately, not everyone is nuts. On Friday, a reader sent me a link to a story in Salon by attorney Glenn Greenwald. Greenwald poses many solid questions about Lamo's story and the veracity of the entire situation.
Greenwald does a rather thorough investigation into the Lamo/Wikileaks issue and concludes that the details don't fully make sense when taken as a whole. It's an interesting and thorough piece of writing. While his bias is somewhat suspect (Salon, like Huffington Post is notoriously liberal -- and I don't trust liberal bias anymore than I trust conservative bias like you'd see on Fox News), his investigation is worth reading.
I'm not going to revisit my analysis of Wikileaks' ethics. I stand by my statement that they must sometimes refrain from releasing certain things they get their hands on, and some consideration needs to be made as to the effect of their actions. I also stand by my statement that Wikileaks is doing important work and should be protected -- unless they put lives at risk.
But I do think it's worth looking at these issues from all sides. I also think it's worth realizing that everything may not be as it first seems. While I can't tell you whether the Wired account is more accurate than the Salon account, I can now tell you the Manning/Lamo/Wikileaks story is curious, unclear, and certainly strange.
Go ahead and comment, but please do try to be civil about it. I've had enough hate mail to last me a while.