WikiLeaks' 'massive' Afghanistan leak: First reactions
WikiLeaks, a site that publishes leaked sensitive documents, unloaded 92,000 U.S. military reports from Afghanistan Sunday, most of them classified or secret. The "massive" document dump was coordinated with reports in The New York Times, The Guardian, and Der Spiegel, all of whom had access to the mostly day-to-day incident reports a month before the general public. (Watch a CNN report about the documents.) Reporters and commentators are still sifting through the massive document dump, but here are some early reactions to what some are calling the next "Pentagon Papers":
WikiLeaks has kicked it up a notch: "This is going to be huge," says Adrien Chen in Gawker, especially given "Wikileaks' strategy to collaborate with mainstream media this time around." Sharing the glory with "'real' journalists" will not only amplify the story, but also "move the focus off the biases of Wikileaks and [founder] Julian Assange" and "onto the leak itself."
The "unvarnished" picture is messy: The big reveal here is that the Afghanistan War is "brutally messy, confused, and immediate," says The Guardian in an editorial, not the "tidied-up and sanitized 'public' war" we're usually shown. And perhaps most disheartening, the leaked reports show the extent that our ally Pakistan is aiding the Taliban.
This could be bigger than the Pentagon Papers: These are "documents that are not, under any circumstances, supposed to be publicly disclosed," says Andrew Bast in Newsweek "much less posted on the Internet" and written up in newspaper exposés. The damage to the Afghanistan War's support could be as "incalculable" as the Pentagon Papers were to Vietnam's.
What will Republicans do? Obama's "already soft support in his own party" for his Afghanistan strategy "will probably soften further" with this leak, says Stephen Hayes in The Weekly Standard. "The key question is whether nervous Republicans will" defect as well.
The White House dodged a bullet: "The Obama White House is furious," says Michael Crowley in Time, but "there must be a certain sense of relief around the West Wing," too. The "astonishing" leak contains some insider accounts of certain "terrible aspects of the Afghanistan war," but most "are already pretty well known," and these "documents don't seem to reveal fundamental new truths."
WikiLeaks threw Bradley Manning under the bus: One thing these incredibly "damaging" documents don't tell us is who leaked them, says Philip Shenon in The Daily Beast. But Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning, on trial over an earlier WikiLeaks leak, is "almost certainly the source" — and by unloading his handiwork before he's tried and sentenced, Assange has all but "guaranteed" that Manning will be "dealt with even more harshly by military prosecutors."
Pity our Afghan collaborators: Actually, the bulk of the WikiLeaks data was "theoretically accessible by anyone," soldier or contractor, with access to the military's most basic secure intranet, says Adam Weinstein in Mother Jones. And while mostly "there's not much there there" for U.S. forces, Wikileaks' un-redacted list of Afghani "key leaders" who risked their lives to meet with U.S. officials probably makes some of them "as good as dead."