Home Wikileaks Iraq Redactions Last-Minute, Possibly Automated

Wikileaks Iraq Redactions Last-Minute, Possibly Automated

Anonymous whistle-blowing outfit Wikileaks has been criticized for insufficiently redacting (covering or deleting) the names of civilians in its release of Afghanistan war documents. Everyone from the more predictable U.S. officials to non-profits like Reporters Without Borders to Wikileaks’ own staff has faulted its founder, Julian Assange for a lack of concern for people’s lives.

As unlikely as it might seem, given apparent Assange’s high-handedness with media and co-workers and many conspiracy theories, he seems to have heard the complaints. In the latest release, that of almost 400,000 documents related to the Iraq War, redactions were carried out.

The release of the documents first to major media outlets created a revolt within Wikileaks, as reported on Wired’s Threat Level blog.

“The release date which was established was completely unrealistic,” says 25-year-old Herbert Snorrason, an Icelandic university student who until recently helped manage WikiLeaks’ secure chat room. “We found out that the level of redactions performed on the Afghanistan documents was not sufficient. I announced that if the next batch did not receive full attention, I would not be willing to cooperate.”

All the redactions performed on the material were done by the media groups themselves. However, when the database was released on October 20, there had been redaction. Given the above comments, the work must have been done at a rapid pace, and by fewer hands, or using some sort of automated method. Gawker noted that the redactions on some of the materials seemed odd. Things like the nationality of a troop group or the language of a media conversation were missing from the database. Additional weirdness included deleting the word “vehicle” and the language in which a set of media reports was written.

Given Assange’s actions and rhetoric in the last year, one has to wonder if this isn’t a petulant gesture. If it isn’t, it is certainly evidence that the Wikileaks insiders had legitimate fears regarding the appropriate pace of release for such documents. Taliban and other groups in Afghanistan began using the documents as a hit-list immediately after it was released. Those groups in Iraq have begun the same process.

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