Opinion Brief

Could WikiLeaks have prevented 9/11?

FBI agent Coleen Rowley and FAA whistle-blower Bogdan Dzakovic say "the idea is worth considering." Is it?

Former FBI special agent Coleen Rowley and FAA whistle-blower Bogdan Dzakovic argue in the Los Angeles Times that the much-maligned WikiLeaks might have prevented the 9/11 attacks. "There were a lot of us in the run-up to Sept. 11 who had seen warning signs that something devastating might be in the planning stages," they say, but the "ossified bureaucracies" failed to heed very specific warnings. If there had been a "quick, confidential way" to get around supervisors' "seeming indifference," it's very possible somebody could have connected the dots. Is their argument at all persuasive? (Watch a Fox News report about WikiLeaks and 9/11)

I don't buy it: A pre-9/11 WikiLeaks-style document dump might have forced a "public dog-and-pony show" about stepped-up anti-terrorism efforts, says Matthew Fleischer in Mediabistro. But preventing the attacks? Not likely. "When’s the last time you saw the Federal government take action and actually respond competently to public pressure on any issue?" But it certainly would have changed the aftermath — it's hard to imagine Bush being elected to a second term if warning had been made public."Could WikiLeaks have stopped 9/11?"

Don't write off the theory so quickly: Rowley's opinion ought to be taken seriously, says Jon Wiener in The Nation. Her quashed warnings about convicted 9/11 plotter Zacarias Moussaoui were certainly leak-worthy. How spot-on was her Minneapolis team? One supervisor pleaded with Washington HQ in late August 2001 that he was "trying to keep someone from taking a plane and crashing into the World Trade Center.""Could WikiLeaks have prevented 9/11? Former FBI agent says yes"

Nothing was stopping Rowley from talking: It is certainly possible that leaking information could have changed what happened on 9/11, says Paul Woodward in War in Context. But blaming the lack of WikiLeaks seems "to have more to do with soothing troubled consciences than with a need to make whistle-blowing easier." Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg didn't have WikiLeaks, yet the "huge personal risk" he took changed history."Time to make national heroes out of those who steal secrets..."

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