No real bombshells in Wikileak Afghan docs

After weeks of speculation where war opponents were licking their chops and the administration was sweating bullets, Wikileaks has released 92,000 documents summarizing in detail the day to day operations on the ground in Afghanistan as well as pungent assessments of our Afghan allies and our supposed friends in Pakistan.

In truth, there are only mild suprises gleaned so far from the document dump. Three news outlets - The New York Times, the Guardian, and Der Speigel - were given access to the material weeks ago with the caveat that they not release anything until yesterday.

A few highlights courtesy of the New York Times:

• The Taliban have used portable heat-seeking missiles against allied aircraft, a fact that has not been publicly disclosed by the military. This type of weapon helped the Afghan mujahedeen defeat the Soviet occupation in the 1980s.• Secret commando units like Task Force 373 - a classified group of Army and Navy special operatives - work from a "capture/kill list" of about 70 top insurgent commanders. These missions, which have been stepped up under the Obama administration, claim notable successes, but have sometimes gone wrong, killing civilians and stoking Afghan resentment.

• The military employs more and more drone aircraft to survey the battlefield and strike targets in Afghanistan, although their performance is less impressive than officially portrayed. Some crash or collide, forcing American troops to undertake risky retrieval missions before the Taliban can claim the drone's weaponry.

• The Central Intelligence Agency has expanded paramilitary operations inside Afghanistan. The units launch ambushes, order airstrikes and conduct night raids. From 2001 to 2008, the C.I.A. paid the budget of Afghanistan's spy agency and ran it as a virtual subsidiary.

Certainly, these are no Pentagon Papers. The information that has been held back from the public appears to be reasonable and necessary to the war effort, including the idea that the war was not going as well as some in the military and White House were saying. Did people expect otherwise? Besides, it is impossible for some of these reports to have documented the broad strategic efforts by the military since most of the documents appear to give a worm's eye view of the conflict - reporting on purely local conditions rather than trying to judge the overall progress made by both the American military and the civilian rebuilding efforts.

As for the question of should they have been published? Of course not. Anyone who gave that anti-American nutcase Julian Assange - an Australian by birth - access to those documents should be arrested, tried, convicted, and sent to jail for a very long time. Untold damage is being done simply because no one knows what use of this information will be made by the enemy. What intelligence can they glean from its contents? Certainly the Taliban can figure out some of our weaknesses by reading through these documents. For that reason alone, Assange himself should be relentlessly pursued and arrested. It is highly likely that this irresponsible release will result in additional American casualties.

A related point to this release of documents is the way in which the government classifies information. You don't have to be a free speech extremist to look in askance at much of what the government considers "classified." Millions of documents every year are hidden away - some of them for no other reason than they would be politically damaging to someone. There have been bills in Congress introduced to set up committees or boards to review many documents from agencies not related to national security who get the "classified" designation but nothing has come of such proposals as yet.

However, this is not the time for any such debate. The New York Times and the other media outlets who published this material will get away with it because of our expansive freedom of the press traditions and laws. Even their claim that they withheld some documents because, in their opinion, they were too sensitive is ridiculous. Who are they to make that determination? The bottom line is that laws were broken in handing these documents to an irresponsible source who also broke the law in giving them to the press.


After weeks of speculation where war opponents were licking their chops and the administration was sweating bullets, Wikileaks has released 92,000 documents summarizing in detail the day to day operations on the ground in Afghanistan as well as pungent assessments of our Afghan allies and our supposed friends in Pakistan.

In truth, there are only mild suprises gleaned so far from the document dump. Three news outlets - The New York Times, the Guardian, and Der Speigel - were given access to the material weeks ago with the caveat that they not release anything until yesterday.

A few highlights courtesy of the New York Times:

• The Taliban have used portable heat-seeking missiles against allied aircraft, a fact that has not been publicly disclosed by the military. This type of weapon helped the Afghan mujahedeen defeat the Soviet occupation in the 1980s.

• Secret commando units like Task Force 373 - a classified group of Army and Navy special operatives - work from a "capture/kill list" of about 70 top insurgent commanders. These missions, which have been stepped up under the Obama administration, claim notable successes, but have sometimes gone wrong, killing civilians and stoking Afghan resentment.

• The military employs more and more drone aircraft to survey the battlefield and strike targets in Afghanistan, although their performance is less impressive than officially portrayed. Some crash or collide, forcing American troops to undertake risky retrieval missions before the Taliban can claim the drone's weaponry.

• The Central Intelligence Agency has expanded paramilitary operations inside Afghanistan. The units launch ambushes, order airstrikes and conduct night raids. From 2001 to 2008, the C.I.A. paid the budget of Afghanistan's spy agency and ran it as a virtual subsidiary.

Certainly, these are no Pentagon Papers. The information that has been held back from the public appears to be reasonable and necessary to the war effort, including the idea that the war was not going as well as some in the military and White House were saying. Did people expect otherwise? Besides, it is impossible for some of these reports to have documented the broad strategic efforts by the military since most of the documents appear to give a worm's eye view of the conflict - reporting on purely local conditions rather than trying to judge the overall progress made by both the American military and the civilian rebuilding efforts.

As for the question of should they have been published? Of course not. Anyone who gave that anti-American nutcase Julian Assange - an Australian by birth - access to those documents should be arrested, tried, convicted, and sent to jail for a very long time. Untold damage is being done simply because no one knows what use of this information will be made by the enemy. What intelligence can they glean from its contents? Certainly the Taliban can figure out some of our weaknesses by reading through these documents. For that reason alone, Assange himself should be relentlessly pursued and arrested. It is highly likely that this irresponsible release will result in additional American casualties.

A related point to this release of documents is the way in which the government classifies information. You don't have to be a free speech extremist to look in askance at much of what the government considers "classified." Millions of documents every year are hidden away - some of them for no other reason than they would be politically damaging to someone. There have been bills in Congress introduced to set up committees or boards to review many documents from agencies not related to national security who get the "classified" designation but nothing has come of such proposals as yet.

However, this is not the time for any such debate. The New York Times and the other media outlets who published this material will get away with it because of our expansive freedom of the press traditions and laws. Even their claim that they withheld some documents because, in their opinion, they were too sensitive is ridiculous. Who are they to make that determination? The bottom line is that laws were broken in handing these documents to an irresponsible source who also broke the law in giving them to the press.


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